WORTHINGTON – Knit Three, Bead Three, Knit Three, Bead Three – Reverend Anne Hokenstad doesn’t have to say the words out loud as her fingers work the yarn on wooden knitting needles, but she still means them knitting a prayer shawl in the trinity pattern for a new ministry at the American Lutheran Church in Worthington.
Next week, Hokenstad invites local and regional knitters and crocheters to join in a prayer shawl ministry. The group will meet in the staging area at 6:30 p.m. on October 18 and 1 p.m. on October 19, with each session lasting from an hour to an hour and a half. People can choose to attend one or both sessions. The group will continue to meet for an evening session and an afternoon session once a month, with some exceptions during the busiest months of the liturgical year.
“It’s open to anyone to attend,” Hokenstad said. “For people who want to knit, I’ll teach them about a prayer square or scarf first.”
Since the ministry is just beginning, participants are asked to bring their own yarn and knitting needles (or hook) if they have them. Hokenstad has plenty of extra needles for those wanting to learn the art of needlework and can offer yarn recommendations for those unsure which type to bring.
“If people want to come and make prayer shawls for someone they know — or members of their congregation, that’s fine,” Hokenstad said. “For people who come from (Lutheran America), we can dedicate them to our congregation here.”
Hokenstad hopes they can make enough prayer shawls for housebound church members and other members who may be in need. She hopes the ministry will rebuild a sense of community.
“We have to learn to be with people after the pandemic – and after some of the divisions we’ve created for ourselves,” she said. “I learned that people are looking for identity, belonging and purpose. This group hits all of those.
In mid-September, the American Lutheran Church launched God’s Work, Our Hands. The event included worship, several workshops and a potluck. The prayer shawl ministry was one of the workshop stations, and Hokenstad said seven women in the congregation said they would like to participate.
The concept of prayer shawls originated from prayer shawls worn by Jewish men, Hokenstad said, adding that Jewish shawls are still made with fringe. However, prayer shawls are usually made without the fringed edge, as the recipient may have mobility issues and the fringe may create problems with wheelchairs.
“For the creator of the prayer shawl, there is always a story,” Hokenstad said. The knitter or crocheter can remember what was going on in their life, or the prayers they prayed while making the shawl.
While Hokenstad said people who join the prayer shawl ministry shouldn’t pray out loud when they come together to knit or crochet, she said she would offer a prayer if people asked.
“Not everyone is comfortable praying in a group,” she said. “I don’t want to assume that just because we’re in a church, I’m going to force people to pray. People who want to pray can pray.
Hokenstad said she first heard about prayer shawls nearly 20 years ago while serving in campus ministry at Minnesota State University in Mankato. An auxiliary group there had made some and she asked if she could get one.
Three years later, while working as a part-time minister, Hokenstad said the church didn’t have a prayer ministry, so she suggested knitting prayer shawls. At the time, she did not know how to knit or crochet.
“I called some women I knew who knit and crochet, and we met on a Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon once a week and they taught me,” she said. , adding that 20 to 30 people were in the group. “Our goal was to give a prayer shawl to every confined, sick or dying person or family. We had our inventory up to 60-70 prayer shawls.
Not only did Hokenstad become a skilled knitter, but she also began spinning wool into yarn. Today, in addition to making prayer shawls, she knits prayer squares (about 2 inches by 2 inches) to give to people. The prayer squares are made from her homemade yarn, and she says people love touching it because of its softness and texture.
“Sometimes we need different prayer textures,” Hokenstad said.
When she left this church, she received a knitted prayer shawl as a gift. It’s one of the few she doesn’t want to part with. Another, made of a soft, blue yarn, was one of her first knitted creations and was created for her grandmother.
“There are mistakes everywhere,” Hokenstad said as she touched the shawl and inspected it. “It was a more sophisticated pattern with threads in it.
“Grandma would find the mistakes and let me know,” she recalls with a laugh. “When Grandma died, I got it back. Not only did I put prayers in there, but we prayed for it and now I put prayers back in there.
Hokenstad said prayer shawls come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and she has a book, “Knitting for Peace” by Betty Christiansen, that offers ideas. People are welcome to bring their own template, or Hokenstad will provide templates to use.
Those interested in participating in the prayer shawl ministry are encouraged to register by calling the American Lutheran Church at 376-5264.