Crochet stitches share gospel message

By Colette M. Jenkins/AKRON BEACON JOURNAL

BARBERTON, Ohio — Grace “Dolly” Pamer left a legacy of love — and an 8-foot by 6-foot reminder to keep looking to the cross.

The crocheted depiction of The Lord’s Supper hangs in the sanctuary at the Apostolic Church of Barberton, where her son, the Rev. Rodney V. Pamer, is pastor, and her husband of 61 years, Bishop Nelson F. Pamer, is the overseer.

“She was a true wife and a true mother who always put God first. She loved her family and did everything she could to teach them to follow the Lord,” Bishop Pamer said of his wife. “Not only did she teach them, she showed them how to be Christians by her example.”

Grace Pamer, 82, died March 17, after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Her family placed the wall hanging in the sanctuary for her March 21 memorial service. A smaller framed “practice” version she completed before tackling the larger one was placed in the narthex, near the entrance to the sanctuary.

Scholars and theologians generally agree the Last Supper — the meal shared by Jesus and his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion — was on Thursday. They also agree that Christ suffered and died on Friday and that he rose from the dead on Sunday. Eastern rite Christians, including the Orthodox faithful, will celebrate Resurrection Sunday (a week after those in western traditions) on April 15.

According to Christian belief, the Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, which is also known as communion.

Grace Pamer’s crocheted artwork is a depiction of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous 15th-century mural painting in Milan, Italy. The painting is Leonardo’s interpretation of the reaction of the 12 apostles after Christ shares that one of them would betray him before sunrise, as chronicled in the Gospels.

The piece done by Pamer, who was well-known in church circles for her crocheted handkerchiefs, signals the time in her life before Alzheimer’s began robbing her of her memory.

“It shows how intricate her mind was and how detail-oriented she was,” said Elaine Robertson, the youngest of the three Pamer children. “She always had her crochet with her. It was sad when the disease starting taking over and she could no longer crochet.”

Robertson and her sister, Kathy Elkins, recalled the year (1976) their mother spent crocheting the 360-row wall hanging. She started with a single royal blue thread and crocheted an hour a day, working to complete one row each day. She also chronicled each stitch with type-written notes she compiled in a folder.

“She wanted it to be perfect because it was for the church and represented a message from the Bible,” Elkins said. “If she would see a mistake, she would start ripping out the thread and start over.”

The completed wall hanging includes 7,630 yards of thread, or the equivalent of more than 4.3 miles.

The Rev. Paul J. Pamer, pastor-elect of the Barberton church, said he grew up looking at his grandmother’s crocheted Last Supper in youth church. When his grandmother finished the wall hanging, she insisted it be placed in the prayer chapel where the children were taught.

“I stared many hours into her masterpiece,” Paul Pamer said. “For me, it symbolizes sacrifice and unity. That table was a place where Jesus engaged all of the disciples. Now, as a church, it is our job to engage people with different personalities and from different walks of life.”

His dad, the church senior pastor, agreed. He likened his mother’s huge task of finishing the wall hanging to the monumental task of building a church community, like the one at the Apostolic Church of Barberton.

“Every stitch that she made was important and necessary to complete her work,” the Rev. Rodney Pamer said. “In the church, we must remember that, just like each of her stitches, every person is necessary and important to make a strong Christian community.”

He said he is still deciding whether to find a permanent home in the church for the large wall hanging his mother worked so hard to complete or to reserve displaying it for special occasions, like the Easter season and the one time a year the congregation observes communion.

“When I look at it, I am reminded of the sacrifice in which Christ provided for our deliverance. Because of God’s grace, we declare our continuing dependence in Christ and share in communion as our proclamation in the gospel of Christ,” Rodney Pamer said. “Looking at the Last Supper painting helps us look to the cross and know that we have that promise of the second resurrection.”