In the fall of 2001 a member of my church brought me an article in The Houston Chronicle about a Prayer Shawl ministry. We had been talking about a clergy sister who while in the midst of chemotherapy, received a small prayer quilt which was quite precious to her. We were in the midst of lay hospital training and our discussion led to the notion of a prayer shawl ministry at Christ Church United Methodist in The Woodlands, Texas.
Another member of the church heard about the idea of prayer shawls and immediately crocheted a lovely shawl in shades of gold, yellow and pink. She brought it to me and I set it aside, not knowing who to give it to at that time. Within the week, our Minister of Children and their Families, a young clergywoman, suffered a miscarriage. We knew to whom to give the shawl. I remember vividly placing the prayer shawl around her shoulders. We laid hands on her and prayed for her healing and her grieving. It was a holy moment.
That was Christ Church United Methodist's first prayer shawl. Since then we have made and given away over 50 prayer shawls. Each has been lovingly made with prayer and then when completed prayed over and given.
When the prayer shawl is given, we tell each person that this prayer shawl was made and covered with prayer. We remind the receiver that the shawl is a symbol of God's continued presence with them; as they wrap it around them, they are to imagine God's loving arms about them, holding them safely and securly, that the warmth and tenderness of God's healing and redeeming love is present with them always.
We have given these shawls to children, new mothers, youth, men and women. In one family, both the husband and wife received a shawl at different times. We received wonderful stories of comfort, healing and grace in return.
I remember walking into ICU before a beloved man was to be released from life support and seeing his brown and black prayer shawl laying neatly over his feet. When he died, his wife picked up the shawl, wrapped it around her shoulders and we all wept together.
One precious woman crocheted two for us after she received hers ... one to replace the one she was given and one to give away. She has died, but the shawls she made remain as a testament to her love, prayer and service to others.
The stories go on and on and each one is a testament to the power and grace of God in the lives of the maker and the receiver.
When I was at Christ Church United Methodist, I purchased four skeins of yarn per shawl and enough yarn for four to six shawls, and kept the yarn in a basket in my office. When someone came in and wanted yarn, I invited them to pick a color and gave them instructions for the prayer shawl. It was important to me that anyone who wanted to make a shawl would have the materials to make it even if they were not able to pay for the yarn themselves.
You cannot make a mistake in a prayer shawl because they are all made with prayer, in love and covered by grace.
I am no longer at Christ Church United Methodist, having been appointed by the Bishop to another ministry. When I left Christ Church I received a precious gift. Pamela Kennedy made me a prayer shawl out of the left-over yarn from all the shawls she had done. It was a patchwork of color, and to me a precious gift of our shared ministry together and memories of God's action in our lives. The Prayer Shawl ministry still lives and is growing.
Blessings upon you all, Grace and Peace,
Rev. Mary E. Tumulty
Praxis With Grace