Shawl Ministry

History of “Shawl Ministry”

The giving of comfort items within a religious community is not a new idea. It has been done for centuries, but in the late 1990s two women attending Hartford Seminary in Connecticut gave new voice to this long-standing practice. Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo combined their love of knitting and crocheting with their experience in the Seminary’s program of Applied Feminist Spirituality to create what has become known as the Shawl Ministry.   Individually or in the company of others, members of a congregation create items that will provide comfort to other members of the congregation in times of need. Their idea (described more fully at has been embraced by many faith communities throughout the country, including many Unitarian Universalist congregations.

Shawl Ministry at First Church

At the suggestion of Associate Minister Dena McPhetres, and within our existing Pastoral Care program, a small group of church members have developed guidelines and oversee the creation of shawls and lap robes by church members. The finished items are turned over to our Ministers, who, with input from our Pastoral Care Associates, determine who will be the recipients in the course of their pastoral calls. Our intent is to provide hand-made shawls or lap robes to members of our congregation who may benefit from the care and connection to our community that a shawl conveys during a time of personal transition, difficulty, illness or bereavement.

The Goals of the Shawl Ministry

  • To nurture social connections and provide an opportunity for participating in ministry within our ever-growing congregation.
  • To provide comfort to members of our church community during times of difficulty and transition.

What distinguishes Shawl Ministry is the spirit of intentionality that goes into the creation of each piece. The creators will not know to whom the shawl goes, but people are encouraged as they make the item to “weave” thoughts or prayers of comfort and healing into their work. In this way, the item symbolizes the caring not just of one person, but of the whole congregation.

The People Who Make Up Shawl Ministry

The Shawl Ministry is made up of men and women who are members and friends of First Church, and who are interested in providing comfort items for people within our congregation. All genders of people are welcome and encouraged to participate!

The day to day work of organizing and supporting the Shawl Ministry is done by a small coordinating group under the auspices of our pastoral care program. Guidelines about the types of shawls and lap robes needed, sizes and suggested yarns and patterns will be provided by this group. Ideas and suggestions are welcome.

(Click here for more details about participating in this Shawl Ministry program.)

Thanks to First Unitarian Society of Madison for their template of Shawl Ministry from which much of this material is borrowed with permission.

Knitting for Shawl Ministry