In September, 2006, I was in the hospital twice with a partially-blocked small intestine. An acquaintance of mine learned that I had a particularly difficult time in the hospital, so she said that the next time she saw me she was going to give me a prayer shawl.
It was a beautiful Boston Rose Homespun, I think, beautifully crafted. I was skeptical at first, but when I put the shawl around my shoulders, it felt like the loving arms of God surrounding me with love.
It was such a wonderful feeling, I decided that I just had to share the experience with members of my church. So I spoke to one of our ministers about it, got approval, and invited my friend who gave me the shawl to come speak to knitters and crocheters who might be interested in participating in this ministry. I was surprised to see about 20 ladies that first meeting!
We began knitting just about a year ago, in February, 2007. Since then we have crafted 90 shawls and lap robes, plus five neck scarves which we gave to graduating seniors who were going off to college. Just last month we gave several shawls to women who were facing treatment for breast cancer. So we decided to expand our ministry to include caps for women who have lost their hair from chemotherapy or other causes. We will very soon dedicate our first cap!
I do not knit, but am trying to learn. I told the knitters that if they don't want to apply the fringe, I would do it. I had a friend who isn't even a member of my church offer to apply the fringe, and we now have three ladies "on the fringe." One lady devised a template to use in making the fringe, and my friend who isn't a member has taken that a step further by making marks on the template where the fringe should go.
We have about 20 ladies who participate in crafting prayer shawls. The yarn we use is mostly Lion Homespun. Shawls come in made in various stitches and shapes. We meet once a month in the evening, for fellowship, tips and sharing. We have given shawls to a family who were in a terrible automobile accident and several family members died, to a young man who was struck by lightning, to a couple of chaplains serving in harm's way overseas, to people who have lost a family member, and even to a church member who donated her kidney to her childhood friend.
We place our shawls on our baptistery to display during both morning church services. One of the ministers mentions the shawls during his or her prayer, and usually there is a note in the bulletin inviting people to go up to the baptistery and add their own prayers for the shawls after the service and add a knot to the fringe.
To present the shawls, we wrap them just as the shawl I was given: in two pieces of white tissue paper, tied with the same yarn that was used to craft the shawl, using no tape. This reminds me of the way Japanese and Chinese people wrap their gifts, in fabric, using no tape. Somehow I like to think this gives our shawls an international flair.
I devised a card which we include with the shawls, giving information about prayer shawls, including the web site, and a blessing which I wrote. I also include a space to write in the date the shawl was dedicated, and the name of the person who knitted or crocheted the shawl, plus a space to write a personal note. We have been blessed to have received several donations which we use to purchase more yarn. And our women's organization has been generous in giving us several big shopping bags full of yarn to use, for which we are so grateful.
The best part of putting this ministry together for my church is delivering a shawl to someone. All the time spent on the prayer shawl ministry is made worthwhile when I see the look on the faces of the people who are given a shawl. That look is what it is all about to me.