Shawl Ministry – for those who love knitting, crocheting, quilting and other crafts, this could be for you. Anna Briggs from York tells how this ministry began and then how she got involved, so please read on….
“I’m going to need 2 prayer shawls for Emma and her mum. They lost her dad last night.”
The text message was from my daughter Rowan and Emma is one of her best friends. The message was soon amended to “Make that 3 – one for her daughter Chloe too”.
So we got crocheting, my sister Astrid and I, and in a few days Rowan had the shawls for her friend, her mum and her daughter, who loved them. In the same parcel I sent a crocheted baby blanket for Rowan’s school colleague, for the baby surprise shower for one of her school colleagues.
Three for a death, one for a birth, and linked by inspiration from American women just before the millennium.
On Christmas Eve 1995, an article appeared in Parade Magazine entitled ‘Joy to the World’ by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, Eddie Adams. Part of the article featured a petite, downy haired child. She had been going through intensive chemotherapy and it stated that her security blanket had helped her get through the treatments.
Karen Loucks, who had just learnt to crochet, decided to provide home-made security blankets to Denver’s Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Centre. She told friends about it, the word spread, and soon Project Linus was born, named after the security blanket toting character from the Peanuts comic strip. The late Charles Schultz, its creator, was pleased to have Linus inspired blanket makers to help sick and traumatised children.
Project Linus UK was started in March 2000 and we have since delivered over 700,000 quilts and blankets to children in need of a hug, in hospitals, hospices, refuges, in care, bereaved or otherwise hurting in the community.
And a few years later, 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 “Shawl Ministry“. 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.” So begins the introduction to Shawl Ministry on the website www.shawlministry.com.
Welcome to Shawl Ministry – a simple and effective way to show people you care for them, and to remind them of the love and support that surrounds them, even when they are alone. Shawls can be knitted, crocheted or woven, and given to anyone who has been going through or is facing a hard time, through illness, bereavement, or other difficult circumstances. They can also be given at times of change (e.g.to someone leaving for a new job,) and of joy—a wedding, birth of a baby, graduation. “Shawls” can include scarves for boys or men, knee rugs for older men, and big soft blankets for bereaved children – a gift which overlaps from Shawl Ministry to Project Linus.
Shawls are given directly as well as passed on through close friends and relatives, ministers and chaplains, and Police Family Liaison Officers, or any other person known to the recipient who asks for a shawl. They are ALWAYS given, NEVER sold though donations to buy more yarn are welcome
Both of these movements, so closely related, are based on knowledge and belief – Knowledge that crafty people have cupboards full of yarn and fabric and not enough family members to knit and sew for – and a belief that there are very many people, particularly women, who would love to reach out to people in need or in pain but aren’t sure how to do so. It gives everyone a chance to join in the care provided by church and community for people of all ages, in their need.
Anna continues – I started doing Shawl Ministry in 2007 when we lived in Liverpool. You may remember a young boy, Rhys Jones, was shot and killed quite casually by a gang member in his neighbourhood. The family were Everton supporters so I made a big blue shawl for Rhys’ mother Melanie and passed it on through the Police Family Liaison team who were looking after the family. I heard later that Melanie was very touched and the FLO was pleased to have something lovely to take with them on their visit.
Married to a minister, there were plenty of opportunities to give a shawl and plenty of people to knit and crochet them in our church craft groups.
When we retired to York in 2018 I soon found myself co-ordinating Project Linus in York and Selby. With no fuss, kind-hearted and talented people make quilts, blankets and shawls to give to people who need them.
You can join in. You don’t have to make anything fancy, there are easy knitting and crochet patterns to use with beautiful yarn, to produce the finished item. Anyone can give a shawl, to a neighbour, to someone at church, wherever there’s a need, and if your minister isn’t asking already you can soon encourage her or him to do so. And Project Linus welcomes easy knit blankets and simple charm square quilts, and for both causes patterns are available. If you live in York or Selby, contact me, elsewhere look up your local co-ordinator on the Project Linus Website.
Now you’ve read this and got interested, keep on reading for a couple of simple patterns. Your work, the “gift of a stranger” will be so appreciated, I promise you, and for many people will be the thing that gets them through a very difficult time, showing the love of God in action.
Anna Briggs, York, July 2021