By Becky Hathcock
Madison County Herald
While the Prayers and Squares group at Jackson Christ United Methodist Church has made 439 prayer quilts over the past five years, the number of blessings and prayers involved are countless.
"It's not about the quilt, it's all about the prayers," is the official motto of the group of about 15 women who meet the first, second and third Mondays of each month to pray and piece together quilts. The quilts are later given away by the church's prayer ministry.
Rosemary Taylor of Madison said her involvement with the group began with a prayer of her own.
After 33 years of working for the government, Taylor retired and said she prayed for a way to become more involved with her church and to be able to use her sewing talents in God's service. It wasn't a coincidence that the church had begun the prayer/quilting ministry just two months before, she said.
A woman in the church had seen the Prayers and Squares group in a church she had visited and brought the idea before the church as a way to reach out to the community.Donations were made and volunteers began bringing their sewing machines to the church's fellowship hall on a weekly basis.
Currently the group consists of Jan Brown, Lisa Russ, Rita Warnock, Helen Goldman, Roanoke McDonald, Joan Deal, Carrie Carlson, Julie Hendrick, Marie Moorehead, Margaret Mason, Linda Smith, Karen Hill, Karen Oswalt and Taylor, but anyone can join, Taylor said.
A local fabric shop donated hundreds of bolts of cotton material, and the storage area behind the hall quickly began to fill.
As the women sew, they continuously pray for whomever will eventually receive the quilt, each of which takes about five to seven hours to construct, Taylor said.
Each quilt has a different story, but it usually begins with someone requesting a quilt for someone with an illness, someone in crisis or anyone facing difficult situations and requests prayer.
"The quilts are usually requested by friends of someone in need," said Gale Drummond, receptionist at CUMC who handles distribution of the quilts once they are completed.
A card is filled out and permission is granted by the person for whom the quilt is being made for their request to be displayed along with the quilt, in the prayer room.
"We usually have four or more quilts hanging at a time," said Drummond, who encourages anyone to take a few minutes out of their day to stop in the prayer room, read the need, pray and then tie a knot in the quilt. All the quilts that we have made have been hand tied by Helen Goldman. She puts in the strings that are tied after each prayer and when all the knots are tied, then the person is notified they can come and pick up their quilt," Drummond said.
The idea behind tying the knots is that even if someone is extremely ill, they can still feel the quilt and the knots and be reminded of the many prayers that have been said for them.
Quilts have always been a tactile source of comfort, but from the large number of the thank you cards that the Prayers and Squares group receives, it is easy to see a deeper level of comfort blessing the recipient, knowing the quilt represents prayer, Taylor said.
Prayer requests range from healing for cancer to safety of troops in the military. The quilt represents peace and comfort for persons undergoing difficulties, Taylor said.
Karen Hill, who co-founded the group, said the biggest blessing she has received from participating has been the "ripple effect" of knowing that what she has prayed over and helped make with her hands God has used to touch lives far beyond the borders of her city.
"People take the quilts with them when they travel or go to the hospital," she said. "They tell us how comforting it was to have it with them during their treatments."
Taylor said that anyone can participate in the ministry and that the process of constructing a quilt has five steps. It begins with fabric being cut into strips and a kit is put together. A pattern is picked and pieces are cut and sewn together into a 40-by-55-inch quilt top.Batting and backing materials are layered under the top, and the quilt is sewn together and a label - filled with encouraging verses and washing instructions - is added on the back.Finally, the entire group gathers and prays as a group over the quilt before it is taken to the prayer room.
"Prayers and Squares can be done in any church," said Taylor who encourages women who like to sew to visit and see how to begin a similar group in their own churches.
HOW TO HELP
For more information on requesting or becoming involved in making prayer quilts, contact the Christ United Methodist Church office at 601-956-6974.