One of the most generous ministries at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Hayesville is the Prayer Shawl Ministry. The knitters in this group knit warm shawls, praying for the recipients as they knit. Then the shawls are blessed at a Good Shepherd church service and given to people in need of comfort or healing.
Both Good Shepherd parishioners and non-parishioners can request that a shawl be given to family members or friends. Since the founding of the ministry in 2004, at least 650 shawls have been made, over 500 of them given to non-parishioners. According to founder Elizabeth Rybicki, “What we do is give a tangible gift of God's love.” She emphasizes that the shawls are given, never sold. The recipients can wear their prayer shawls anytime, anywhere, Rybicki says. The intent is that they feel the blessings and prayers sent to them by the women—and sometimes men—who knit the shawls.
Rybicki, who works with co-leader Deanna Dubose and 24 other women at Good Shepherd, also goes to other churches to help them establish their own prayer shawl ministries. She takes sample shawls, provides the groups with a booklet that explains how to start a ministry, and gives them two booklets of patterns that she has assembled. These booklets are printed in the church office and available to others upon request.
Rybicki explains that the knitters supply their own yarn, which is supplemented by donations to the ministry. The group meets monthly, and it takes two to three weeks to knit one shawl. Knitters try to work in patterns of three to represent the Trinity, or in patterns of seven, also a Biblical number. Taking a cue from color symbolism used in churches and in ancient patterns of heraldry, knitters use colors such as blue to represent healing, red and white for the Holy Spirit, and green for immortality or new beginnings.