Why does our congregation give away prayer shawls? This simple knitted or crocheted creations stand out as one of our favorite forms of outreach. These beautiful shawls are often created in the privacy of one’s home so this is often referred to as a “behind the scenes” ministry. It is not unusual for me to arrive at my office to find a bag containing a carefully crafted shawl. I often don’t know who stitched a particular prayer shawl and the crafter rarely meets the recipient, but it is nonetheless a personal, hands-on ministry and a testament to caring and compassion.
Every prayer shawl is unique. They come in a variety of shades, sizes, and patterns, reflecting the individuality of the person who took the time to knit or crochet it. Somehow this wide variety matches the needs of the people searching for a shawl for a loved one. When someone arrives at my office, yearning for a way to put their caring and concern into action, they are delighted by the warm colors and soft textures. They often touch the yarn, rubbing it between their fingers, until they say with conviction, “This one. This will be just right.”
We keep a supply of shawls on hand at the church because we never know who will want a shawl and when the need might arise. It might be a joyous occasion like the birth of a baby; we can offer that happy yet tired mother a virtual hug and some comforting reassurance as the shawl drapes around her shoulders.
Just as likely the shawl will go to someone who is enduring a difficult time filled with grief or pain or worry. We enclose a card with the shawl with a quote from Julian of Norwich: “May God’s love wrap and enfold you, embrace you and guide you, and bring you comfort.”
We often cannot solve the problems of others, but we can remind them that they are not alone.
On March 13th part of our worship service will be dedicated to blessing our prayer shawls. In these somewhat dreary pre-spring days, it is a delight to be surrounded by the bursts of colors that the prayer shawls offer as they are ensconced in the windowsills of our sanctuary.
The shawls will be distributed throughout the congregation, allowing our congregation to participate in the gift of laying on hands and offering prayers. We will call upon God with names like Gentle Spirit, Encircling God, Loving One. We will depend on God’s healing presence and nurturing Spirit to fill these lovingly made shawls with blessing and strength. We will sing the refrain to Rosemary Crow’s gentle song Weave: “Weave, weave, weave us together. Weave us together in unity and love. Weave, weave, weave us together, together in love.”
Sometimes we are called to witness to God’s presence in loud, dramatic ways. Other times, a reminder that we are surrounded by God’s grace and wrapped in God’s love is blessing is enough.