By LOIS KINDLE
Sometimes when folks are suffering, the simplest act of kindness makes all the difference. That’s why the Knotting Bees of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church meet once a year to make handmade prayer shawls to bring them moments of peace and comfort.
“Some people I’ve given prayer shawls to have buried their loved ones in them,” said Carol Liedberg, parish nurse and a Knotting Bee member. “I gave one to a friend who covered herself with it every time she had a radiation treatment. Now she sleeps with it.”
United Methodist Church of Sun City Center member Bette Jean Tolley, and her three daughters, were gifted prayer shawls the day after her husband died July 21.
“I felt God was in the shawl and wrapping His arms around me,” she said. “It brought me such great comfort.”
So much comfort that she decided to join the Knotting Bees.
The group meets annually to make a new batch of prayer shawls and will occasionally meet again if more are needed. It has had as few as six members and as many as 20.
The most recent gathering of the group was July 26 at St. Andrew, where 10 women made 25 of the colorful fleece shawls over the course of two hours.
Knotting Bee organizer Marge Yarger supplies material she purchased on sale at Jo Ann Fabrics, took home and cut ahead of time. Each yard is cut in half, which provides enough fleece for two shawls. At $15 per yard minus a 50-percent discount, each yard costs $7.50, each shawl ends up costing $3.75. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church congregants fund the ministry through donations.
A member then cuts the ends of each piece of fabric into strips to make the fringe, which is knotted by other members who say a prayer asking for God’s blessing as they make each knot. By the time they’re finished, each shawl has been blessed 26 times.
The members gather when they’ve finished the entire batch of shawls to pray over them once more. Liedberg, head of the church’s Health Ministry, is then primarily responsible for distributing them.
“They go to anyone in need,” she said. “We give them to people who are sick or grieving, depressed or lonely, anyone who requests them.”
Prayer shawl origins date back centuries, where they have long been part of Jewish tradition. Today these shawls are also part of many Christian church ministries across the country, and they are given to uplift those who wear them both physically and spiritually. The St. Andrew Presbyterian Prayer Shawl Ministry was started in July 2009. Hundreds have been made and handed out since then.
If you or someone you know might be comforted by a prayer shawl, call Liedberg at the church at 813-634-1252.
And if you’d like to help make them, call the same number to express your interest.