Home Faith Bethesda Women’s Ministry Sewing Circle Tradition Still Going Strong

Bethesda Women’s Ministry Sewing Circle Tradition Still Going Strong

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As many as 50 women gather at the Bethesda Mennonite Church Fellowship Hall to participate in sewing projects on the 2nd Tuesday & Thursday during the months of January, February, and March.

Bethesda Mennonite Church has a long history and strong tradition of women coming together to sew. In its beginnings, it was known as Mission Circle, and as Bethesda grew, the circles grew in numbers, so they created three circles according to age. 

Today, the Bethesda Women’s Ministry has one sewing group for all ages that meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month, January through March. It’s a well-oiled machine working to produce hand-stitched quilts, embroidered tea towels, tied comforters, and crocheted or knitted prayer shawls.

Dorothy Balaban heads up the sewing day, and she and Becky Buller, Kathryn Goertzen, and Dee Hanson make sure the day goes smoothly by setting up the quilt racks, tables, and sewing supplies a day ahead of time. 

On a typical sewing day at Bethesda, there can be up to 50 women working on the various projects, according to Carol Janzen, who is in charge of the Bethesda Women’s Ministries. Women work in groups arranged by their task, whether they are doing hand-quilting, hand-tying, embroidery, piecing, cutting, or using sewing machines to edge the quilts. 

Blanche Franz, who is nearing age 94, still helps and was at Bethesda’s sewing day this month. She remembers coming to Mission Circle when her own mother, Aganetha Dick, was in the oldest group, Mission Circle One, and she was in the youngest one, Mission Circle Three. 

Today, Blanche is still involved in sewing school bags for another MCC project. She sews the bags from her home and has sewn 40 bags already this year. These drawstring bags are distributed worldwide by MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) and have become a favorite project at Bethesda. 

Blanche Franz holding one of the school bags she sews.

Another long-time member of the circle is Adeline Huebert, who also assists with the filling and finishing of the school bags. She shared how she began ordering thousands of shoelaces that are used for the drawstrings on the bags. “I now get a text from Amazon with my supplier wanting to know why I would need that many shoe laces!”

The fellowship enjoyed by the women means as much as the worthy sewing projects. “I love being here working alongside other women,” said Margaret Hiebner.

“Anyone is welcome to come and help, not just members of Bethesda. We have several women from the community who are regulars in our group. We always have room for more, and we serve lunch at noon, followed by a devotional,” said Carol. 

Some women who work or cannot spend the day sewing often join them for lunch. Even those without any sewing experience are encouraged to come, and others will happily teach you how to tie a comforter. I sat down with a needle in my hand and was quickly shown by Julie Goertzen how to make a square knot and the process for working across a comforter, tying it as I went along.

They are also involved in MCC’s Great Winter Warm-Up project, donating most of their tied comforters to this project, according to Janzen. They typically complete around 15-18 comforters on one of their workdays and will contribute towards the MCC project goal of 7,000. 

There is so much sewing, cutting, and piecing work that happens behind the scenes by women before the actual sewing days. Marion Friesen has already pieced 25 tops on her own at home for the comforters they put together on sewing days. “I love to buy fabric and enjoy either piecing tops or just picking out a single fabric for a comforter,” said Marion. 

Before embroidering the tea towels, Wilma Dick is in charge of ordering the tea towels, washing them, and stamping the designs so they are ready for the ladies to begin embroidering on sewing day.

Dot Quiring cutting squares for denim quilts.

Many of their completed projects are sold at the upcoming annual Nebraska Mennonite Relief Sale in early April. The ladies have already completed a hand-stitched quilted baby blanket, and many of their hand-embroidered tea towels will be sold at the auction. 

Anyone who walks into the Bethesda Fellowship Hall on sewing day can feel the warm atmosphere, smell the lunch cooking, hear the hum of sewing machines, and talk while women work side by side on such worthy projects. This is a great ministry that happens under the radar but touches lives worldwide. Keep up the happy stitching, Ladies!