Shawl Ministry


BOB ABERNETHY: We have a Belief and Practice segment this week about a knitting ministry. Knitting has taken off as a trendy hobby in many cities, but knitters around the country are finding it can be a spiritual practice as well. We visited the prayer shawl ministry at St. James Episcopal Church in Lothian, Maryland, where members gather to knit and crochet shawls they hope will provide not only physical warmth but spiritual comfort as well. We spoke with Marjie Mack.

MARJIE MACK (St. James’s Prayer Shawl Ministry): I started knitting in high school. My mother taught me, and the first thing I made was a sweater with a pattern — black and white sweater. I was very proud of it. And then I hadn’t made anything else until last year, when I started with St. James’s prayer shawl ministry.

We start with a prayer.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Let us begin with a moment of silence.

Ms. MACK: We’ve probably made 100 prayer shawls over the last year — given them to all sorts of people, some as far away as Africa. A lot of times we knit in threes to symbolize the Trinity. It could be three rows at a time; it could be three stitches at a time.

I’ve always been one who’s had trouble expressing my grief or sorrow. Sometimes it’s hard to know what I can do for someone besides pray for them.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I’ve just found out she’s got breast cancer. She’s, like, 23.

Ms. MACK: At the blessing service the priest will say a prayer of blessing.

Reverend EILEEN HOUSE (St. James Parish): May God’s grace be upon these shawls, warming, comforting, enfolding, embracing in good times …

Ms. MACK: It’s a very moving service because we know by then who we’re going to give the shawl to, and we hope that they will receive it as a gift of love that would represent God’s love.

I recently started one for my friend Debi because her husband had been diagnosed with cancer, and I wanted to give Debi some kind of comfort. And she told me how much her husband Carl would really appreciate having a prayer shawl of his own.

They both have very strong faith, and they’ve inspired a lot of people with being open about what they’re going through.

DEBI FROCK: When we first found out that Carl had pancreatic cancer, we had just been to the doctor, and he told him that he had, at best, a year to live. We just looked at each other, and we said, “Who can we call to pray for us?” We’ve gotten a hundred or more cards from people, and most of them say, “We’re praying for you.”

CARL FROCK: I’m not ready to leave my wife and my children. I love them. So you pray that, you know, it’s not time yet. That maybe we’ll have 10 more years, 20 more years. You don’t know.

Ms. MACK: As you spend time in prayer for this person who you’re going to give it to, the shawl symbolizes that you care for them, that you love them and that, you know, God loves them. And we hope they receive it that way.

Mr. FROCK: Thanks, Marjie. I appreciate it.

KIM LAWTON, guest anchor (December 9, 2005): Since our story first aired last April, Carl Frock passed away. Marjie Mack is still knitting.

She and Carl’s wife Debi are active in a charity to help mothers and children in Ghana.