When you walk into Kathie Jackson’s office at First Presbyterian Church, the first things you see are a huge basket of yarn, and shawls draping every wall. Jackson is the associate pastor, and she helps with the church's prayer shawl ministry.
"Prayer shawls are a tangible way of showing people and helping people be reminded on a daily basis that there are people that they know – and sometimes people that they don’t know – who pray for them daily," she said.
First Presbyterian started its shawl ministry in 2005. The group has given away more than 50 shawls away since then – and each one is different.
"They can be knitted, they can be crocheted, they can be woven, and so they take on a little bit of the personality of the person who makes them," she said. "They come in all different kinds of colors and shapes and textures, but generally they’re large enough to be wrapped around someone."
At Olivet Christian Church, a group meets weekly to make prayer shawls. Glenda Moore and Amy Cook, both part of that group, consider it a "good-cause social gathering."
LuAnna Shively heads up the group, and she works on shawls every day – "constantly," she said.
"I’m crippled, and it’s such a relief to be able to do it," she said. "I am so thankful to have this."
She even sent one to the first lady of the United States.
"I sent a shawl to Michelle Obama when they were elected to office, and before I did it, I called our minister and he said, ‘I think that’s a great idea!’ and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if she’ll ever get it or not.’ Well, about two weeks after that on a Sunday I got a telephone call from her," Shively said. "Half the people in church think I’m a big liar! They couldn’t believe that Michelle had called to say thank you for the shawl."
Karen Prins is a recipient of one of LuAnna’s shawls. It was given to her as a gift when she was new to the church.
"I had just heard about the shawl group from the pastor and so I was very touched by that, and it turns out that I have cancer and I was very chilled," she said. "So during the service I was able to wrap it around myself, and LuAnna was very touched by that, that she was able to see it in action."
Shively says giving the shawls away is her favorite part about the ministry group.
"Giving to others is what life’s all about," she said.
This story was produced in partnership with Columbia Faith & Values.