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Pacific Northwest United Church News © Winter 2023-24

Pullman church creates a quilt with a social justice message

During a worship service last summer, members of Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Pullman, stitched together pieces of cloth to make a quilt with a message against banning books.

Lisa Carloye now takes the quilt to other congregations, libraries and bookstores to give presentations and offer a way for people to do something about their frustration.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Carloye

Since then, the church has shared the Banned Books Quilt with other congregations, organizations and libraries in Pullman and Moscow for two weeks at a time. That gives people time to see it and sign ‘library’ cards with the message, ‘We’re with the banned’,” said Lisa Carloye, who felt a quilt would be a powerful way to address the issue of book banning.

“Quilts have been used historically to communicate about justice,” she explained. “Slaves used them to communicate about the underground railroad.”

In social justice history, she said quilts are more than blankets. They are art that brings people together in community. 

Lisa had been thinking about making a banned books quilt for a while. Teaching biology at Washington State University, she believed banning books related to people of color and LGBTQ+ people creates a dangerous world. Banning books limits understanding of other people’s lives and experiences, cutting out awareness of slavery and the civil rights movement, said Lisa.

When interim pastor, Gary Jewel, suggested that people develop creative ideas for worship during the summer, she let her idea blossom into creating a Banned Book Quilt during worship.

Because the congregation is attuned to social justice, Lisa thought the quilt would express faith in action and keep people’s hands busy during worship.

Lisa, who grew up in Pullman, left for 25 years for school and work. When she moved back in 2005, her family was attending the UCC church.

Lisa began attending when the pastor was Kristine Zakarison, who had been a year ahead of her in school.

“I liked her messages. She gave the historical and cultural context for biblical stories,” said Lisa.

Like other congregations, Community Congregational has challenges in attracting younger people.

“Social justice issues are key to my faith. We want to be a community that helps people live their faith and address injustice. I think younger people want to do something about issues,” Lisa said. “With Pullman a college town, social justice issues are pertinent.”

Growing up in the 1970s with the Civil Rights Movement, Lisa expected people to work—as Martin Luther King Jr. said—so “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“It’s shocking to be going backwards, unraveling what was done in my lifetime,” she said. “We are all God’s children. Traumatizing and marginalizing people is anti-Christian. Jesus reached out to marginalized people.”

Lisa believes liberal Christians need to claim Jesus’ teachings and challenge those who use Jesus’ name to hurt and exclude people.

“Feeling helpless in the face of these changes, I wondered what I could do to make an impact,” she said.

“The quilt idea spoke to me because quilts symbolize comfort, warmth and embracing, and making a quilt is a way people, especially women, come together,” she said.

Banning books has happened throughout history, she said noting that they highlighted books people are less familiar with.

“Targeting books is targeting people. People wrote the books to tell their experiences,” said Lisa.“Banning books marginalizes people and narrows understanding of what has happened in our culture and country. I’m alarmed that banning books spreads to critical race theory, cutting out honest discussions on slavery and experiences of black people and cultures,” she said.

Lisa is concerned that generations of students could lack context for why society is where it is today, unaware of any information that might make them feel uncomfortable or ashamed.

With her experience in hand quilting and Nancy Mack’s skills with machine quilting, they decided the congregation could hand piece and sew sections during worship.

They chose orange background fabric symbolizing fllames and bought printable quilting fabric, on which they would print pictures of the spines of books to make it tangible what books are being banned,

One Sunday, worshippers sewed pieces during the service. They started the service as usual, with special music. Lisa gave instructions. They set up an assembly line. Lisa taught them how to stitch, provided  pre-threaded needles and put cloth strips on the table.

“Some people pinned strips together. One drew a stitching line with a ruler. Then stitchers sewed strips that were the same size. The pile of fabric grew from two books to four until all of the 24 the strips representing books were sewn together.

Nancy added appliqued letters to the quilt to say, “We’re with the Banned!”

The next week, Nancy put a back and border on it. Then she added old-fashioned library card holders. She printed library cards with the name of the church and the message, “We’re with the banned.”

Lisa brought the quilt the next Sunday and invited people to sign the cards after another church member, Bill Condon, who is retired from the WSU library and and a retired literature professor, talked about the value of books as a means to understand other people’s experiences and empathize with them.

So Lisa now offers opportunities for others, who share her anger and frustration about book banning, to do something.

For information, call 509-332-9343 or visit


Pacific Northwest United Church News © Winter 2023-24


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