Friday, November 13, 2009

Threads of Grace

I want their hearts to be encouraged, and knit together in love... Colossians 2:2

It has been two weeks since I returned from "Threads of Grace," a knitting retreat at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Meridian, where dear friendships were renewed and the ties that bind were strengthened. The time was brief - not even 24 hours - but the fellowship was full and the yarn flowed freely.

A few women at the retreat were from other churches in Meridian, where they hoped to start prayer shawl ministries. It was lovely to have the opportunity to tell the story of how this ministry grew at St. Paul's from a small circle of tentative knitters to a generous helping of women (and a brave man or two) who have knit or crocheted and given away nearly one hundred prayer shawls and other knitted comforts.

We began the morning with a service of prayer and a blessing of our hands. I've laid hands on people's heads before, and I've washed feet, but I had never anointed hands. We found some prayers on the Prayer Shawl Ministry website, but most of what we used came from medical communities in which the chaplain blesses the hands of hospital staff as they go about their work.

Officiant This is holy ground.

People We’re standing on holy ground.

Officiant For God is present.

People And where God is, is Holy.

Officiant These are holy hands.

People God’s given us holy hands.

Officiant God works through these hands,

People And so these hands are holy.

Officiant Where God is, is Holy.

People The work of our hands is holy work.

Adapted from Alyson Breisch

Most of our time was spent sitting and knitting, usually after having been well-fed a home-cooked meal, and enjoying one another's company and wisdom ("Now how do I fix this dropped stitch?" "What is a knit two together?" "Which yarn do you use for this pattern?"...) Once, however, we knit in silence meditation following a reading from The Reverend Barbara Crafton's book, The Sewing Room, in which she reflects on the way in which sewing was handed down to her, and how she is handing it down to others. Most knitters could also tell the story of the person who taught them to knit, and in a group like ours those stories are often interwoven.

The only workshop of the day was a lesson in making stitch markers. Don't look, mom! Santa told me he was working on a few of these for a few nice knitters on his list...

Many thanks to my friends at St. Paul's for inviting me to be part of this special weekend!

Let us pray. Holy God, mantle of our hearts: We ask your blessing upon all who have come before us; whose hands have been instruments of creativity and beauty; who have used humble tools and handspun wool to provide cover and warmth for themselves and for those they loved; who have taught our hands the rhythm of their work; who have felt, as we will feel, the yarn in their fingers; who have seen, as we will see, the growth of the fabric; who have heard, as we will hear, the click of the needles.

We ask your blessing upon our hands. They perform countless mundane tasks; they also create great beauty. Each and every day, they reach out, touch, write, scrub, lift, push, pull, grasp, gesture, and guide. Upon these hands, our hands uplifted to you, we ask your gracious blessing, that their work may bear fruit, that their labor may be always in love, and that their rest may be in your embrace. Amen. Adapted from Janet Bristow

Artwork: Pictures from the weekend; "Agnes knitting the nations together in peace," by Susan Goff.

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