Sandi Case has said farewell to the small, rural North Carolina church where she worshiped for the past decade, but she's left a rich legacy.
"She has done so much to enrich our worship space and our lives," said the Rev. Steve A. Holcomb, rector of Grace Mountainside Church in Robbinsville, a town in the Appalachians south of Smoky Mountain National Park. Grace is an Episcopal-Lutheran fellowship church established in 1982 at a time when the national dialogue between the two denominations was in its infancy.
Inside the church, Case's work is evident. She created the altar frontal, the banners and wall hangings, and chasubles featuring different scenes on the front and back.
On Easter, she announced to the congregation that she was considering a move to Virginia Beach, Virginia, to live with her son, the eldest of her six children. In May, she packed her belongings and said a final goodbye.
"I've always sewed and made macramé beading," said Case, an Ohio native, in an interview from her son's home. "When I moved to North Carolina, I was struck by its beauty. 'How could I capture that in fabric?' I thought."
Case began to buy fabric in shades of green for grass and trees. As she had when she was beading and making quilts, she threw herself into her work and soon was teaching the art of creating landscape wall hangings at the nearby John C. Campbell Folk School. "I decided I was going to make scenes, and I began teaching that," she said. "It has been my all-time specialty."
"Sandi is an award-winning [quilter]," said Holcomb. "At the height of her creativity and skills, she was a quilting instructor, and people would come from all over the southeast to take lessons from her."
When Holcomb, a retired school teacher and a deacon for years, was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2004, Case asked if she could make his ordination stole. "While I was at it, I also made him a green one with a picture of the church and a couple of other ones," she said.
"All together, it's been quite a lot. I've made everything I could think of – altar cloths, stoles, several altar frontals, and, with other ladies who helped, I replaced all of the old banners that had been made with felt and glued on [symbols]. They have the church seasons on them now.
"I do my best work for the church," she said. "I really felt that God was with me when I was making them [her liturgical art at Grace Mountainside]. I think they have turned out better than any of the other things I have made."
Case, who recently turned 80, hasn't stopped creating. She said she soon planned to teach landscape quilt-making to members of the Tidewater Quilt Guild in Virginia Beach, and she now has a new parish home, Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach.