(Posted April 21, 2016)
It’s the first thing I see every morning. It hangs from the crossbar of our four poster bed. And, if I ever need to be reminded of the hidden love and concern that we as church members have for one another, it’s there in all its fluffy goodness, even at 2 a.m. It’s a prayer shawl – one that in particular was given to me by the North Adams Massachusetts congregation I served when I was leaving to accept the call at First Church Danbury.
Prayer shawls occupy a unique place in the “instruments of prayer” that we as Christians have, and a unique mission for our church. This Sunday at the beginning of our service we will bless the most recent crop of prayer shawls that our knitters/crochet-ers have lovingly produced for us.
It has always seemed to me that the making of a prayer shawl blesses not only the person who receives it, but also the person whose busy hands make it, with each stitch filled with blessings and hopes for both, and healing of whatever problem is wrapped up in it by the receiver. Descended from the Jewish prayer shawl called the tallit with its many fringes and stripes, a prayer shawl helps define a sacred space. Whether the receiver is male or female, being enveloped in the “arms” of a prayer shawl is a little like feeling the embrace of a mother once again. Inside a prayer shawl someone can sense the caring presence of God. Especially at those times when we feel most alone – when we are sick, when our hearts have been wounded, when we grieve the loss of a dearly loved person, or when we are facing the end of a life – a prayer shawl says, “You are not alone. Your community of caring enfolds you.” As Prayer Shawl Ministry co-founder Janet Severi Bristow said in 1998:
"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..."
Most fittingly, this Sunday’s scripture focuses upon God as not only the Creator, but the artistic creator of all things new, who can take that which is broken and re-form the broken into wholeness. Please join us as we sanctify these shawls and salute the generous members of First Church who have created them. – Pastor Pat Kriss