Like a dance of their fingers, six women sat in the foyer of the Community of Christ Church knitting row after row of homespun yarn.
Some of them counted the pattern beats in their heads: 1-2-3; 1-2-3; 1-2-3…
Some kept close eyes on their work, making sure not to skip a loop. While others thought of the prayers they might extend to that particular shawl.
Every Monday evening and Wednesday afternoon a group of ladies gather in the foyer of the Community of Christ Church on Carleton Avenue to knit shawls for people in need.
While knitted shawls have comforted people for centuries – mothering, hugging, sheltering them – these shawls have an added component that most others don’t.
Every one made is blessed by at least one person, but oftentimes many more.
“When people wrap the shawl around them, they can feel the warmth of the spirit,” said knitter Betty Williams.
Like a warm hug on a cold, cloudy day.
When longtime knitter Svea Mountenay moved into the Chilliwack congregation three years ago, she brought the prayer shawl ministry with her.
The prayer shawl ministry was first started in the United States in 1998 by two women who believed the compassion and love of knitting combined with a prayerful ministry could bring comfort and solace to people suffering illness, financial strain, emotional distress, and other such adversities.
In Chilliwack, the crafters – nearly 20 in total – have created more than 450 shawls, distributing them with no strings attached.
“They’re strictly a gift for comfort,” said knitter Janine McCully.
Using a seed pattern of knit three, purl three, the warm shoulder blankets are prayed on as soon as they have a designated recipient. Some are blessed right from the beginning, throughout the process, and again at completion when the knitters gather around, each holding a piece in their hands, while delivering a silent prayer.
Completed shawls are also displayed at the front of church Sunday morning allowing others in the congregation to bless them if they so choose.
“I pray in the sense of bringing hope and peace, and that when they put the shawl over their shoulders, they’ll feel that spirit and blessing,” said Williams.
Knitter Lynda McKay’s husband felt strength with his shawl.
As McKay, with her arthritic hands, slowly twisted the green yarn around her needles, she described her husband’s experience with mouth cancer, as he underwent two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“Right from the start, he had his shawl wrapped around his shoulders,” said McKay, a warm smile creeping onto her face. “Normally mouth cancer patients don’t live long, but he’s our little blessing.”
Others who have received the shawls have reported feeling tingles and goosebumps the moment they’ve been wrapped around their shoulders.
Vilda Fetterly, who has been knitting for decades, summed up their power.
“They’re knitted with love,” she said.
Anyone interested in joining the prayer shawl knitting group can contact Janine McCully at 604-392-9479.