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Shawls make prayers tangible

Shawls make prayers tangible

by Katie Scarvey

Courtney & JennieA woolly avalanche of 1,508 prayer shawls poured into the Ninth Triennial Gathering of the Women of the ELCA last summer in Charlotte as women from around the country answered the call to knit prayer shawls. The shawls were distributed among the various ministries of Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC).

The shawls, of course, are more than the sum of their stitches. Prayers and hope went into the making of the shawls and accompanied them as they made their way to recipients.

For warmth

Adults with severe and persistent mental illness in LSC’s Assertive Community Treatment Team program (ACTT) in Raleigh, N.C., were thrilled to receive the shawls.

“Many of our clients don’t have funds to purchase winter wear,” said Brie Teer, who works in the ACTT office. “They use the shawls to keep warm.”

For welcome

LSC’s Refugee Resettlement program also made good use of the shawls, distributing them to newly arrived refugee families as a welcoming gift.

“They’re all very grateful and excited,” said program director Bedrija Jazic, who adds that the shawls are sometimes used as blankets for young children.

Hundreds of the shawls went to LSC’s nursing homes in North Carolina, including Trinity Place in Albemarle. Residents there, including 103-year-old Jennie Whitley (above, right), were excited to receive an unexpected blessing, a gift made by unknown hands.

For comfort and peace

At Trinity Village in Hickory, N.C., the shawls are used as prayer quilts when a resident is nearing the end of life, with a ceremony for those families who desire it, said Sharon Benfield, life enrichment director at Trinity Village.

“We place the quilt over the loved one, covering them with love and prayers,” Benfield said. “Many family members are incredibly moved and so appreciate the act of kindness, the tangible gift and the dignity associated with it all, to the very end.”

In addition to the ceremonial function, the shawls also are shared with Trinity Village residents who want to stay warm.

For birthday cheer

At Trinity Glen, a skilled-care nursing home in Winston-Salem, residents look forward to getting a prayer shawl on their birthdays.

Cleo Douthet, 102, recently received one with jaunty stripes in bold colors. “Thank you kindly!” he exclaimed.

Resident Anne Vandiver loves hers, which features three soothing shades of grayish blue. “It’s the best gift I’ve gotten,” she said. She uses it sparingly—for special occasions such as church—because she wants to “keep it nice.”

Formerly a newspaper features editor, Katie Scarvey is a communications specialist for Lutheran Services Carolinas and lives in Salisbury, N.C.

Read a longer version of this story in the July/August issue of Gather magazine.