A couple months ago, I posted about receiving a gift of a prayer shawl and the incredible feeling of comfort that flowed into me when I wrapped it around myself.
Recently, Rev. Valerie asked our congregation if there was interest in starting up a prayer shawl ministry in our church...apparently the response was overwhelming. I definitely want to participate, even though I don't knit. I had sampled the world of knitting years ago, but started with a sweater pattern that was entirely too complicated for a beginner. I grew horribly frustrated and abandoned it. But I had enjoyed the act of knitting, other than the frustration of being in over my head so to speak, and had intended to try again with a simpler pattern but, as is often the case in my world of procrastination, I never got around to it.
What better way to reenter knitter-ville than to knit a prayer shawl?! Valerie had some patterns for folks to take, but they looked too complicated for my liking. I want to knit peacefully, with comforting thoughts and prayer in my mind. (I don't think much comfort would come from a shawl knit with intense frustration over missed stitches and the like!) So Valerie emailed me these - much simpler - instructions:
"Prayer Shawl Pattern. 3 plain, 3 purl all the way across and switch coming back. Cast on 57 stitches."
Great, I thought, that sounds uber-easy, but...when I went to buy some yarn, my shopping ground to a halt...er, just how many skeins of yarn does one need for a prayer shawl? Does it matter what kind of yarn use? With what size needles should I knit? So many things to know, so little knowledge in my head. Valerie was so busy I didn't want to pester her with my plethora of questions. (I wondered if there was "Prayer Shawl for Dummies" book...)
Then I had the excellent notion to google prayer shawls and found the Prayer Shawl Ministry website. According to this site, prayer shawl ministries originated about ten years ago:
"In 1998, Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo, two graduates of the 1997 Women's Leadership Institute at The Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut gave birth to a ministry as a result of their experience in this program of applied Feminist Spirituality under the direction of Professor Miriam Therese Winter, MMS. Compassion and the love of knitting/crocheting have been combined into a prayerful ministry and spiritual practice which reaches out to those in need of comfort and solace, as well as in celebration and joy. Many blessings are prayed into every shawl."
Their ministry has now spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, and even around the World. I notice on their links page, there is a link to the Cole Harbour Woodside United Church's Shawls of Comfort and Joy ministry, whence came my own shawl.
In addition to learning all about the history of prayer shawl ministry, I also discovered that their original pattern is basically the one Valerie outlined for me, except the site includes additional instruction such as needle size and roughly how much yarn is needed for one shawl, etc. Woohoo, now I was all set!
I am not very far along yet, and in fact, am not entirely sure I am knitting it right, but I continue to feel inspired and joyful about this project, and hope the finished shawl will bring comfort to the friend for whom I am knitting & praying. My shawl is full of imperfections (yikes, how do those extra stitches sneak in??), but also full of prayers and love, so I think in the end it will be perfect.
Here it is so far: