Those in the community who may be looking to create a prayer shawl ministry for themselves, or for their church, are being offered some help from Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church’s Prayer Shawl Ministry.
On Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mariner’s Prayer Shawl Ministry will be offering a free workshop, and lunch, to the community.
Ministry member Sharon Palmer said the ministry held a similar workshop at Camp Pecometh in Centreville, Md., two years ago.
“It was very successful,” she said. “We thought, because we had reached out to all of those churches near Camp Pecometh, why not reach out to the churches here? So we decided to hold our own workshop here at Mariner’s.”
The ministry has given out a number of brochures regarding the workshop to area churches and knitting groups, and some community members have already signed up for the workshop.
“God will provide. The people who are supposed to be here will be here,” said Marty Quillen, another member of the ministry.
At the free workshop, each attendee will get their own prayer shawl starter kit, which includes yarn, knitting needles or crochet hooks, and an informational packet with patterns. Members of the ministry will share tips, testimonials and ideas from their program.
“It’s for anybody who wants to start their own prayer shawl ministry, whether it’s in a church, whether it’s in the community, and anyone who wants to be part of one,” said Quillen.
Mariner’s ministry was created almost five years ago and has been growing steadily ever since.
“It was Nell Hutchins who went to a prayer shawl ministry in Florida. She came home from that very excited and talked to Pastor Kay [Lanasa], and then we had two people very excited,” said Palmer.
“Then Pastor Kay and I had been talking about it in the meantime,” said Marty Quillen.
“And it just exploded since then,” added Palmer.
Prayer shawls are knit or crocheted with love, and each stitch is prayed over by the person creating them.
“For me, it depends on what pattern I’m doing. If I’m doing a three-stitch pattern or a multiple of three, I’ll do the Trinity, and that keeps me focused. If it’s a more focused pattern, I usually pray at the beginning, and then when I get finished that section of the pattern, I’ll pray again,” explained Palmer. “If I know it’s going to a specific person, I pray differently over that shawl… It’s layer praying.”
“‘Father, you know the situation of the recipient,’” Quillen offered as an example of the prayers made over the shawls. “Then, when someone gives a prayer shawl, usually they’ll pray over it before they gift it.”
In its five years, the ministry has reached out to those in need in and out outside of the church’s immediate community — providing shawls to those undergoing dialysis and battling cancer breast cancer, and even at Dover Air Force Base, to the families of fallen military members.
“For me personally, having received one at a difficult time, it was like wrapping yourself in God’s love. Most women have gone through some sort of difficulty with a family member, or a joyous occasion,” said Palmer.
“I would go in Tuesday night to Pastor Kay and pray for the joy for the family being in heaven now. It just gives you the opportunity to sit quietly and get comfort. Sometimes you might not pick up that shawl for two weeks, and then something will spark a memory, and I’ll take my shawl and go meditate. I’ve just found it as a way to go through the grieving process… It helps you get through the experience.”
But the shawls aren’t only given during sad times, as many joyous occasions are marked by the gift of a prayer shawl.
“We give them for celebrations — wedding gifts, babies. So I think, along with it being a community of women, they’re drawn to the fact of knowing how comforting a shawl can be.”
Palmer added that one of the reasons she is a member of the ministry is to offer that comfort to those who need it most.
“With so many negative things going on in the world, it keeps me focused on something positive — even just for one person at a time. You can’t help everyone, but I focus on giving comfort to one person at a time.”
“It’s a reminder of God’s love for you, and that he doesn’t leave you — he’s with you always. There’s always somebody that needs a prayer shawl. It’s a reminder of God’s love for you,” added Quillen. “I think, for me, it’s sharing my God-given gift to create something to help somebody else, and know and learn about God’s love.”
Palmer said that it’s OK to re-gift a prayer shawl to someone else, after you’ve received one, or five, and want to pass on the love and prayers.
“I know a couple of people who have received four or five shawls,” she said. “Like, if your husband has been ill, had surgery and received a shawl, but now he’s in good health again, there’s nothing wrong with taking that shawl and blessing it to someone else in need.”
Those who need a shawl, or would like to gift one, can simply walk into the church’s Prayer Room, next to the sanctuary. There, the shawls, baby blankets and stoles are kept, along with a book where people taking the shawls may write their name and the name of the person to whom the shawl is to be given.
There is also anointing oil in the room, so that the shawl may be prayed over and anointed before it is gifted.
“It’s a very open kind of thing. It really doesn’t have a lot of rules because there shouldn’t be,” said Quillen.
The ministry currently meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in Mariner’s Prayer Room, except in June, July and August.
“That doesn’t mean people stop knitting and crocheting — they still create,” said Palmer of the summer break.
The group is not solely made up of church members, but also of women within the local community as a whole.
“We have all learned so much from each other. We have amazing creators. I love how people want to learn, to step out of their comfort zone of what they know, and learn different styles,” said Palmer.
“One of the main things I love about our meetings is that seems to be the time where people bring what they’ve made through the month,” said Quillen. “To lay those out on the table and to see the joy, compassion and love that every person has for each shawl… To just stand in the background and watch everyone ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over those shawls…
“Everybody always points out their mistakes, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all beautiful.”
Aside from the upcoming workshop, the ministry has also spread its work through mission trips.
“We’ve given yarn and needles to the mission trip to Costa Rica for the last two years they’ve gone,” said Quillen. “We have a couple members of our prayer shawl ministry that have gone on that trip, and when they were there they taught how to knit prayer shawls. Even the men were knitting, the children, everybody.”
Quillen said that it is through God’s love that the ministry has grown and been able to reach so many people.
“The first year they went, they built the church [in Costa Rica]. The prayer shawl that was sent for their church just happened to be the same color they had painted the church. They draped it across their lectern. That was really God… he’s just everywhere,” she said. “He’s everywhere in this ministry. The more we reach out, we just follow his lead. When we reach out, he’s right there doing things we never dreamt.”
As for the workshop, the Mariner’s ministry members hope that those in the community will be able to take away valuable information to use to create ministries of their own.
“I guess the hope is that there will be other people who will want to join us or create their own ministry,” said Quillen.
“And come away feeling confident that they could create their own, if they chose to,” added Palmer.
For more information or to register for the workshop, email email@example.com or call Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church at (302) 539-9510. The church is located at 81 Central Avenue in Ocean View.