‘A close knit group’ — The Prayer Shawl Ministry of Nevada City United Methodist Church | TheUnion.com

‘A close knit group’ — The Prayer Shawl Ministry of Nevada City United Methodist Church

The Nevada City United Methodist Church Prayer Shawl Ministry take a moment together at Camp Del Oro in March 2017. The group has sent out over 500 Prayer Shawls since beginning in 2006.
Submitted photo to The Union |

At 25 members strong, the Prayer Shawl Ministry of Nevada City United Methodist Church is in the business of helping those in need of comfort and encouragement.

Locally founded by Cathy Nickalou Smith in 2006, the ministry is largely inspired by and modeled after a nationwide Prayer Shawl Ministry founded in 1998.

The organization is responsible for crafting shawls and lap robes which are meant as a show of support to the receiver.

Each shawl can be thought of as a virtual hug; a sign of comfort to someone in pain, be it physical, mental or spiritual. Likewise, they are often meant to express and convey joy and congratulations to those experiencing new beginnings.

Current Nevada City United Methodist Church co-leader, Marte Sumwalt, said, “It’s become a group that lets people know we care.”

The cozy creations are sent to “people who are grieving or going through illnesses, or for a wedding or new baby. It’s a symbol for people to know others really care about them. [It helps] just to know somebody cares, and somebody is thinking of you.”

The idea behind the whole project, Sumwalt added, is that “when they wrap themselves in [the shawls] they can be surrounded by a piece of God.”

Before the shawls are distributed, they are the subject of the appropriately named Blessing Of The Shawls, a way for the group to commemorate the well-meaning intention of the shawls, as well as to attach to it a prayer.

Sumwalt said that the Prayer Shawl Ministry has sent out over 500 shawls or lap robes since they began, and the creations have traveled over 200,000 collective miles to reach their new owners.

A number of shawls were recently sent to victims of the catastrophic fires and hurricanes which wreaked havoc in a number of areas nationwide in the last months of 2017.

Additionally, in 2012 — after Hurricane Sandy violently struck much of the east coast — the ministry made and donated knitted baby sweaters to the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Quilts for all

There aren’t any strict criteria for being on the receiving end of the charity.

“Anyone who has a need, I’d like to send her a shawl,” said Sumwalt. “We don’t question who will get them.”

She added that the items are “free of charge, they’re yours to give to whoever needs it. Sometimes we’ll take them to a care center or somewhere where they can be used.”

Sumwalt — who co-leads the Prayer Shawl Ministry with fellow church member Mary Ann Trygg — clarified that the Prayer Shawl Ministry at this time is made up exclusively of women, but all are welcome, including men.

“We’re a group of knitters and crocheters; some aren’t church members, some are,” said Sumwalt.

The group meets every Thursday at noon at their church at the top of Broad Street, and they run solely on a volunteer and donation basis.

“We donate our time and our yarn,” said Sumwalt.

The community has been most supportive of the Prayer Shawl Ministry and their craft, often opening their hearts and wallets to aid the cause.

“We’ve had one lady in particular, [who] will drop off to the church some lovely yarn,” she said. “People donate things.”

The Prayer Shawl Ministry enjoys the time they spend together, crafting items that carry such a significant meaning. Like many before them, they feel good from doing good.

“We are a close knit group, no pun intended,” Sumwalt said with a chuckle. “We have a lot of fun together while working on our projects; lots of laughs!”

Those who are interested in learning more about the Nevada City United Methodist Church or its Prayer Shawl Ministry are encouraged to visit http://www.nevadacitymethodist.com or call 530-265-2797.

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer for The Union and can be contacted at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com.

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