Communion Rail Needlepoint Kneelers
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Schenectady, New York

Altar Needlepoint Kneelers St. Stephen’s Church, Schenectady

In 1990s several women of the congregation suggested that new altar rail kneelers could be needle pointed with Christian symbols. Father James also suggested the kneelers be distinctively Schenectady/Niskayuna oriented and various subjects and ideas were discussed.

In 1991 the congregation asked a needlework designer, Mrs. Barbara Cohen, to meet with the women and discuss subjects, scenes wording for the center kneeler, borders, number of kneelers, sizes, colors. etc. Mrs. Cohen agreed to research the subjects for six local scenes, paint all of the 11 canvasses for the 31 feet of kneeling step, and select all the woolens for each canvas. By January 1992 they were ready to be worked.

Each canvas has a story. The center kneeler, longest and with wording that would be read from the aisle,was chosen to showcase the Agnus Dei as in the carving on the face of the altar. Mrs. Cohen photographed our old white chasuble with the lamb embroidered on it, obtained the national and diocesan Episcopals shields and proceeded to draw and then paint her design. The border of the stained glass windows, with its stylized flowers, was used for the side ends and risers on all the kneelers.

Six kneelers are important scenes from the history of Niskayuna and Schenectady. Between each scene is a kneeler that depicts a cross. Thus, scenes from our community are surrounded by the cross of Christ.

The ALCO kneeler honors the American Locomotive Company, an important part of Schenectady for 120 years. ALCO produced vehicles, engines, locomotives, and during Worl War II, tanks for the war effort. The kneeler shows one of the company’s factory buildings, an early steam locomotive, and diesel locomotive number 609, the last locomotive produced by ALCO.

The Nott Memorial built in 1875 was selected to represent Union College with the early college buildings in the background. Since its founding in 1795, the college has been an outstanding part of the life of the area. The motto in Hebrew on the Nott reads: The day is short, the work is hard, the pay is ample and God is urgent. This kneeler was worked by Kathy Hathaway, given by her and her mother Martha Nicholson in memory of Alexander Nicholson
The Niskayuna kneeler celebrates the Indian heritage of “Niskayuna” which, according to the 1860 New York Gazetteer, is an Indian word meaning “extensive or great corn flats”. The flood plain of the Mohawk River was very fertile ground where Indians planted corn. This kneeler was worked by Kathy Miller, and given by Frieda Wyman.
St. Stephen’s large processional cross is a floral cross, and it was designed to be one of the kneelers, as well. The center is the Chi Rho symbol, the Greek letters for Cristos. It was worked by Rocky Bonsal and Barbara Dobbins, and given by George and Richey Woodzell in memory of Mildred Albright Woodzell
The G.E. kneeler for General Electric activities illustrates the light bulb, an atom, WGY radio, an integrated circuit, a turbine cross section, chemical beakers, and an engine coil to represent the diverse businesses developed here. This kneeler was worked and given by Pauline Northrop and given in memory of her husband, Justin Northrop.
The center kneeler contains the shield of the Episcopal Church USA on one sideand the shield of the Episcopal diocese if Albany on the other. In the middle is the agnus dei, the Lamb of God carrying the banner of the Christian Church. This kneeler was worked and given by Barbara Dobbins and Frances Spainin memory of Pete Dobbins.

bacvk of cross
The back of our large processional cross, containing the IHS symbol, initials for In Hoc Signum, is Latin for “In this sign”. This kneeler was worked by Rocky Bonsal and Marti Spang, and given by George Horch in memory of Marian Horch.
The New York State Barge Canal and the Erie Canal on the Mohawk River contributed to the importance of Schenectady as an industrial center. Lock 8 shows the dam and lock in Rotterdam. This kneeler was worked by Mickey Regula, and given by Don and Micki Regula.
St. Stephen’s smaller processional cross is the Celtic cross, worked by Gillian Woodcock, and given by Chris and Pat Jones in thanksgiving for the lives of their mothers: Blanche Ely Moore Smith and Florence Holroyd Jones Temple.
Though the original Stockade of Schenectady was destroyed by the Indian massacre of 1690, houses of great charm and delightful detail continued to be built in the area. These were chosen in composite and drawn behind the statue of Lawrence, the Indian who warned the settlers of the Indian raid. This kneeler was worked by Marti Spang, and given by Austin and Marti Spang in memory of Dorothy Elliot.
The Canterbury cross is the cross of the Anglican Communion. It signifies that St. Stephen’s is not only a part of the Episcopal Church, but is in communion with churches all over the world. This kneeler was worked by Millie Gittinger, and given by Al and Kabby Lowe in memory of Alfred & Jennie Lowe and Leigh & Dorothy Lydecker.
The Erica Wilson studio in New York City was the upholsterer who mounted the cushions.
Additional gifts toward upholstery were given by John & Susan Goldthwaite and Marti and Austin Spang