Ministry wrapped in warmth of prayer
Originally published 5.5.2001
by Margaret Moffett Banks
Four women settle into comfy chairs just outside First Lutheran
Church's sanctuary, then pull strands of blue and gray yarn
from big knitting bags. Stacked on the floor before them
are finished shawls in purple, burnt orange and other warm,
For three months, these women and a dozen others have gathered
a few times each month to knit shawls--soft, cuddly wraps
that hang over the shoulders. The women call the wraps healing
shawls because they like to think they weave in helpful prayers
with every stitch.
When someone finishes a shawl, the women light a candle,
gather in a circle and say a prayer over their work. They
have a recipient in mind as they're making it--someone who
is sick, or hurting, or celebrating good news. And as they
bless the shawls, they ask God for strength--to comfort the
dying, to strengthen the ailing, to protect the healthy.
"Creating God," they said, "be with us now and bless the
fruits of the one who labored in knitting this healing shawl.
Grant that this shawl may serve as a mantle of your gentle
love and healing grace to the one who receives it."
They have given away 39 shawls. And every time they knit
a new one, these women bring each other up-to-date on illnesses
and births and deaths.
Last Tuesday, the women talked about knitting a new shawl
for a member of their congregation.
Pat Patrick asked: "Now what's wrong with her?"
"Didn't she have quite a few family deaths in succession?" Ellenor
Shepherd said, the click-click-click of her needles punctuating
"It's been like an epidemic," Bea Petrea said, shaking her
head, keeping her eyes trained on her yarn.
"When cancer," two knitters said together.
It's not an expensive ministry for First Lutheran, nor is
it time consuming. The women, some retired, some stay-at-home
moms, knit a little while they're watching TV, then knit
a little more when they come to meetings.
But 39 times, it has helped people feel a little better,
helped them feel God's presence wrapped around them. They
deliver them in person, with a prayer card attached to each.
The women gave one shawl, a taupe one with short fringes,
to a local attorney who has heart problems. When he drapes
the shawl around his shoulders, he wrote the ladies in his
thank-you note, he feels wrapped in prayer.
They gave another, this one light blue, to a lady with cancer.
She wears it during her chemotherapy treatments. Always.
Thirty-nine people in all, feeling loved and cherished and
The four were finishing up Tuesday when a woman who knits
for First Lutheran on another day rushed into the circle.
Her friend, someone who had recently had back surgery, can
no longer walk, the pain in her legs unbearable. The woman
reaches into her bag and reveals a rich purple shawl, with
ribbons of even darker blue yarn stitched throughout. She
asks the women to bless the shawl now, because her friend
needs it badly.
They gather in a circle, the candle still flickering, and
say their prayers.
The woman wipes the tears from her eyes and heads for her
friend's bedside. The knitters wish her well.
The count is now at 40.
Margaret Moffett Banks covers religion for the News & Record.
Call her at 373-7031 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Courtesy of the News & Record .