Charlottetown church donates its 100th specially-made and blessed prayer shawl as part of a community outreach program
© Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
Ever since Maureen Hutcheson, left, returned home from Florida with an idea for a prayer shawl ministry at Spring Park United in Charlottetown, volunteer knitters Noreena Rogerson, Joan Ivany and eight other regular knitters have knitted 100 shawls to give to people in times of illness or bereavement.
One outreach program at Spring Park United in Charlottetown has been providing comfort for the body and soul for people in the community who are in pain or experiencing difficulty in life.
This church has embraced a prayer shawl ministry as a way to reach out to people in their time of need.
To date, a total of 100 hand-knitted and blessed shawls have been given out since the first one was presented in June 2010.
“Some people say when they put it on they just feel like they’re being hugged,” says Rev. Gayle MacDonald.
The concept started with congregation member Maureen Hutcheson who had experienced a similar program at a church in Florida, where she winters.
“This was part of the service and I thought ‘How interesting. What a nice idea for people who are in need. . . . I’m bringing that one home to Spring Park,’” she remembers.
The minister at the time, Bill MacLeod, had previous experience with a similar program at another Maritime church so was immediately onboard with one starting up at Spring Park United to present to people in times of bereavement or illness, for example.
“The intent of the program is to let people know that their church family is thinking about them and is concerned about them and sends their prayers and love. This is a physical way of doing it,” says Hutcheson
Using a standard pattern for an 18- by 60-inch prayer shawl, the first was knitted and then after a prayer of blessing by the minister and the congregation during a church service on June 18, 2010, it was presented to a member of the congregation.
“It’s not limited to the congregation, it can be anybody. Someone (in the congregation) may say their niece is having a hard time or maybe someone they know has been in the hospital. So we bless a shawl and deliver it with a blessing and a card,” says MacDonald.
Noreena Rogerson was one of the first knitters to volunteer for this comforting project.
“It was brought up and I thought, ‘Oh, what an idea! And I just fell for it. That was it,” she smiles.
Joan Ivany was also keen on helping out with the prayer shawl ministry.
“I love to knit and this being a planned outreach to the community, it gives you such a nice feeling when you deliver them. They’re just so appreciative for the support that’s coming from (the Spring Park congregation). And for some of them it’s coming from a church that they don’t attend or is a different religion even,” she says.
Long-time knitter Jennie Constable was thrilled to find an outlet for her constant knitting habit.
“I knit 24/7. . . . That is my pastime,” she laughs.
“And I know that they enjoy getting it. They’re just so appreciative.”
One appreciative recipient of one of Constable’s knitted prayer shawls was Janice Morgan, who recently experienced some health difficulties.
Being a member of the Spring Park congregation she knew of the prayer shawl program.
“But I wasn’t expecting one. They just showed up with one (at the hospital),” says the Charlottetown woman.
“I was in for 12 weeks with two broken legs and I was just getting back on my feet when I had a heart attack. So I was in again. I was down needless to say and couldn’t do anything and they arrived with the shawl. It was unbelievable. I knew they were thinking of me because they called and sent cards but that was over and above. It was so nice.”
Initially, the prayer shawl program at the Florida church did not include a special prayer from the minister and blessing from the congregation, but when Hutcheson returned with news of this Spring Park United initiative they too decided to that component to their ministry.
“We all learn from each other,” she says, “and (we all had a hand) in making it the way it is now.”