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Knitters in Spokane Valley churches create prayer shawls

By Deidre Jacobson

Knitters in Spokane Valley churches create prayer shawls

Members of a small group of Spokane Valley knitters create prayer shawls to distribute to people in physical, emotional or spiritual pain. 

prayer shawls
Women knit prayer shawls.
Sandy Crowley, therapist and mental health counselor with a passion for knitting, discovered the Shawl Ministry website while browsing knitting sites.

“The shawl ministry idea tugged at me,” she said.  “It was something I needed to do.” 
She copied patterns from the website and made her first shawl.  Taking it to her minister, Gary Hann, of Greenacres Christian Church, she asked if she could present the idea to the congregation. 

Women immediately began to come forward.

Sandy said that Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo, of Hartford, Conn., founded the Shawl Ministry in 1988 out of their experience in a program of applied feminist spirituality.  They developed the concept of shawls being knit with prayer and blessings for the recipient throughout the creation process. 

Janet described the ministry: “Shawls have been made for centuries.  They are universal and embracing, symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving God.  They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter and beautify.  Those who have received these shawls have been uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to fly above their troubles.”

Sandy began the Spokane ministry with a small group, meeting on Saturday mornings.  About half were beginners and half were experienced knitters.  Now, the “old hands” help novices learn the ropes. 

The group has knit more than 50 shawls, which have been distributed to members and friends of the congregation, including the wife of a man who committed suicide, an older man entering an adult family home for Alzheimer’s disease and a mother whose son is in Iraq.  Joy shawls have been knit for new moms. 

Each meeting begins with prayer, candle lighting, soft music and prayer requests. 

A shawl takes an experienced knitter 20 to 25 hours to complete.  When completed, the shawl is passed around the group for prayer and blessing before it is given to its beneficiary.

The ministry blesses the knitters, Sandy said.

“There is joy in creating something which will bring comfort.  We share the sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We have become a community, and the relationships built among us are enriching.  This may be the modern version of the quilt circle,” she said.

The concept of a community of women is familiar to Sandy.  She has facilitated groups for women in transition, usually mid-life, for many years. 

“I see women searching for spiritual growth, asking,  ‘What is life about?  What do I hold onto?  What do I let go?” she said.

Sandy said her discovery of the Greenacres church fulfilled her search for community in the small, warm group of Christians.  The shawl ministry is a deeper connection. 

“It pulls us toward what’s really important in life.  We are united as we pray for those who suffer with illness or death.  We are a community for each other,” she said.

For Janet, the Shawl Ministry has been enriching “beyond what I could have ever imagined.”

She has learned that people are basically the same, no matter what their faith tradition.

“We want to reach out to others in difficult times to help ease their pain,” she said.  “God is present not only in the people in our lives, but in the strangers, too.”

Janet has also found that the best way of serving others is “by using our own gifts and talents every day and by looking within for the guidance to do so.  It’s always there, waiting to be discovered.

“By setting aside the time to knit or crochet prayerfully—perhaps lighting a candle as a reminder of God’s presence, saying a prayer and keeping the intentions of the receiver in mind—we create a personal ritual, a spiritual practice,” she said.

“Ritual at the beginning and at the end of the creative process enhances this practice because it sets the intention and opens the shawl maker to God’s inspiration as blessings are received and given,” Janet said.

For information, call 922-1562.

The Fig Tree - Copyright © November 2004