HAZLET – As a small group who loves to put their creativity toward a meaningful cause, the St. John’s Prayer Shawl Ministry of St. John’s UMC in Hazlet is all about providing warmth and comfort to others.
Whether it be a lap throw, baby blanket, or a small shawl, each handcrafted piece is lovingly created by the women of this dedicated group who have been meeting for more than a decade. The jovial, relaxed atmosphere of their monthly meetings in which the women help each other, share ideas and most importantly, have fun, is evident and has allowed them to blossom into the ministry they are today.
“Our first meeting was in December 2006 and our first dedication was in February 2007. I have been involved with this group for the past eleven years,” said Joni Parr, who has been a church member for 41 years. “I started this ministry with Joanna Nichols and we do feel it is a ministry because it is a way for us to spread God’s love. The giving of a shawl says, ‘We are praying for you!’ It is something they can feel; it gives warmth, comfort, strength and healing. I truly believe this can be felt through the fibers of yarn which hold the many prayers that were said during the making of each piece.”
In addition to shawls, the group makes blankets, lap throws, and baby blankets – both knitted and crocheted. According to Parr, many of the group’s members work from home and some are from out-of-state; sending their work home with family to be a part of the group.
“When shawls are needed, Joan and I just spread the word and within a week beautiful pieces are waiting at the church for us. God has blessed this ministry. We have never run short!” she added.
The ministry’s members range from beginners to expert. For those who do not know how to knit or crochet, there is always encouragement to join the group where the women are willing to teach novices.
“All are welcome to join us. We are all women at this time but men can also join. There is no experience needed; we can teach you. We help each other at all levels,” she said. “Joan Rhodes helps me with everything we do. She is an excellent teacher. I couldn’t do this without her.”
There are numerous places where the women’s creations are distributed including hospitals and work camps.
“Many members often bring a prayer shawl or blanket to a loved one who is needing love and prayers. There are many reasons to give and to give to – the sick, elderly, lonely, new mothers, those in mourning and young adults going off to college. All the babies baptized here at St. John’s receive a baby blanket,” she continued.
Parr said that one of the most rewarding aspects of the Prayer Shawl Ministry has been the many thank you notes received from the recipients.
“To have us hear about the love and the comfort, even the healing, that these shawls give still amaze all of us. It is worth the time. It just warms our hearts!” she said.
The St. John’s Prayer Shawl Ministry meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The church is located at 2000 Florence Avenue, Hazlet, New Jersey. For more information contact Joni Parr at 732-872-2246 or Joan Rhodes at 732-264-4545.