Sisters women make connection with Ukrainian refugees


Last updated 7/12/2022 at Noon

Ukrainian refugees in Ireland received prayer shawls crafted in Sisters. PHOTO PROVIDED

Thirteen women, members of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Sisters, are engaged in Prayer Shawl Ministry. In 1998, Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo, two graduates of the 1997 Women’s Leadership Institute at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut gave birth to a worldwide movement as a result of their experience in a program of applied feminist compassion, and the love of knitting/crocheting combined into a prayerful ministry and spiritual practice that reaches out to those in need of comfort, solace, celebration, or joy. Blessings are prayed into every stitch.

They go by various names — prayer shawls, comfort shawls, peace shawls, or mantles — the making of which begins with prayers and blessings for the recipient. The intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl. Upon completion, a final blessing, in this case by Rector Joseph Farber, is offered before the shawl is sent on its way.

The Prayer Shawl ministry in Sisters has been ongoing for years. The latest beneficiaries are 10 women refugees from Ukraine who have sought asylum in Ireland.

As the Ukraine conflict gained worldwide condemnation and an outpouring of compassion, churches and civic organizations around Sisters began asking themselves what they could do, however small, to alleviate some of the disruption and dislocation. Thus was the genesis for shawls being dispatched to the Anglican Church of Ireland, St. Mary’s parish, in Killarney, County Kerry, southwestern Ireland.

The shawls took a circuitous route. We’ve all done it: using pull-down menus on our computer until we find our birth year, or state, or some other piece of information to complete the transaction. A slip of the mouse and the wrong information goes into the data field.

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In this case the Sisters Post Office dispatched the shawls to Iceland, not Ireland, due to their being one in front of the other on the pull-down list. So off to Iceland the shawls went, the error promptly discovered by Icelandic postal workers who returned the package to Sisters for rerouting to Ireland.

At last, on Sunday, July 3, during the regular worship service, the Venerable Simon Lumby, archdeacon, called forth to the sanctuary the 10 refugees and a translator and the shawls were gifted. The gift garnered considerable media attention in Ireland, both print and broadcast. The service was recorded and is available on YouTube.

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Lumby made note of the event as taking place in the sanctuary, an apt setting for refugees seeking safe harbor from the atrocities in their home country.

Each shawl was wrapped in blue and yellow tissue, colors of the Ukraine flag. Attached to each gaily wrapped package with large ribbon and bow, in English and Ukrainian, were the words recited by Lumby during the presentation:

“May God’s grace be upon this shawl, warming, comforting, enfolding, and embracing. May this mantle be a safe haven, a sacred place of security and well-being sustaining and embracing in good times as well as difficult ones. May the one who receives this shawl be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace, and wrapped in love.”

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The shawls varied in shape from triangular to square to rectangular. They are made with acrylic yarn for durability and washability. The ministry is led by Adrienne Brown. Her fellow knitters are: Tracy Anderson, Carol Ast-Milchen, Margaret Doke, Dixie Fairfield, Jan Farber, Bernadette Labrie, Diana Lovgren, Sandy Seymour, Marjie Tipton, Judy Troike, Sandra Weible, and Claudia Williams.


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