She calls it a semi-circle. But that's really not the case. Carolyn Gilbert (far left) and the Lydia Circle of Knitters have developed a unique ministry that should be described as a full-circle. Because that's what they do - encircle others in the midst of life's seldom linear journey.
Carolyn, where did the idea to form the Lydia Circle of Knitters originate?
The prayer shawl ministry at Glenn began in 2006 when I knitted a pink shawl for a Glenn member who was bedridden at home. I learned about this kind of ministry from friends in Lutheran and Presbyterian churches in other states. A few of us began to knit informally and give the shawls to members who were facing life milestones, health issues, or other challenges or uncertainties.
We are a unit of the United Methodist Women (UMW) named for Lydia in Acts 16:14: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” We seek to emulate Lydia and “listen” for opportunities to respond by providing loving support to others as we knit and crochet.
How many women participate and how many shawls have been made?
We have about 20 knitters/crocheters now, ranging from beginners to experts in their work. But we'd love to have more! All are welcome to join our monthly gatherings.
To date we have given more than seven hundred shawls as well as one hundred and fifty flannel blankets (for new babies in the congregation). All the shawls are unique and valuable and find a home in someone's arms. We especially enjoy selecting shawls that might be a recipient’s favorite color. For the past two years we have also been able to undertake a special project: producing shawls for Glenn’s high school graduates, using the colors of the universities they plan to attend.
What do the prayer shawls symbolize and what does the ministry mean to you? (Responses given by members of the Lydia Circle.)
Love made visible. Hands in service to God.
Knitting is a symbol of productivity and faithfulness to the knitter, but it is given as a symbol of love to the pray shawl recipient. We hope when shawl recipients wrap themselves in a prayer shawl, they feel God's love.
At a time when people are feeling very sickly, alone, afraid, uncertain, etc., the shawl is a tangible expression that the person is loved and supported and not alone. The warmth of the shawl is like a hug that expresses God's love.
When I knit, I think about how the person who will receive the shawl might feel, whether their emotion might be comfort, enjoyment of the art, a feeling that someone cares about them. I knit for love - I could never do it for money. So love is completely knit into the fabric.
Can you find the common thread? It might be Love.