Prayer Shawl Ministry works to spread comfort and joy

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Apr. 10, 2013
Andrea (left) and Teresa (right) look over a prayer shawl, one of several being worked on at their meeting space at the Stafford Public Library. Photo by Annie Gentile.
Andrea (left) and Teresa (right) look over a prayer shawl, one of several being worked on at their meeting space at the Stafford Public Library. Photo by Annie Gentile.

“May God’s grace be upon this shawl… Warming comforting, enfolding and embracing…”

These are the opening words of a special prayer spoken by the women who gather each Tuesday evening in a meeting room at the Stafford Public Library. They spread out several multi-colored shawls and lap robes they have knitted and crocheted, place their hands upon them, and bless them. The shawls are then refolded and taken home by Kathy Aborn, the current leader of the group, and given out at various churches, and to anyone who requests them.

“This group was begun by one young girl in high school, I believe. She started it at the Congregational Church and it eventually evolved into a community gathering,” said Aborn, who had started participating in the ministry herself about five years ago. Aborn said another woman, Karen Goodwin, also helped out with the ministry at that time, and when she could no longer continue, she passed the torch to Aborn.

Ashley Kowalyshyn, the young woman who started the group, was particularly pleased to know the ministry has continued to thrive. Now 19 and a student at the University of Connecticut, she reflected on its beginnings.

“I started [the ministry] when I was in the seventh grade, just after I was confirmed,” Kowalyshyn said. “I belonged to Second Congregational Church in Stafford and was very active in my community, and I wanted to do something more. I had heard some things about prayer shawl ministries and the more I looked into it, the more I thought it was something I wanted to do. I love knitting and I loved the idea of having God wrapped around your shoulders,” she said.

Kowalyshyn said she began the ministry at her own church, but when a woman from another area church asked to join, the group began welcoming members from other churches. Eventually, the group moved its meetings to the library.

A crafter, Aborn makes small cards with the Prayer of Blessing (written by Joy Bristow) printed on them, which are later attached, along with a cross, to the shawl. The cards also explain the purpose of the shawls - that they are used to provide comfort and solace, and that the craftsperson used prayer throughout the forming of the shawl.

Besides the shawls and lap robes, Aborn said they also have made “prayer pockets,” which are tiny squares that soldiers serving overseas can put in the headband of their helmets. The pockets are also affixed with a smaller version of the prayer card. “The American Legion sends care packages and I’m hoping to give them some to send over in their next shipment,” she said, adding that she has in the past made prayer pockets out of camouflage-colored yarn. Realizing that nourishment comes in many forms, she said the group has also made several hundred to be included in the SafeNet food distributions.

At the April 9 gathering, the group welcomed a newcomer named Laurel, who, like a few others, had learned about the prayer shawl ministry through St. Edwards Church. Laurel shared that her father had passed away in November and he had had a lap robe. She said after he died, her mother took the robe home and kept it as a source of comfort. “I make afghans all the time, and I thought this was something I could do that might be meaningful to someone else,” she said.

Aborn noted that the shawls, while bringing comfort and peace to those who are ill or going through medical treatments, may also be given as gifts in times of joy, such as the birth of a child. She added that those who cannot come to the 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening gatherings at the library are also welcome to make prayer shawls, lap robes and quilts at home and drop them off. Supplies and instructions can be picked up at the meeting. For more information, contact Kathy Aborn at 860-684-9484.

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