Prayer shawl ministry offers comfort, and workshop for volunteers

Date Published: 
January 31, 2014

For nearly five years, Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church has housed a prayer shawl ministry that has now touched thousands of lives in different ways.

Coastal Point • Submitted: The prayer shawl ministry at Mariner’s Bethel prays over every stitch they hand knot and crochet. The shawls are then given out to those in the community who need them. Here, a wide array of shawls are displayed in the church’s Coastal Point • Submitted: The prayer shawl ministry at Mariner’s Bethel prays over every stitch they hand knot and crochet. The shawls are then given out to those in the community who need them. Here, a wide array of shawls are displayed in the church’s “They’ve gone all over the United States, foreign countries — everywhere,” said Ruth Wood, who is a member of the ministry. “I think it’s so neat that we don’t know when we’re making these who it’s going to.”

According to the ladies who helped form the ministry, it all began through divine providence.

“When I was in Sanibel, Fla., I went to a prayer shawl meeting down there. I was so impressed with the meeting, I got all the information I could and brought it all back,” said Nell Hutchins.

“While you were there, it was all in the works here, too,” added Marty Quillen. “My mom had taught me how to knit and all of that. My sister-in-law shared with me about her prayer shawl ministry at her church. Then when you came back from Florida, that’s when we got together and formed the committee.”

The ministry currently meets the third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in Mariner’s Prayer Room.

“It’s amazing how much fun we do have. It’s so important that we do have fun doing this, as well as it being something for God,” said Hutchins, adding that more than 20 women attend the monthly meetings.

“They’re very dedicated. You can’t even believe when these prayer shawls come in… You think, ‘I can’t even believe what I’m seeing.’ We display them on a table and thank each person,” she noted. “Until you make one of these, you have no idea what goes into this. It’s a lot of love and hours. We never care about a mistake somebody might make. We can always correct it. I think that people feel comfortable.”

“They’re all beautiful, regardless of any mistake there could be,” added Quillen. “They’re all perfect.”

Anyone in the community is invited to attend the prayer shawl ministry meetings, whether or not they have an affiliation with Mariner’s.

“It’s a real outreach,” said the Rev. Kay Lanasa, who anoints the prayer shawls. “Every stitch is prayed over. That’s what makes it so powerful.”

“We don’t know when we’re knitting or crocheting who they’re going to go to, but God does,” said Quillen. “So whatever we pray for that person, recipient — every stitch is prayed for.”

Each shawl comes with a prayer card that tells the recipient about the time, love and prayer that went into making it, as well as offering support.

“May this shawl be for you a sign of God’s loving, healing presence,” it reads. “May it warm you when you are weary; may it surround you with encouragement when you are discouraged; may it assure you of God’s care and comfort when your loved ones and you are in pain. May it remind you that God loves you and that you are surrounded by the prayers of others.”

Quillen said the women who serve in the ministry are selfless in their work.

“It’s so automatic. It’s all through God. Everyone has a spiritual gift, and I think the women who are in this prayer shawl ministry have recognized their gift and are so willing to do for God and use that gift to share it with people,” she said. “I think it’s so neat that women in our group are such givers. With this gift, what better way? It all starts with God, though. It all starts with him.”

Hutchins said that the ministry does not keep count of how many shawls are given out but said that at least two are anointed every Sunday.

“It’s so beautiful to watch. She will anoint these prayer shawls in front of the person and then present it to the person.”

“It’s supposed to bless them,” said Quillen. “The prayer shawls are always available in the prayer room at Mariner’s for anybody who is hurting in whatever way. You don’t get their name or anything. It doesn’t matter. The Lord will take it.”

“When somebody comes in and I’m giving them a prayer shawl, it’s because they need it,” added Lanasa.

Wood said it’s also nice to be out in the community and see people with their prayer shawls.

“I gave one to a friend who has Alzheimer’s, who rubs the shawl with her fingers,” said Wood. “She knows it’s for her and it’s doing something for her.”

The shawls are used for various reasons, from those who are in need of prayer due to hard times or sickness to happy times, as well. They are even presented to new pastors at the church.

“The stories are incredible. You could go on for pages — everybody has a story,” said Lanasa.

“Most people love them. They grab them and feel God’s warmth and love and know that it was made for them,” said Quillen, adding that her mother embraced her prayer shawl when she was ill.

“My mother said, ‘this is just what I needed.’… They can also be used as a celebration. They’ve been used as gifts for weddings, gifts for a newborn baby or a sick child. It’s all about prayer — that’s the whole point.”

The ministry has been able to go out into the community and help those who may need it, providing prayer shawls for dialysis patients, for nursing home residents, for Mariner’s own Blue Christmas service.

“In the beginning, we didn’t really know. We just kind of followed God’s footsteps and asked him where we needed to go,” said Quillen. “He opened up the doors to these ministries and projects, of prayer shawls for fallen soldiers, and all the groups we’ve been involved in. He led us to things we never even dreamed of when we started it. It seems like every year somebody surfaces that we need to sponsor.

“There was a nurse who worked with patients and recognized the need. It was on her heart to come talk to us about providing these prayer shawls. Our group of women are so giving and quick to say yes — they made it happen.”

For years, the ministry even sent shawls to Dover Air Force Base for the families of fallen soldiers. Quillen said that, thankfully, they haven’t needed to send any in a while.

“Those shawls are received by the families who come to meet their deceased family member,” she explained. “The prayer shawls for fallen soldiers — fortunately, they’ve told us they don’t need a consistent stream of shawls to the base.”

Wood said that church members are even sending knitting and crochet supplies to Costa Rica and taught community members there how to knit.

“They’re going back again this year. We provide the yarn and needles, and they teach,” she said.

“And our women have to teach these men, women, and children how to do it in another language,” added Lanasa.

Wood said she tends to carry her knitting supplies with her to various places, and by doing so, has been able to reach out to others outside of the church.

“It’s a witness — I was bringing my daughter to Beebe, and I take my shawls with me every time,” she said. “A woman saw me knitting away and asked what I was doing. I told her what we make and what we do — the whole story. She said, ‘I really needed one of those.’ So I ran home and got her one and gave her one of our cards. I thought, ‘That was a witness of God’s work.’”

On Saturday, April 12, the Mariner’s Prayer Shawl Ministry hopes to continue its outreach to the community, by holding a workshop in the church’s social hall from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which will include lunch, to teach those in the community how to knit and crochet. Attendees will also be provided with yarn and needles, if needed.

Quillen said the ministry plans to invite members of other area churches to the workshop, as well.

“It’s very popular right now,” Quillen said of knitting. “It’s also I think going to be great for other people who already have a prayer shawl ministry to come and share what they’re doing. I think that’s going to be a nice thing.”

She added that the workshop is in the early planning stages, with more details to be forthcoming.

“It’s God-driven, and it’s amazing how he works — even in this workshop that we’re doing. It’s amazing to me to see things happen. You pray about it. You pray that God will help guide you, because we’ve never done anything like this workshop before. God provides. He is the provider.”

Quillen said the ministry continues to grow and reach out to the community, and they hope to bring strength to those who need it.

“It’ something we didn’t even imagine, and it grows and goes beyond the walls of Mariner’s,” said Quillen.

“It’s a community outreach, for sure. It didn’t start out that way, but it’s certainly grown to that. You can’t help but be proud,” added Hutchins. “We just feel so pleased with this ministry. It’s simple — fellowship, God, prayer, giving, love. What else could you ask for?”

For more information on Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church’s Prayer Shawl Ministry, call the church at (302) 539-9510. Mariner’s Bethel is located at 81 Central Avenue in Ocean View.