Thousands of knitters and crocheters of all faiths all and from around the country are creating handmade shawls for those in need. “Whatever your faith and wherever you live, your handiwork can bring comfort, hope, and peace to others,” said Rev. Heather Mueller of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kula.
Kathy Krueger from Kīhei Lutheran Church, (KLC), explained, “Our church currently has over 20 ladies knitting. We have given about 600 shawls to our shut-ins, those in the hospital or in any situation where we can wrap a loved one in a prayer shawl.”
It is a joy to see the knitters with their colorful yarns, needles and beautiful designs. The prayer shawl ministry emerges when they add their heartfelt prayers and loving compassion alongside their skills. The idea is to pray blessings into every shawl and make a difference in someone’s life. The shawl maker begins with prayers for the recipient. “Sometimes the crafter has a specific person in mind as a garment is created, or many times the recipient is not known,” said Krueger. “The intentions are to combine prayer and contemplation, and then wrap that love around the shoulders of the receiver to give them comfort while experiencing a significant time in their lives.”
“It is comforting to know that others care about what you are going through,” said prayer shawl recipient Doreen Dawe.
It appears that coming together to combine knitting with prayer is an expression of caring. “It is a way of weaving hearts and souls together with yarn, while providing an energy field of love as a real garment,” said Mueller. “And, in the process of helping others, we help ourselves spiritually.”
This type of work is an old concept used by Tibetan monks, Native Americans and other cultures. It is a way of serving the less fortunate by creating a garment of beauty and comfort through prayer and love. The clicking of the needles, the tension of the yarn and the sight of the colors bring the knitters into a meditative state.
“While you work with the yarn, the repetitive action of knitting or crocheting helps to slow down the mind and the frantic pace of the day,” said Mueller. “It provides opportunity for a sense of stillness in our often chaotic lives,” she said. For knitters absorbed in their project, time seems to shift, and distractions drift away.
“Even the stitches can be imbued with spiritual significance,” said Paula Hoit of St. John’s Episcopal Church. By knitting in sets of three-knit, three-purl, she said the knitter can invoke a variety of ideas including the Christian Trinity, the unity of mind, body, spirit and the cycle of past, present and future, among others. “It becomes a mantra,” she said.
Most often these gifts of care are shawls or lap blankets. However, some knitters make other items, such as baby blankets, preemie caps, mittens, hats for cancer patients or even helmet liners for soldiers.
Once completed, the shawls are brought to the altar for the community blessing before going to their new homes. “I would like you to join me now,” the pastor will say, “as we dedicate these prayer shawls that will be given to those whom we now name. The blessings will come not just from the people who created them, or just from those who are part of the prayer shawl ministry, but from the entire congregation.”