Comfort in time of need
Knitters put skills to work with ministry
Every Tuesday, the small group gathers at First United Methodist Church. They chat, laugh, share stories, pray and, most of all, knit.
The Caring Hands Prayer Shawl Ministry, a mixture of First Methodist members and non-members, seasoned craftspeople and knitting newcomers, has a serious purpose. Its members are joined together to produce prayer shawls, a job they feel provides comfort to so many during their times of need.
The project began when Rev. Robert Sparkman showed the congregation a group of prayer shawls and spoke about a desire to start the ministry at the church. The shawls are handmade items, each individually blessed, and then given to others as a sign of spiritual encouragement during times of illness or other hardship.
Ruby Norman was among those who heard Sparkman speak about the prayer shawls and said she felt led to become involved.
“The only prayer shawl I had heard of were those used by Israeli men. I did not know that loving Christian women had for some time been creating beautiful prayer shawls to be presented to people suffering catastrophic illnesses or those who were suffering from the loss of a loved one,” Norman said. “I wanted with all my being to do that.”
Norman approached the pastor about wanting to be involved with the program. More than just a member, however, Norman was asked to lead the group.
“I know nothing about directing such a program but his (Sparkman’s) confidence in me made me brave,” she said. “Besides, I was already in love with the program.”
Soon, a dedicated group of members was assembled. Early members included Tucky Carlisle, Freida Bitterton, Dot Biles and Sarah Light. The group quickly grew and soon included associate pastor and knitting newcomer Bobby Ray Halbrooks.
The group meets weekly and produces the handmade shawls in a variety of styles and colors. The supplies for the prayer shawls are purchased by the church and the group encourages people to donate and leftover yarn for the project.
Once a shawl is complete and a tag sewn in, the members lay their hands on the outstretched shawl and pray for the person who will receive it. Suggested recipients come from a variety of places, church members, the community and others. Like the group’s members, recipients aren’t all FUMC members. The group has given out hundreds of prayer shawls and often receives notes of thanks from the recipients. It also produced baby blankets and knit caps for chemotherapy patients.
Norman said the group is always welcoming new members, whether they know how to knit or not.
“Out motto is “don’t know how to knit or crochet? We will teach you. Many of those who came to us to learn the art are now teachers of the art. The big payoff, though, of the whole operation is the making of prayer shawls ad the giving of them for the comfort of hurting people.”