Prayer quilts illustrate concern of Calif. church


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor

Folks along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast are covered in prayer as they work to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

The covering is both spiritual and, to a degree, literal.

Among the many gifts of aid sent to the Mississippi Conference since the storm slammed into the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29 is a prayer quilt made by the United Methodist

Women of Kernville (Calif.) United Methodist Church.

The quilt arrived at Mississippi Bishop Hope Morgan Ward’s office in mid-November.

“We wanted to make two very special quilts,” stated a letter sent with the quilt, “one for the Mississippi Conference and one for the Louisiana Conference.

“Imagine having a heart to help people, and then, just as the need increases dramatically, your resources either disappear or are greatly reduced. This is most definitely true of our Methodist conferences in the hard-hit hurricane areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.”

The letter goes on to say that the quilt is intended for the “care givers” as they go about the monumental task of cleaning up and helping others.

“The lovely quilting of the prayer group is witness to the powerful spiritual connection we share as United Methodist people,” said Ward. The connection is heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. Here in the Mississippi Conference, we have experienced this connection continually in diverse and lovely ways since Aug. 29. The quilt makes me joyful to be a United Methodist.”

Kernville, Calif., is located about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. Kernville UMC is part of the California-Pacific Conference.

The Rev. Kathy Mahoney said her church has an on-going quilting ministry. Requests are made for a quilt, usually by friends or relatives of someone in need. Mahoney said they usually go to someone experiencing illness, a death in the family or other hardship. The UMW meets on the first Monday of each month to work on the quilts. When finished, the quilt is brought to worship. Someone shares who the quilt is for, and bows are tied to each square, signifying the 100-member church’s commitment to pray for the recipient.

Mahoney said Kernville UMC had given several thousand dollars to UMCOR to aid Katrina recovery, but she thought a quilt was in order.

“I requested the quilt for the care givers, pastors, bishop and people in the conference who had suffered from the hurricane disaster,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney said ordinarily only one or two women work on a quilt, but that the entire group wanted to make the quilts for Mississippi and Louisiana. The letter explains how it was made.

“These quilts are truly a labor of love in our Kernville United Methodist Church community,” the letter states. “The fabrics were generously discounted. Each row was sewn by a different lady. The rows were put together by another, the borders and the backs by others and the binding, handwork and the ties others.”

Most of the time, Kernville UMC doesn’t hear from quilt recipients. Church members who know the recipients might give a report of how they’re doing. The feedback they do get is powerful.

“Its not about receiving, it’s just our ability to show we are praying for the person,” Mahoney said. “We have heard the quilts bring comfort to the person who is ill and in bed. They have expressed that they can feel our prayers, and it helps them feel the presence of God as they lie in bed.

“We have heard that through our prayers and others’, miracles have come to pass. We truly believe God is working through the prayers and the quilts.”

Each part of the quilt carries special meaning.

“When you look closely, you can see the theme fabric consists of hands: helping hands, loving hands, God’s hands,” the cover letter states. “The contrasting colors are symbolic, too. Purple (is) the color of Advent, Christ’s coming. Green (is) for growth and renewal, blue for blue skies and yellow for the sun. The quilt has a border of pink, enclosing all of the squares in the color of love.”

The quilts, Mahoney said, are “really a project of the body of Christ extending God’s love. We know strength of God is with you, and we’re with you, too.”

Mahoney said her church plans to send a work team to the region through Volunteers in Mission.