News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Rev. Kelly Clem

Knitting a tapestry of prayer

Last weekend our family stayed in the home of a friend in Orange Beach. It was hard to miss the basketful of colorful yarns and plush, hand-knit shawls draped over the couch and chair.

She told us the story of a new passion in her life — knitting prayer shawls. Her church had been doing hurricane relief since Hurricane Ivan hit. Just as they were winding that effort down, Hurricane Katrina approached.

Weary of the pain and suffering caused by this barrage of hurricanes, she had an idea. Before they evacuated, she would learn to knit her prayers. She hurriedly bought some beautiful colors of yarn and stopped by an elderly friend's home for a crash course in knitting.

Prayer with every stitch

My friend's hand-knit shawl turned into not a work of art but a tapestry which was a byproduct of her prayers. With every stitch, she was praying for the people affected by the hurricanes. She draped the finished piece over the shoulders of a friend in need, and the woman began to cry. She felt the assuring warmth of many prayers.

Two days after returning home from this visit, I received two baby blankets from a dear lady who has been praying for premature babies. She showed me her pattern of prayer, knitted right into the blanket. I was honored to carry her blanket to the newborn nursery of Decatur General Hospital and felt awestruck to see, breathing on his own, the tiniest baby I have ever seen. It was a holy moment: a blanket of prayers was already prepared to surround this tiny child.

Jeremiah 1:4

I thought about the Scripture in Jeremiah 1:4: "Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Before I knit you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.' " What a blessed mystery it is that God's love is always ahead of us.

I can barely remember how to knit, having learned on a Barbie outfit, and I'm not really looking for one more handicraft in my busy life, but this is something worthy of pursuit. I plan to see if I can find some yarns that need to be knit together in a tapestry of prayer for unity of God's people or for a shawl of love for someone who desperately needs to know and feel God's presence.

I know some avid knitters at my church, Hopesprings United Methodist, who are eager to start this new ministry. As the seasons change from hurricane to winter, I look forward to sitting down with them, with a fire in the fireplace, and knitting many, many prayers.

Note: My friend's favorite new book is "Knitting Into the Mystery: A Guide to the Shawl-Knitting Ministry" by Susan Izard and Susan Jorgenson. It contains prayers and basic instructions for knitting prayer shawls.

The Rev. Kelly Clem is pastor of Hopesprings United Methodist Church in Decatur. He is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for THE DAILY.

For more information, call Melanie Smith on Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 340-2468.

Rev. Kelly Clem Rev. Kelly Clem

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