Prayer Shawl Ministry - A Gift of Peace
Knit One, Nurture Two
I have been knitting and crocheting prayer shawls for several years. I started when our church started a Prayer Shawl Ministry. There is nothing really complicated in making shawls many are without intricate patterns and made using basic knit and purl stitches. It was the concept of the ministry that intrigued me. It is a gift of comfort, peace, understanding and healing. Something created by hand and mind. As the yarn passes through your hands on and off needles by creating loops that pass over each other locking each into the next, a shawl is created. There is no part of that shawl that remains untouched both physically and spiritually. It is something that becomes very personal for knitter and recipient, a locking together.
My daughter and granddaughter were interested in joining and needed my support to help them with their knitting skills. It was a challenge trying to teach my daughter the skill of using two needles. My mother (who had the patience of a saint) taught her to crochet. Just the basics, but she was able to crochet scarves for all our family members. I tried on several occasions to teach her how to knit but we both would become frustrated with each attempt (I did not share the gift of patience my mother had). We would always end up with dropped needles, dropped stitches or stitches so tight they were impossible to freely slide off the needles. It was even a bigger challenge to teach my granddaughter as she is left handed. It was even more of a challenge for her as she had to observe visual instructions from a right hander and think as a left hander. To join the ministry, no prior skills were required. The ministry would instruct and teach the basics. And, what better way to learn but in an atmosphere of peaceful prayer.
I must admit I may be experienced in needlework however, I did need training with prayer. I was always uncomfortable praying aloud especially in a group. My incentive to join included becoming comfortable in a prayer group and not just to pray from rote recitation. This opportunity would also teach me to devote set times for prayer, something I was never consist about. I was also comfortable with spreadsheets and became the recorder of knitters and recipients. So the learning began.
What we learned:
1. No shawls are perfect. No one's life is perfect. We all have made mistakes. We all have faced tragedies and obstacles. And, so it is with making these shawls. We were taught to leave the mistakes as a reminder that all is not always perfect but we can move beyond our mistakes and find comfort from the love given by others and God. This was a very hard concept for me, as I would be troubled about ripping out the mistakes. When I gave my first shawl and explained that it was not without errors, I was surprised how touched my friend was by not giving her a perfect shawl. She confided in me some of the imperfections she had and was facing in her life, but she could see the beauty that was there throughout the whole of her life symbolized in that shawl. A very touching moment for the both of us.
2. The shawls we started with were created using a pattern of three, knit three, purl three. This symbolized many things: the Trinity; phrases of existence (birth, life, death); past, present, future; make-up of human beings (body, mind, spirit); teaching (faith, hope and charity) and many more.
3. Colors (there are 3 primary colors with which it is possible to obtain all the colors):
- Red - strength, love, courage
- Pink - Joy, friendship
- Brown - Stability
- Orange - Happiness, encouragement, endurance
- Gold - Illumination, wisdom
- Yellow - Cheerfulness, energy, joy, confidence
- Green - Healing, hope, peace
- Blue - Faith, tranquility
- Purple - Wisdom, dignity
- White - Purity, safety
- Before working on a shawl - that the knitter create a heart of understanding and love.
- While creating the shawl - that the recipient receive consolation, healing, faith, love.
- Upon completion - shawls are blessed and prayed over by the whole congregation of faith during their gathering.
5. Distribution - that the shawls be delivered by the knitter to the recipients, along with a tag or note listing the creator, date given, date blessed by congregation and a short prayer (hopefully the one that the creator used during the knitting of the shawl).
I have made over 25 shawls for congregation members and for friends or family members of our congregation. I was the recipient of a prayer shawl when I faced surgery for cancer. My husband also received a prayer shawl as his health began to decline. He would ask to be wrapped in it daily. It gave him consolation, comfort and warmth. Both of these shawls (and almost all) were made for specific reasons and specific people making them very special. I know that each stitch was created out of love and concern for me. There is nothing more rewarding and uplifting than to feel all that wrapped around you.
The knitters saved their scraps of yarn and a stole was crocheted for our minister and pieces of the scraps were woven into the stole, making this ministry tied to one another. I also save small pieces and tie them together on the end of my needles as a reminder to constantly keep the recipients in my prayers.
I now knit mostly for those I don't know personally but know they need prayer and comfort. I knit for a cause(domestic violence, cancer, Alzheimer's, organ donation/transplant the list goes on). I learned to be more comfortable with prayer and my daughter and granddaughter learned the art of knitting and the joy of spreading love and comfort. My granddaughter's shawl was full of holes from dropped stitches. We fought that desire to go back and pick them up but just added more on the next row. A shawl not perfect to look at but perfect with intent and prayer. The shawl was created for a new mother in the congregation. A mother who would find holes in some of her days but, then find that the next would be complete. I assured her any mother (mostly me) would love to have her shawl. It was complete and full of what was needed - love and prayers.
Those interested in starting a Prayer Shawl Ministry or wish to make a shawl for a special friend or family member visit www.shawlministry.com.
Knit One, and you'll find you've Nurtured Two. I did.