Praying and Purling

How women are turning knitting into a ministry to the needy.

In the fall of 2005, Shirley Meisinger of Wilton, Iowa, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When this 70something grandmother began chemotherapy, a group of women from Shirley's church gave her a hand-knitted "prayer shawl." The simple rectangular shawl "got her through that time," says her daughter, Laura Rose, 48. "After her treatments, Mom lay on her recliner covered up with it and felt comforted."

The shawl was fashioned by members of a knitting group at the United Methodist Church of Wilton. Unlike traditional Jewish prayer shawls—tassel-edged garments worn during synagogue prayer services—these shawls are prayed over as they're knitted and are meant to wrap the recipient in love.

Inspired by the shawl her mother received, Laura decided to become a member of United Methodist's knitting group. The mom of two grown children, Laura says she and her husband attend the same church her parents do, but hadn't gotten involved. "Since I started crocheting, I feel it's rekindling my spiritual life," she says. "This ministry may bring us back into the church. And my mom and I have gotten emotionally closer."

Patterns With Purpose

Knitting is a popular pastime once again—with groups popping up everywhere, including in churches. While most groups knit, some also crochet, weave, or quilt. They gather to work and pray together, sometimes sharing Scripture verses and songs. Most knit scarves, blankets, and baby clothes to give away. But often the creative act of crafting combined with the power of giving transforms women spiritually. Meetings become places of spiritual connection.

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