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Destined for the trash, vestments are real treasures
The Reverend Gene Mallard of St. Thomas Anglican Church shows the ornate design on the back of one of the antique vestment the church recently received. - photo by Tom Reed

Dr. Elizabeth Cochran wasn't sure why the collection of antique vestments that were destined for the Dumpster seemed so important to her.

But when she saw a friend getting ready to throw them away, she decided she would hold onto the old silk garments. About 15 years later, Cochran knew why she had kept those old church vestments.

"They were just too valuable to throw away," she said. "They needed to be donated to a diocese, where they could be seen or used or both. One of the stoles dates back to the early 1900s.

"In a drawer were these vestments and a Celtic church cross, and they were just going to throw them away. So I asked if I could have them and I've had them ever since."

About six months ago, Cochran began attending St. Thomas the Apostle Anglican church in Alto, and that is when she realized why she had blindly saved the garments years ago. She quickly donated the two chasubles, stoles for Holy Communion, and a large altar cloth for Pentecost, along with hangings for both the pulpit and lectern to St. Thomas.

"I knew that these were Episcopalian and I just couldn't see throwing them away," said the White County resident. "They were in very good shape for what they were."

The Rev. Gene Mallard, the pastor at St. Thomas, has had the chance to wear the vestments in some services, but said that they want to make sure to protect the old fabrics.

"We're going to try to find a fabrics conservator who can restore them as much as possible," he said. "In the meantime, we will use them as much as we can, but as you can see, there are serious wear problems."

The vestments are all hand-stitched with intricate designs and needlework.

The two chasubles in the collection are red and green, which represent different times of the religious calendar in the Anglican church.

"The chasuble is an optional garment for celebrating communion; you might use that on special days," Mallard said. "We have the red, which is for the season of Pentecost; we have the green for the season of Trinity, which is season that we are in now."

There also is one stole that has burgundy scroll work and is bell- shaped at the ends. It is the oldest piece in the collection, dating back about 150 years, according to Mallard.

"It really must have been a real labor of love for a woman that wanted something nice for her church," Mallard said.

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