I've been asked about prayer quilt ministries and how they work. I have direct knowledge of only two such ministries, although I know there are many in existence. In this post, I'll talk about the ministry at my church.
Our ministry began seven or eight years ago. One of the women in our church had recovered from cancer, had a huge fabric stash, and felt it should be used to bring comfort and healing to others. She went before the administrative board, proposed the ministry, received approval, and began. I joined the effort within the first several months. Although I'd been making quilts for several decades, my quiltmaking activities had decreased tremendously in the midst of some weighty life challenges, and the ministry gave me the opportunity to "reactivate" with some smaller, more easily complete quilts.
We began with just four of us making quilts, one of whom was an artist who knew how to sew but had never made quilts. At this point, she is one of our most talented and most prolific quiltmakers. We've had other people join us and some people move on. We've been assisted by people who don't make quilts but who do help with binding and other tasks.
Most of our quilts are about 45 X 60 inches, or thereabouts. It almost always seems that once a quilt is ready for layering, it needs a back that's wider than 42 inches. Sometimes we piece blocks or strips to make a backing wider. Sometimes we piece rectangles or squares of fabric for backing. Sometimes we make smaller, narrower quilts that will work for people in wheelchairs. Occasionally, we'll even make a bed size quilt for a predetermined recipient. Right now, I have several pieces of batting that are calling me to make some smaller quilts.
Originally, the quilts were just for people challenged by cancer, but within a year we had decided to make them available to people with other health challenges also. At some point we had to limit their distribution to people of our church and their relatives, friends, and colleagues.
There were several well-meaning non-quiltmakers who thought we should just hand them out to almost anyone, but that was never the intent of our ministry. Last fall one of our church members told me she had seen some similar textiles selling at an event for $40, and we could be selling ours for $30 to $40 and making money. I was so shocked that I simply replied that I was not willing to work on something for 10 to 40 hours and sell it at that price! It's hardly a secret that people who don't sew have no idea how many hours go into a quilt.
Some quilts are made solely by one person. Other quilts are pieced by one person, quilted by another, and bound by a third. Some quiltmakers use published patterns; others use their own designs.
Sometimes we know from the outset who will receive a quilt. More often we don't know who the recipient will be. At all steps of the quiltmaking, we pray for the healing of the recipient. Once we have a supply of finished quilts, our church devotes part of a Sunday service to a dedication service. In that service we usually share stories of people who have received previous quilts, and then, any members of the congregation who wish to do so lay hands on the quilts as we dedicate them to their healing mission.
To the back of each quilt we add a label.
We photograph each quilt, assign a number to it, and attach an information sheet and a letter that explains the purpose of the quilt. When people need quilts to give to someone, they fill out a very short information sheet that tells who the recipient is, where the recipient is located, the nature of the health challenge, and the name of the person who is giving it to someone.
Often we receive written thank you notes from the recipients, sometimes with wonderful stories of their healing; often we receive a donation from the person who gave the quilt, a family member of the recipient, or from the recipient. It is my understanding that these donations are directed back into the ministry for expenses. Sometimes someone has asked to purchase one of the quilts, and we've had to refuse because once a quilt has been dedicated, it can only go to someone who needs a prayer quilt.
The ministry purchases batting in large rolls, which is our biggest expense. Sometimes we receive donations of fabric. Most of our quilts are made from our stashes or from fabric we purchase ourselves. Sometimes we work from donated stash or look through the stash cupboard at church for fabrics to add to a quilt or to use for backing or binding. Over the years I've been given several monetary donations and have been directed to purchase thread for quilting. Quilters outside our church have donated fabric and some incredibly well-pieced quilts that just needed quilting. We've gradually added several storage units for the quilts and usually have a cabinet or shelves of quilts that have been blessed and are ready to be distributed and another unit for quilts that are waiting to be blessed. We do meet at the church about once a month for four or more hours of cutting, sewing, basting, etc., and of course, we usually have a snack of some kind or people bring things for a shared lunch. Sometimes we meet at a member's home. In addition, we all work on the quilts at our homes.
Although we didn't realize it when we began, the blessings of this ministry go far beyond the recipients of the quilts and their healing. When we began, I had no idea that I myself would be so blessed by the time I spent sewing and praying for others. (Every quilt I make now is made while praying for the well being of the recipient.) In addition, making these quilts has encouraged us to take risks and grow in our quiltmaking. We've all used colors, techniques, and designs we once would have been reluctant to use, and we've all found our quiltmaking skills growing.
More importantly, we've heard many wonderful stories of healing and of the ways the quilts have blessed recipients. We've even heard stories of the quilts being passed on to others who have experienced healing. Sometimes we never hear from the recipients, but more often we do hear about how the recipients experienced healing and comfort.
In another post, I'll share about another quilt ministry in our area that does things quite a bit differently.
In the meantime, happy quiltmaking......