Lanarkshire knitters give the gift of prayer
Published on 4 April 2023 3 minutes read
A leading light of the Church of Scotland Guild in Lanarkshire has been thanked for a half century of continued service with the award of a 50 years long-service certificate.
Clare MacKenzie, who is member of St Mary's Parish Church in Motherwell, remains an active member of The Guild and recently co-ordinated the gift of more than 60 prayer shawls which she and her fellow Guild members knitted for residents at a local care home.
Mrs MacKenzie has been making prayer shawls since she was introduced to the concept at a Guild gathering in Edinburgh, which she attended as convener for the Hamilton Presbytery area.
Also attending the meeting was Linda Young from Buckhaven in Fife, who brought along a prayer shawl to show her fellow Guild members.
"One of her deaconesses in Buckhaven had gone to America with her husband and he had been taken ill while they were there, and they had been given a prayer shawl," Mrs MacKenzie explained.
"The deaconess came back to Fife and told them all about it and the comfort it had brought her husband. Linda asked me to help with a display and I was hooked. I hadn't heard of them in Hamilton Presbytery, so I brought them here and gradually got people in my Guild interested and they started to knit them."
Since that introduction to prayer shawls, an idea which originated with two college students in the USA, Scottish prayer shawls have been distributed across the county and even as far as Malawi and Afghanistan – the latter in a special mini-version allowing a RAF pilot to wear under his helmet while on active duty.
Mrs MacKenzie has also passed prayer shawls to her daughters, Eleanor, who works in HR for the Church of Scotland, and Aline a depute head teacher, so they can be given to anyone who might benefit from them.
"The other thing, and I'm so insistent on this, is the prayer shawls must be dedicated. If they are not dedicated, they are just a bit of wool," Mrs MacKenzie said.
If the shawl's owner dies, they can be wrapped in the shawl before burial or cremation as a final gesture of fellowship and support.
Mrs MacKenzie has also been in demand to speak to other Guild branches about prayer shawls and how they can help people, and any expenses she is given from these talks are used to buy wool to give to other knitters.
It was St Mary's minister, Rev Bryce Calder, who suggested the knitters of the congregation present some shawls to residents at the Avondale Care Home where he provides chaplaincy and fortnightly services.
"During a service one day, it struck me how much the residents had been through," Mr Calder said.
"It was a number of months to Christmas, but I had the thought of asking Clare if it would be possible to get her team of knitters to knit or crochet a prayer shawl as a Christmas gift for every resident.
"It was a big project, but Clare took on the task with faith, love, great drive, and enthusiasm."
The target was to create 55 prayer shawls by Christmas, with Mrs MacKenzie also facing the additional challenge of the sudden loss of her husband Colin in November. In the end, the knitters from St Mary's Guild actually produced 65 with the help of Margaret Robinson and the ladies of Duntocher Trinity Parish Church Guild, who also contributed some shawls for the home.
"People just like doing it and it is not just for the recipients, it is for the knitters as well because knitting gives them pleasure and they get a lot of pleasure out of giving rather than receiving," Mrs MacKenzie said.
Mr Calder added that the gifts were greatly appreciated, even though unexpected circumstances meant the handover had to be delayed until after Christmas.
"The prayer shawls are knitted lovingly and each comes with a beautiful and simple prayer attached," he said.
"The residents loved their Christmas gifts from St Mary's and the prayers that came with them."
To learn more about St Mary's Parish Church, visit its website here.