Reflections on a prayer shawl ministry
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Welcome to my Benedict Unravelled website & blog which brings together two of my passions:
- The wisdom of Saint Benedict
- The craft of creating prayer shawls and ‘shapes’ through knitting or crochet.
The Rule of St Benedict was written in the sixth century in troubled and unstable times just like our own, but its practical wisdom and spiritual values can still show us the way.
My prayer shawl ministry grew out of regular retreats with the Benedictine nuns of St Hilda’s Priory, Whitby. Any ‘instruction’ came from first hand observation as they modelled a seamless rhythm of work, prayer, reading and rest with great humour and joy. Through listening in the heady silence – my creative skills were released in unexpected ways.
Prayer shawls have a long Judaic history, with specific instructions for knots, fringes and tassels laid down in the Old Testament of the Bible. Such shawls are still worn today as part of Jewish religious ceremony.
But the recent revival of interest in prayer shawls has crossed denominational boundaries. Used widely in a variety of shapes and designs, they can comfort people during episodes of acute illness, hospitalisation, chronic conditions, bereavement – and help celebrate birth, marriage and anniversaries.
Feedback from recipients has been beyond expectation. It seems nearly everyone can relate to prayer and the impact of such a gift may be felt by the wider family or community.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this ministry, for myself and those who have joined me, is the demand for the prayer ‘shapes’ – whether placed in church, hospice chapel, house of prayer or given to friends and neighbours.
The work of our hands seems to blend together with prayer and reflection in a timeless rhythm. I will explore this further in my blog.
‘People knit for many reasons – creative expression,
gifts of love, to prove they can.
I knit for all of these reasons and more:
knitting is my therapy,
knitting is my meditation.
The quiet geometry of stitches, the dance of colour
and the soft, yielding yarn
displace the thoughts that I cannot release.’
‘Can the paced cloister unravel life’s labyrinth,
make a straight way to God?’
‘Knitting, I believe, saved my life. But it also introduced me to
a new world of yarn, colours,
textures and people…….
Sitting in knitting circles I slowly learned that
knitting had rescued other women too –
from bad marriages, illness, addictions …..
giving comfort and hope from life’s trials’
‘ The joy of crochet is its simplicity.
There is only ever one stitch in work,
and just a few variations of the basic stitch to master,
but the possibilities of using and combining those
stitches together are endless.’
As we went deeper into lockdown, I became aware that my sister, Pauline, was missing her grandkids desperately. She had always loved children, qualifying as a sick children’s nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital in the 70s. After that she married and produced three boys of her own, but it seemed to take forever before […]
Some ten years ago I knitted this ‘coat of many colours’ for my mother. It was a huge hit! She loved it, wore it whenever the weather was cold enough and took many complements. I can guarantee there is not another the same anywhere! Now that she has left us, it has returned to my […]
One of the first to get a prayer shawl was my friend Hannah. Made in hand-dyed botany lace weight yarn, she received it with a sense of wonder. It went everywhere with her and marked a new freedom in her prayer life alongside a greater sense of worth. But after a few years I got a call […]
There was encouraging feedback from the hospice again last week. A patient had a clear vision of an angel who came and interacted with her. ‘Do you think it was real?’ she asked the chaplain. ‘It felt so close and comforted me beyond words.’ Her reaction on being given an angel prayer shape ‘in just the right […]