Prayer Shawl Ministry
By Gladys Cole
January/February 2005 Vol. 22 No. 1
Women ministering to women can and has become a prayerful experience through the prayer shawl ministry. We are a sisterhood who have something common: Our husbands are Deacons, but there is more. Our own ministries and giftedness reach out to God’s people.
Five years ago I began making prayer shawls for each of the deacons’ wives in the diocese of Venice, Florida. At our deacons’ and wives’ meetings (three times a year) the prayer shawls are presented. We wrap the shawl around the recipient’s shoulders and pray over her.
It is always an uplifting experience – a sisterhood of holy women supporting each other, providing a great deal of comfort and blessings for us and for our husbands. Before I could finish enough prayer shawls for all the women in our dioceses, the recipients and those waiting for a prayer shawl wanted to begin their own prayer shawl ministry, so brief instructions were provided.
The prayer shawl ministry was created six years ago by two young mothers in Connecticut: Victoria C. Galo and Janet Bristow. They took this ancient craft of knitting and/or crocheting and gave it a spiritual twist. The pattern of 3’s lends itself well to prayers that are will know to us all: “Jesus, Mary, Joseph,” “Father, Son, Spirit,” and “Be Still and Know I am God.” (Psalm 46-10)
As we knit/crochet a sense of peace and tranquility takes over and our craft becomes a prayer for ourselves and for the recipient, be they known or unknown at the time. The prayer shawls have been given for numerous occasions in the lives of people – baptisms, weddings, birthdays, times of illness or loss of a loved one. The occasions are numerous.
We personalize our shawls by adding small symbols to the fringe. Examples are an angel, holy spirit, bible, decade of the rosary or added symbols for person’s hobbies. Let your creativeness guide you. The shawl co-creators have a web site which includes instructions, prayers, and helpful hints to begin this ministry.
Many deacons’ wives have taken up this ministry and brought it to their own parishes, here in Florida and elsewhere. Because we live in Florida, we have a number of “snow birds” (those who come here during the early fall until late spring and return home or travel). Consequently the ministry has reached all parts of the United States, North America, Europe and the Mideast, not only through us but through the co-creators.
At Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Florida, we meet monthly and make prayer shawls for those in our church and local community. We come together, pray, meditate and listen to soothing music, then chat together and exchange heart-felt stories from people who have received the prayer shawls. Here are a few:
A young mother in labor, unsure if their premature baby would survive, received a shawl. Because she knew it was woven with prayers, she put it on and prayed for the survival of their child. Now he is a pre-teen and full of life and energy.
A woman with lung cancer was given a shawl which comforted her through her last days. Her husband used her shawl after her death as a reminder of the loss of his beloved and it brought him solace through prayer.
A new mother used the shawl as a white garment at her daughter’s baptism. Later the mother wrapped she and the baby during feeding times – comfort and joy bound together.
The young blind girl going off for her freshman year of college brought her shawl as a reminder of the comfort and peace she experienced at home.
The teenage boy going through a battle with depression wrapped the shawl around his shoulders, remembering the love and caring thoughts that had been woven into the special garment.
The woman with a fatal illness gave instructions that her shawl was to be used as her burial should because it was so personal to her.
The young girls and boys in scouting troops taught to knit/crochet by volunteers so that they could give their shawls as gifts to their family or the homeless, expressed joy and glee in learning this skill.
This prayer shawl ministry has no bounds. We never know whom it can reach and why this ministry touches people in such a beautiful way. Ask anyone involved in the prayer shawl ministry – we are always amazed how God works in the loves of His people.
If you would like to begin this ministry in your area you can visit the web site of one of the co-creators: our daughter, Victoria C. Galo, and the information for patterns are provided at: www.shawlministry.com or you can reach me (by email) at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this ministry.
May the joy of being the wife of a deacon and realizing we also have our own unique ministries bring you peace and joy.
Gladys Cole is the wife of Venice Florida Deacon Francis Cole.
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