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Home : Community : Customer Gallery : "Sharing God's Love"
 

Customer Projects - Get Inspired

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"Sharing God's Love"
Created By: Penny Belden

Sharing God's Love

by Penny Belden,Co-Chairman, Prayer Shawl Ministry,

Church of the Saviour, United Methodist

Cleveland Heights, OH, USA





As we were sitting in the Needlework Guild meeting at Church of the Saviour in Cleveland Heights, OH, Betty Antolik drew our attention to a beautiful prayer shawl that had been presented to her husband during his final illness by a group at a church in Michigan where they regularly visited. With a catch in her voice, she explained how the prayer shawl had brought such comfort to her husband in his last days - and continued to comfort her now in her grief. As the members of the Guild thought about the love and caring that the shawl represented, Betty said "Why can't we start a Prayer Shawl Ministry" here in our church?"



As I was sitting quietly, working on my needlework piece, a power came over me and I found myself saying "I'll take on that project!" Where that thought came from surely was from God himself, as I would never volunteer for a project so large. I was working full time, I was active in two church choirs and was busy with other activities in the church. As everyone in the room turned to look at me, all sorts of thoughts tumbled through my mind, but mostly I thought about all of the members of our large urban church who needed comfort, who needed to feel the loving arms of God wrapped around them.



Plans developed quickly and soon we were announcing the formation of the Prayer Shawl Ministry in our weekly church bulletin. But even before we could have our formation meeting, the senior minister called and said that one of our members was dying. He did not speak much English, but he wanted the man to know how much we cared about him. I had knit a shawl I was going to use as a sample, but took it to the minister so that he could present it. He and I prayed over the shawl. Later he shared with me how touched the family was. We had given our first shawl.



One Saturday morning in mid-summer, we found thirty women in our social room, ready to knit or crochet. To get things started, we decided to sell kits that we had prepared. This would give us some start-up funds. Each woman purchased one kit, but after that shawl was finished, we would provide yarn for the next one. We had gifts of yarn given to the Ministry also. I had done research on the website and developed a prayer that we could use for a blessing of the shawls as we closed the meeting. Now I shared the beginnings of the ministry with these wonderful women (and girls) aged 10-80+. We chose our pattern and talked to the ministers of the church about distribution. We developed a letter that would go along with the shawl, telling about the ministry and including a prayer. We talked about keeping track of how many shawls were given and who had made them. After the meeting, the women were so excited, they couldn't wait to get home and start working on their shawls!



Before we knew it, we had twenty shawls stored in the closet of the senior minister's closet. We chose that storage spot so that whenever he felt a shawl was needed, he had immediate access. The church secretary kept track of shawls coming in and out. And we set up a schedule for quarterly meetings at which the shawls were blessed.



The pastoral staff asked that we do a dedication during one of the church services and explain to the congregation what the shawls were used for. We presented a shawl to the Bishop's wife when she came to visit our church. I was asked to teach a class at the district leadership academy and at the Mission School on how to start a prayer shawl ministry. I met with women from other churches who had started ministries and got ideas from them. What a giving group of women these were!



As I was sitting in church one Sunday, listening to a speaker about the Interfaith Hospitality Network that houses homeless families periodically in our church, God whispered in my ear that the mothers of these families needed comfort too. So we started giving shawls to the mothers as they came to us for shelter.



A second group was formed, meeting on a weekday morning for those whose weekends were too busy. Betty Antolik took the role of leader of this group, and the circle was closed as a recipient became a creator.



We sent shawls to victims of Katrina, to an African orphanage, and to recipients all over the country and beyond. We gave to newborn babies and brides, grieving families and hospitalized patients. We received thank you notes from recipients that had tears falling from our eyes as they expressed their feelings of comfort.



The ministry group then decided to also make scarves for the troops serving in Iraq and Afganistan. Boxes of scarves, made to the specifications given by the Armed Forces, were sent to church members who are serving in Iraq and chaplains for distribution. Each scarf had a small gold heart tied in the corner and a note of thanks sent with them. Members are now working on scarves with a V for Victory knitted in them to be presented on Veterans Day to church members who have served in the armed forces. Fleece baby blankets were made to be given to babies as they were baptized in our church.



With each stitch, with each shawl finished, with each thank you note received, the love of God was shared. Not only did the recipient know that the church was thinking and praying for them, the creators were pouring their love and prayers into the shawls.



In the nearly three years our group has been active, we have distributed nearly 300 shawls and the women continue to meet and share their thoughts, hopes, dreams and prayers of God's love and care. What does God ask of you? He asked me to take on the task of the Prayer Shawl Ministry, and I shall be forever grateful that I have had the opportunity of working with wonderful women, sharing Gods love. My heart is full and my life is blessed.



 
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