Posted by Zenaida
“Shawls…made for centuries, universal and embracing, symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God. They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter, and beautify. Those who have received these shawls have been uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to fly above their troubles.”
A shawl was passed around the congregation, and as each person put their hands on the shawl it was blessed for the recipient. Some paused a moment to pray briefly over the fabric. Some ran their fingers over the softness and pressed their hands deeply into the folds of warmth. Each one had compassion etched in their eyes as the shawl made it’s way through the pews. “This shawl is dedicated to Jane Smith as she has just lost her mother.”
I was deeply touched the first time I witnessed this practice. It was a small moment, and business proceeded as usual as the shawl took its journey through the sea of waiting hands. It seemed a humble culmination to the hours spent in creating such a beautiful and comforting gift, but very fitting. Each shawl is made with a specific individual in mind, and they take various forms as full shawls, pocket shawls, or even scarves. They are all made with deep care for each person, and as a meditation practice.
I joined the group not long ago, and began my own practice of shawl making. It was moving to take the yarn in my fingers and utter the prayer to begin the process. I asked for focus and skill as I made this shawl with a friend in mind. I asked to have the thoughts of well-being and comfort transmitted through the stitches in the shawl. I asked for peace as I meditated on the struggles of this friend and my own. It was deeply satisfying to feel the yarn move through my fingers and each knot I created built a rhythm and flow to my thoughts as I slipped into the repetitive motions of crocheting. My mind was freed from burdens as I took them and made something useful out of pain and suffering. My thinking quieted, and I saw things more clearly.
It’s been wonderful to be in the process of creating this gift, and I’m greatly looking forward to having it make it’s own journey through the congregation to become not my gift, but God’s gift to my friend.
The prayer shawl ministry website is a great resource of prayers to accompany the creation and blessing of shawls, to hear others’ stories of shawls, and includes simple instructions for knitting or crocheting the shawls.