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Hope And Blessings: Crocheted prayer shawls a gift of comfort and healing

DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY /Emily Rossie crochets a prayer shawl at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer Wednesday. Rossie made her first prayer shawl for a sick relative in 2005 and has helped start a shawl ministry with the Redeemer Episcopal Church Women.

DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY /Emily Rossie crochets a prayer shawl at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer Wednesday. Rossie made her first prayer shawl for a sick relative in 2005 and has helped start a shawl ministry with the Redeemer Episcopal Church Women.

Sometimes doing something for someone else in times of personal need or despair can be the thing that brings hope and healing.

Emily Rossie started making prayer shawls in 2005 during a time of grief and mourning when she herself should have been the recipient of such a gift. She lost her husband, her mother and her brother all within a 10-month period. Rossie, who battles major depression, said making these prayer shawls for others takes her mind off of her own sadness and keeps depression at bay.

“Doing this has been a lifesaver for me,” she said. “It is a three-fold blessing – it’s a blessing for me to make them, it’s a blessing to the person who comes and gets one to give to someone else, and it’s a blessing to the one who receives it.”

Thanks to Rossie’s inspiration, the Redeemer Episcopal Church Women are now supporting a prayer shawl ministry. Shawls are made to give to people who are in need of comfort, such as those in nursing homes, those who’ve recently lost a loved one, or those going through health, marriage or financial difficulties. People may request them from the Rev. Anne Matthews of the church.

Before Rossie retired she was a research administrator at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. She belonged to the Congregational Church in Massachusetts where she was first involved in a shawl ministry.

“We were crocheting and knitting several different things such as caps and mittens for babies in third-world countries, but the shawls were what I focused on.”

Last November when Rossie was looking for a church home and was visiting the Church of the Redeemer – she had recently retired and moved home to Mississippi – she asked Matthews if they had a shawl ministry.

“She said, ‘No, but would you like to start one?'” That was all the encouragement Rossie needed. She had 20 shawls already made.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive response,” she said. “I’d love to see this ministry in other churches because it brings everyone involved great blessings.” Rossie said she will gladly help members of other churches start their own shawl ministries and she will even teach those who want to learn how to crochet.

“Starting a shawl ministry is whatever you make of it – what people want for their church,” she said. “If people are interested, I’d be happy to give them a presentation and show them some materials and resources.”

Rossie’s shawls are very soft to the touch and are made with a variety of colors. She also makes “lap robes” for men, which are wider and half the length.

The women never charge for a shawl and a recent addition to the ministry is that people can sponsor one by donating $15.

“The material to make one only costs about $15,” she explained. “I was purchasing the yarn, but someone in the ECW said, ‘Emily is paying for these all on her own, so we need to do something to help out,’ that’s when we started the shawl sponsorship.”

Each crochet stitch is done with love.

“When I finish one, I say a prayer over it,” she said. “Even if I don’t know the person who will be receiving it,” she said. “I love doing this work.”