For many years, the Church of the Brethren has supported an effort to bring health and healing to one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. The ministry started by the Church of the Brethren continues today through Advocate Bethany Hospital.
Many congregations have supported the hospital’s ministry by donating handmade baby blankets and layettes. Last year, the hospital changed its caregiving focus and babies are no longer born there. As a result, the Association of Brethren Caregivers (ABC) is asking congregations to change the nature of their support by making and sending prayer shawls to patients receiving care there.
Last fall Advocate Bethany Hospital became the first and only specialty hospital on Chicago’s west side to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex medical conditions who require an extended hospital stay. Advocate Bethany is not a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or rehabilitation facility. As a specialty hospital, it provides comprehensive care for patients suffering from complex medical conditions including heart disease, respiratory conditions, stroke, kidney disease, and severe wounds. Patients’ average stays are of at least 25 days, with the ultimate goal of returning home. By providing extensive and individualized care, Advocate Bethany is a vital part of the continuum of care, particularly as society ages and health conditions that require a longer duration of treatment become more common, ABC reported.
To support this health ministry, ABC is encouraging congregations and individuals to send prayer shawls–also called “comfort shawls” or “peace shawls”–symbolizing shelter, peace, and spiritual sustenance so that the hospital staff can give the gift of care and comfort to all patients. Several ecumenical organizations already have donated hand-knitted and crocheted shawls for those in need.
“The Church of the Brethren Prayer Shawl ministry to Advocate Bethany Hospital is a simple, universal and enduring message of caring,” said the invitation from ABC. “The creation and presentation of a prayer shawl, like all acts of generosity, enriches the giver as well as the recipient. Compassion and the love of knitting and crocheting have been combined into a prayerful way of passing on love and joy. Many blessings are prayed into every shawl.”
Shawls have many uses for patients, and may be used during prayer or meditation, while undergoing medical procedures, during an illness and recovery, while ministering to others, and as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress or bereavement. They also may be used for birthday, anniversary, and holiday gifts.
“Made in prayer, the shawls are passed on hand-to-hand and heart-to-heart,” ABC said. Suggestions for groups making shawls include to pass the work in progress around a circle, asking each person to add some stitches to the shawl, or to hold a shawl for a moment to add prayers and good wishes. Before giving it away, shawl makers are invited to say a prayer over each shawl, remembering the one who will receive the gift. It also is suggested to enclose an explanation and prayer in the package as shawls are sent to Advocate Bethany Hospital.
Prayer shawls can be mailed to Bethany Advocate Hospital, Attn: Latrice Jackson, 3435 W. Van Buren, Chicago, IL 60624; 773-265-7700.