by Carol Hylkema
Ellen Vallenga and Carol Jones met at a facilitators’ training event held by the Reformed Church in America for an interactive approach to children in worship developed by Sonja Stewart called “Young Children and Worship.” Since the early part of the decade, they’ve been trainers in different regions for this approach to faith formation in young children, which includes a “wondering time” for children’s questions, and a “blessing time,” as each child leaves worship to be a disciple of God.
It was Carol who first saw the Pal Craftaid stole – made by women artisans on the West Bank – while she was browsing the booths at the annual meeting of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE) last February in Grand Rapids, Mich. Carol told Ellen she had to go see it for herself, saying, “You’re going to love it.”
Stitched into the panels of the stole were the words, “Go in peace…May the love of God surround you everywhere you go,” the exact blessing that closes each “Young Children and Worship” time. What’s more, on the other side were the words to the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” As Carol said, “The words of the song, familiar from the civil rights movement, capture the spirit which lives inside both of us that, someday, we will all live as kingdom people, overcoming the evil of this world and entering into a life truly lived in agape love.”
So on the very last day of the conference, back to the booth they came. “We had to have it,” said Carol.
The stole, pictured here worn by Carol and Ellen, is literally now shared between them. They take turns using it in their workshops and then ship it back and forth. Ellen does trainings in the Southwest and attends St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz., and Carol works in Paramount, Calif., where she is a member of the Emmanuel Reformed Church.
Next year at APCE, the two women will be leading a workshop and will take turns wearing the stole as they work.