Editor’s note: I have received two prayer shawls in my life. The first I received when my husband and I moved from Sussex to the Fredericton area in 2012. It was a precious gift from our church pianist, Mary. She and I had been the core of our church’s worship team and had formed a lovely bond.
I received a second one a couple of years ago when I went to Villa Madonna to cover an international meeting of Mothers’ Union. It was in late April and the weather was horrendously cold, damp and windy. I learned that every delegate, many of whom were from South America, had received a prayer shawl as a welcoming gift, and many of them were wrapped up in theirs during the conference. Mothers’ Union generously offered me a shawl as they had a few extras, and I happily accepted it. It’s in my living room and I use it regularly.
One of the things that intrigues me about prayer shawls is the fact that I am totally clueless about how to make one. I come from a long line of crafty women who knit, crocheted and quilted for decades. Myself, well, I knit a few squares as a child, but found the whole thing tedious and no fun at all! I guess the craft gene skipped me. I prefer to think I craft with words, but words don’t keep you warm on a chilly evening!
I heard a story on CBC Radio last year about a prayer shawl ministry in Prince Edward Island. It was a great story, and I knew I wanted to know more about our own here in the diocese. There is something so personal and intimate about someone knitting a garment you wrap yourself in, knowing they prayed for you as they crafted it.
For a few months now, the NB Anglican has asked parishes and people to send in their information on a prayer shawl ministry. These are the results of that request. There are undoubtedly more ministries than answered the ad. Thus, you can be certain the prayer shawl ministry in the diocese is large, widespread and active — and a blessing to every recipient.
Marlene Mercer & Audrey Cernivz, Parish of Prince William
The Parish of Prince William is working on a shawl ministry in memory of one of our members who was a talented knitter, seamstress and a very loyal worker for the good of our church and for the good of our community. Many are honoured to support this mission.
Christ Church Cathedral
Marilyn Lewell’s podcast on her church’s ministry included this information.
She joined the prayer shawl minister in 2006 under Wendy Breen. At first the idea was to provide a shawl for women in hospital, undergoing treatments, or those grieving, but it has expanded to mark special occasions like weddings and births.
There is no charge for a prayer shawl, though donations are accepted.
Wondering how to include men in this endeavour, the Cathedral group began making fleece blankets. They are particularly welcome in chilly hospitals.
As of the podcast recording, the group had given 237 shawls and 67 fleece blankets to all ages and genders, and to people in every province, many U.S. states, and even as far away as the UK and Australia.
The group has received many touching thank you notes. They’ve been told their prayer shawls have wrapped loved ones for burial, and have been wrapped around urns as well.
Parish of Hammond River
The Parish of Hammond River has had a prayer shawl ministry since 2009.
Parish of Riverview
Prayer shawl ministry St. John the Baptist Anglican Church, Parish of Riverview
By Lorraine Bell
Our prayer shawl group started over five years ago when one of our parishioners, who is an avid knitter, approached one of our priests, Wendy Amos-Binks, to see where her talents could be put to use within the church — and the group was born.
We had help and encouragement from St. Andrews in Moncton who already had a successful prayer shawl group. It has been several years now and over 200 prayer shawls.
In the beginning, our thought was aimed at the poor of health. We did not anticipate how many knitters would take part, how well the mission would be supported by the church or how large the demand would be for other reasons.
We produce colours that are appropriate for men or women. We make shawls for boys and girls baptisms, for high school graduates from our congregation family and have given to parishioners who move away, as a memento of our church family.
Lately we started making little pocket squares with the leftover bits and pieces. They are small enough to put in your pocket or a wallet to feel comforted when undergoing surgery, taking a trip or just for general well-being.
When we have a good number, we have given them to the hospital and also put them in a basket in the narthex with a note of explanation so people can help themselves.
One of our girls has been keeping a scrap book for us containing pictures and thank you notes. This is available for viewing at any time.
We meet about three times a year to update one another and bring in finished projects to add to our inventory. At that time we take stock, and if we have enough, we will have a blessing. Then they are ready to distribute.
We place them along the communion rail during one of the services so all can see them and take in the beautiful works of art. Our ministry has been well received and supported financially and with donations of yarn from the church, and for that we are truly thankful. It is indeed a fulfilling ministry.
Lorraine Bell worships at Saint John the Baptist Anglican Church in Riverview.
Parish of Stanley
Prayer Shawl Ministry, presented by Ann K. Wetherilt at an ACW deanery meeting in October.
The Prayer Shawl Ministry in the Parish of Stanley began in 2012 and to date we have given somewhere between 150 and 200 shawls. We began as a small group of knitters among our parishioners, but have since been able to involve a number of others from our wider community who love to knit and want to participate.
One off-shoot of the ministry was to begin a knitting group at our local nursing home, Nashwaak Villa, where our parish has an on-going and rich relationship with both residents and staff. There are a few residents from time to time who still enjoy knitting, and many others who love the conversation and social aspect of this twice-a-month group. Perhaps most significantly, we now have new knitters among our congregation who picked up needles for the first time as part of this group!
Initially, we saw our prayer shawls as primarily a gift for those who were ill, recently bereaved, or going through some kind of difficulty and in need of comfort.
But now our shawls have gone from coast to coast, to family members far from home, in celebration of special events, and for new additions to families. Baby shawls are a good way to get started.
We commit to providing each new resident at Nashwaak Villa with a shawl—or a lap rug for the gentlemen.
Each shawl is blessed before it is given, and each carries a special prayer for the recipient. So give it a try if you haven’t already—the patterns can be as simple or as complicated as you like!
Our prayer for God’s blessing on prayer shawls:
Heavenly Father, you sent your Son to heal our brokenness with your love. We give you thanks for those inspired by that love to create these gifts of caring for those in need.
We offer these shawls, filled with the prayers and hopes of those who have made them, for our brothers and sisters who are sick or in sorrow.
We ask you to bless these shawls with your love and healing grace, so they may bring comfort and healing strength to those who receive them as signs of your presence in their lives and ours.
We ask all of this through your Son, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit continues to love and sustain all of us in this life and the next. Amen
Parish of Stanley patterns using Lion Brand® Homespun®
EASY TRIANGLE SHAWL
Lion Brand Homespun 1 or 2 balls, depending on desired size.
Lion Brand Knitting Needles- Size 13 [9 mm]
Cast on 3 sts.
Row 1 Knit
Row 2 Knit 1, yarn over, k to end.
Repeat row 2 until piece measures 35 inches or desired length.
Bind off loosely.
Cut yarn for fringe 16 inches long. Add fringe in spaces along side edges of shawl.
EASY LONG SHAWL
Cast on 40 sts.
Rows 1-4 Knit
Row 5 Knit 1, (yarn over, k 2 tog) to end.
Repeat these 5 rows until shawl is desired length.
Bind off loosely.
Cut yarn for fringe as above if desired.
The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, primate, wears a prayer shawl at General Synod in July 2019, a gift from youth delegates at General Synod. Anglican Church of Canada photo
St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Riverview. These are completed shawls which are positioned over the rail for a blessing during our regular service before we give them away also allowing our church family to see the fruits of our ministry. Submitted photo
Ann K. Wetherilt gives a presentation on the Parish of Stanley's prayer shawl ministry during an October ACW deanery meeting. McKnight photo
Mothers' Union members from Zone B (the Americas) at a conference held at Villa Madonna in Rothesday in 2018. Every woman was given a prayer shawl as a gift upon arrival. McKnight photo