Quilting ministries pull communities together

By on August 30, 2006

A prayer quilt ministry brings together two generations to tie and pray for the eventual recipient of the labour of love.

 “‘This ministry isn’t about quilts. It’s about the prayers. Only the prayers.’ The founders would rather have you add ties and prayers to a store-bought blanket than have you make a prayer quilt so beautiful, perfect and intricate it could win first prize in a quilt show.” (p. 37)

I had to pause several times while reading this book, till my eyes dried enough to focus. I’d hear myself say, “Oh, no,” as I’d come to another “Story of A Quilt” and feel overcome with emotion again and again. It’s easy to pick out these little vignettes, so I found them and read them all in one go, to get the crying out of the way.

Practising traditional crafts like quilting brings a rootedness in tradition, similar to what many find in their religious practices at church, whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist or Native American. There exists a connectedness to our past, to the community. The prayer quilt is tangible, physical evidence of faith in God, love and prayer.

The prayers and instructions offered in this book explain how to let the Spirit guide you in choosing the fabrics, how to make a “cheater quilt,” the meanings of colours, quilt symbols, how to involve people, and 12 pages of prayers. Yet, the greatest contribution of the book is the sense of a prayerful community, the pulling together, the participation of even hundreds of people for that one person who receives the quilt. And the beauty of it all is you do not have to know how to thread a needle to be part of this meaningful ministry.

[pullquote]The author admits she does not quilt. But she ultimately “got it,” at a church service where five quilts were presented and then laid out for prayers and tying of the layers together. A woman explained how the quilts were tied, and that as they are tied prayers are said and that they believe those prayers are literally bound into the fabric of the quilt: “Among the first people to approach the quilts were an elderly man and a small girl – grandfather and granddaughter, no doubt. The man, dressed in his Sunday best suit, took the girl’s soft little hands in his two gnarled ones and placed them together on the ties of the first quilt. He bent his head down to her and said, ‘See? Like this,’ as he wrapped the thread right over left, left over right. ‘Now pray with me.’ he said. They bowed their heads together, his gray and white one a few inches above the gold and amber of hers.”

This book is splendid, and is worth reading whether you intend to plan a prayer quilt ministry or not.

Saskia Rowley, art director for the Anglican Journal, is a quilter.

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