Prayer shawls provide the warmth of love

By Jeanne Williams
Special Contributor

Every year, the Annual Conference Worship Team sends out the request, and you respond. We need prayer shawls for the Memorial Service to give to family members of those clergy and clergy spouses who have moved their membership to the Church Triumphant. I have no idea when the tradition started, but it is an important one.

Every year, I stand when my friends and mentors are named. Every year, I watch as the families come forward and choose just the right shawl that helps them remember their loved one. Yet, by the time I go home, I have forgotten how important that moment truly is.

We received almost 100 prayer shawls this year, and for the most part, we have no idea who made them or which church donated them. They are gifts of love by lay members to these families.

In the long list of worship needs for Annual Conference, prayer shawls are only one item; however, after this year’s Conference I realized the long and needed impact they have on the receiver. Through a photo showing the joy of a clergyman who only laid to rest his love a week prior, I saw that having a tangible reminder of the Conference’s love for him and his wife is more important than many other things that happened this last week in worship.

When I received this picture of the Rev. Joel Cooper on the Monday morning after Conference, it touched my heart deeply. These prayer shawls are handmade with love and prayers for those who would receive them. The makers have no idea who will receive their gift, which only makes it all the more special.

Thank you, United Methodists of Arkansas, for your gifts of warm love that will wrap not just around physical bodies, but spiritual bodies, too.

The Rev. Williams serves as worship team leader for the Arkansas Annual Conference, and as pastor of First UMC Walnut Ridge.