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Shawls of Blessing

What are they? Over the centuries, shawls have been made to provide warmth and comfort. They have come to symbolise shelter and peace, and they have been used in some faiths for prayer. In 1998, Conneticut USA, Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo - graduates from the 1997 Women's Leadership Institute at The Hartford Seminary in Hartford - developed a prayer shawl ministry. Their idea was to make garments crafted with intentions/blessings/prayers, and then to give them away to someone who needed comfort or solace.

Today, knitters and crocheters of all faiths and philosophies around the world are creating these handmade shawls or scarves. Sometimes they are called prayer shawls, blessing shawls, comfort shawls, peace shawls - whatever the name, the actions are the same.

Photo By: Shana Sureck - The Hartford Courant August 7, 2002

Who Are Prayer Shawls For? Shawls can be given away for many occasions and situations: for times of thankfulness, or sorrow. They can be given when someone is undergoing medical procedures, has been told they have a terminal diagnosis, or when they have been bereaved. They can also be given to someone who is leaving home, getting married, or having a baby. The shawl maker begins with blessings or prayers for the recipient. These intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl. When completed, a final blessing may be offered before the shawl is passed on. Some people who have received a prayer shawl have gone on to make a shawl for someone else - in this case, the blessings ripple from one shawl to the next - helping people feel connected with one another and reminding them that there is great kindness and compassion in humanity. The one who makes and gives, is just as blessed as the one who receives.

At St Marys Market We are promoting shawl ministry and inviting people of all faiths around the island to join us! We can provide you with a starter bag containing wool, needles and a choice of patterns for you to make a garment of blessing, or you can find other patterns here: You could also buy a bag for a friend or neighbour who might like to be involved! We invite you to make a donation towards the cost of the bag. Any money we raise will go towards the ongoing costs of the shawl ministry, the work of the community market and the work of the church.

If you have someone in mind to give the shawl to, you can give it to them directly. You can also return the completed garment to St Mary’s Market, where we will bless it and distribute it for you. We have included some blessings and prayers that you can draw on, as you begin and continue to make the shawl. You might also like to copy a blessing into a card, to give to the person who will receive your shawl.