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History of Prayer Shawl Ministry

The History of Prayer Shawls

Prayer shawls are known the world over, and come in many forms. It seems that the first Christian, formal prayer shawl ministry began in Hartford Connecticut in 1998. Since then, the practice has spread far and wide, bringing comfort to thousands. The Prayer Shawl Mininstry is a charter group of Grace United Church.

The ministry had its beginning in a conversation with Rev. Dick Prince, who was then minister at one of the founding churches(Tansley). He had been very moved by being part of a spontaneous prayer shawl presentation at a meeting, when someone received word that their son had been injured in an accident. He thought it would be a wonderful ministry here. Janet Saunders and Marilyn Stairs were quick to agree and to get things rolling. The invitation went out to knitters and crocheters in the congregation and a small group soon formed. We invited Kim Shantz, an experienced maker of prayer shawls, to lead a workshop for us, found some patterns and raided our own stashes of yarn to create those first shawls. That was in the fall of 2007.

A few months later, 35 shawls ready for a blessing service one Sunday morning. The response was amazing! That morning several people asked for shawls to give to friends and family who needed to feel God’s warmth in their lives. It quickly became clear that we’d better keep on knitting!

Not only were people delighted to take shawls, they wanted to support this ministry. Soon we received gifts of yarn, money and many notes of thanks. We now keep a stash of yarn in the church, always ready for the next project.

Where does all the yarn come from? Most of it has come from people who had left-overs from projects or let’s face it, projects that had never even been started. We have had excursions to yarn factories where we’ve bought supplies, and we’ve also used donated funds to purchase yarn locally.

Who are we? Many of the original members of the group are still part of it, and we’ve added more along the way. We have knitters and crocheters who can’t come to our gatherings, but who send their finished shawls along with someone else. A couple of people who needed some coaching to learn or re-learn their skills are now knitting up a storm. Most of us are part of this congregation, but a few are not. Only women have been involved so far, but we’d welcome men, girls, boys — anyone. Some people seem to turn out a shawl almost every week, while others make one or two a year.

We’ve met and corresponded with other prayer shawl groups to share fellowship, inspiration and ideas.

Over the years, our prayer shawls have found homes in many distant places as well as in the Burlington area. They go to people who are ill, have suffered a loss, are facing life-altering changes or are in need of comfort and healing. They also mark celebrations, going, for instance, to couples who have married and to babies baptized. One year several were given to a shelter for Muslim women. Another time we provided baby shawls for an Ottawa stillborn project. We have made small pocket prayer squares for funerals and prayer scarves for people who want to be able to wear them anywhere.

We’ve also made other items, such as hats and mitts for Wesley Urban Ministries and chemo caps.

That conversation in 2007 really started something. We plan that it will continue, and are grateful that it has become such an integral part of Grace United Church life.

There are always shawls available if you know someone who needs one. Please don’t hesitate to fill in a form and choose a shawl for them.

Thank you all for your support.