Each time she accompanies her bishop-husband Gordon Scruton on his parish visitations, Rebecca Scruton sits in a pew with her knitting.
“People will ask me what I am doing, and I tell them I am praying,” she explained during a reception for There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, an exhibit of creative art by bishops and their spouses organized at October’s meeting of the House of Bishops. In fact, she is creating yet another prayer shawl that she will give to a grateful recipient as an expression of God’s love.
“When people will see what I am doing, many of them want to participate,” she said. As a result, the prayer shawl ministry is growing rapidly within the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. The cathedral parish in Springfield, Mass., has given away close to 300 shawls, she estimated. “There are probably 14 parishes in our diocese have groups engaged in the ministry.”
Surrounded by prayer
Lance Moody, the spouse of Bishop Robert Moody of the Diocese of Oklahoma, displayed her partially completed shawl with knitting needles at the exhibit.
“I heard about this ministry through a prayer group I meet with every week,” she said.
She and others who knit prayer shawls give them to people who need and want the prayers of others, she said. “You want them to feel surrounded by prayer. And this is such a physical way for them to be surrounded by prayer."
Shawls can be given to people in times of grief or on occasions of joy, she said. “It can be for someone who has been diagnosed with cancer or for a happy occasion, such as someone who is having a baby.”
Like other knitters, Moody said she prayed while she knit. “I say the first name of the person for whom I’m knitting it. For every purl, I say ‘faith, hope and love.’ It’s a mantra … it becomes a kind of rosary for you. Every stitch in that prayer shawl is a prayer."
Rebecca Scruton related the story of one young American woman who just had completed an advanced studies course in England when she was overcome by severe headaches.
“She was diagnosed with a brain tumor,” Scruton said, “and her brother went to bring her home. She underwent surgery in Boston and was brought back to Springfield, where I live.
“I decided I would take prayer shawls for her, her mother and brother.
“When I gave it to her, I said: ‘The arms and love of God surround you, and the prayers of the community are with you.’
“She told me she couldn’t pray for herself, and I said: ‘That’s why we’re here.’
“She wore the shawl every day after that, to therapy sessions, everywhere.”