Sunday, May 03, 2009

Washing Instructions

In many cases, handknits and water do not mix well.  Care must be taken, or that which is handknitted will turn into that which is handfelted.

Even when the label says "machine washable" I hesitate, because what if... After all that hard work, after all those tiny stitches and yarn overs and knit two togethers, what if... What if it shrank, or pilled, or felted, or fell completely apart?

I thought about this as we prepared for our annual Holy Week Sacred Stitches retreat at the Big House of the Duncan M. Gray Conference Center.  For four years now women (men are welcome - in fact, Bishop Gray himself knit a stitch in a prayer shawl when he stopped by one afternoon) have gathered for this three day conference to knit and pray and meditate and laugh and learn and then knit some more.

The first year, we prayed through the stations of the cross.  The second year, we meditated on selected poems from Ann Weems' book, Kneeling in Jerusalem.  Last year we reflected on the readings and prayers of our Holy Week services.  And this year for our theme we picked water.

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.  Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.  Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise.  In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

So begins the blessing over the water in the Episcopal Church's service of Holy Baptism.  In the Easter Vigil service, we recall story after story of how God has saved, has restored life, has seeded despair with hope, right up until the moment God saved us.  These are our washing instructions.

We thank you, God, for the water of Baptism.  In it we are buried with Christ in his death.  By it we share in his resurrection.  Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.  We recite the words of our baptismal covenant, we are sprinkled with water from the font, and then Alleluia, Christ is Risen! the priest proclaims.  The Lord is risen indeed! we reply, and fresh from the font, we remember that we are risen, too. 

At the knitting conference, we reflected on stories from scripture that are sprinkled (and sometimes gushing) with water.  We brooded with the Holy Spirit over the waters of creation.  We watched the Red Sea part, and drank water from a rock in the wilderness.  We stood on the banks of the Jordan River as Jesus was baptized, and sat in a storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee.  And we knitted.


Our knitting is in danger of being transformed if we wash it the wrong way accidentally.  But we ourselves go into the water deliberately, with the hope and promise of being transformed.  

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.   


knitnanabana said...

I'm also reminded of the importance of using just the right amount of water in blocking, in transforming a small,rumpled piece of knitting into a large, light, lacy, flowing shawl that enfolds and warms the wearer...


Jen said...

I didn't think about that... The water reveals the grace inside the garment. Lovely!