History 101.27 – Tapestries and Banners
The below article was written by Dr. Eugene Murphey and was published in the April 2007 Tower newsletter.
Anticipating the upcoming celebration of Kirkin’ O the Tartans at First Presbyterian Church, Tupelo on April 22, it seems appropriate in our church history series to consider briefly the spectacular tapestry banners hanging on the side balustrade columns in the sanctuary. These six expertly handmade needlework banners representing the great seals if our denomination were originally suggested by Edith Thomas and members of the Worship Committee, then approved by the Minister and Session. They were specifically commissioned by our church in 1991, then designed and rendered by Mrs. Sidney Bates, a noted needlework artist living at that time in Memphis. Unfortunately, we believe this talented lady is now deceased. The banners were hung in the sanctuary in 1992.
The six tapestries specifically depict the seals of John Calvin, the Church of Scotland, the Cumberland Presbyterians Church, and the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, (the Presbyterian Church (USA)). They help to remind us of our church’s Christian Scottish and Reformed heritage along with the various associated elements in Presbyterian Church (USA) hierarchy. Many visitors both past and present attending services in our church have been extremely complimentary of the banners and have often expressed interest in duplicating them in their church homes.
Other equally handsome banners with more biblical themes are found in the church narthex (entranceway inside the main front door) and in McFadden Reception Hall to the rear of the sanctuary. The narthex tapestry represents Jesus and his Disciples. The others from left to right represent the Old Testament, the Church and Crucifixion, and finally the New Testament. Limited space here does not permit a detailed description of the numerous pictorial elements in the biblical tapestries not the many church members to whom the tapestries were dedicated as memorials or honorarium, but perhaps at a later time, this information can be published again in The Tower or in another dedicatory booklet.
The next time you enter the church and move into the sanctuary or the reception hall, please take a few minutes to examine and enjoy the banners and tapestries that are an important part of our Christian faith journey and heritage.
Dr. Eugene Murphey, M.D.