• Health Ministries Network

October 2019 Newsletter

Director's Note, Interview with Carol Ham, Upcoming Events, Community Events, Did you know?, Devotional, and Prayer list.

Health Ministries Network (HMN) is a non-profit that initiates, develops and supports faith based health ministry in northwest Washington.

Dear health ministries community,

This month we celebrate health ministry in our communities! Thanks to 20 generous business and individual sponsors, we will enjoy a delicious harvest lunch at the Spirit of Giving on Saturday, October 19. I hope you will join us and bring your friends and family as well.

I know many faith community nurses and health ministers work in the background, quietly connecting people and resources and providing a caring presence when folks are most vulnerable. This is our community’s chance to say thank you for all that you do, the seen and unseen labors of love, and to support the future of health ministry in our region. See you there!

Also, we still have scholarships available for the Annual Caregiver Conference on Wednesday, October 8! Dementia Support NW, formerly known as the the Alzheimer's Society, invites you to, "The Balancing Act that is Caregiving" featuring Teepa Snow. Please let us know ASAP if you would like to attend.

In faith,

Amelia Vader Executive Director amelia@healthministriesnetwork.net


Carol Ham, FCN

Prayer Shawl Ministry

Christ the Servant Lutheran (CTSL)

What is the prayer shawl ministry?

We knit shawls with prayer and then give them away. If you have some time by yourself or are doing your Bible study, you can pray while you're knitting.

Who are prayer shawls for?

Anyone can get can a prayer shawl, maybe someone who’s having a joyful time. I’ve given prayer shawls to women who are having babies and women who are going to nursing school. We give them to high school students as they graduate. And then if someone's in need, maybe having procedures done, or if someone has lost a relative, we give them a prayer shawl as well.

We give prayer shawls to Christ the Servant Lutheran (CTSL) family, friends and neighbors. We give them to Lutheran Immigration Services, participants in the Whatcom Interfaith Coalition Family Promise program, to Peace Health palliative care, spiritual care, and the emergency room, faith community nurses and health ministers, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS), tribal leaders, and the Lutheran Counseling Network. At a lot of the churches, pastors will distribute them as well.

How many prayer shawls have been made?

I would say we're up to 2,500 just from our group at CTSL over the last 16 years.

What’s the significance of the prayer shawl for people receiving?

I don't know quite know how to explain it, but they just seem blessed. Whenever you talk to people, they remember their prayer shawls. They say it warms their heart. Everyone says that the shawl warms them on the inside as well as outside. Everyone says it, and you can't really describe it, but it’s what's in that yarn and it’s what’s in the prayers of the people that make them.

How are prayer shawls distributed?

Well, we’ve mailed some, but mostly we personally hand them to folks. People in our congregation can also give a shawl to anyone, we just have to give them to access to our closet.

Who makes prayer shawls?

Well, we have our group at CTSL, but there are church groups all over. There are many that I don't even know about. I’ve visited a group at a Baptist church in Ferndale. Sheila is very active at Sacred Heart. I know First Congregational has a group.

At CTSL we meet in each other's homes for good eats, as well as taking a yearly retreat for good food, fun and, of course, knitting.

How do these groups start?

Somehow, it's gotten to be that it starts through faith community nurses, but it doesn’t have to. Anybody can start this type of ministry just by gathering people who are interested in knitting or crocheting.

We’ve gone and talked to some of the churches down in Mount Vernon about starting a prayer shawl ministry, so, we try and promote it.

How did the prayer shawl ministry get started at Christ the Servant Lutheran (CTSL)?

Well, I first heard of prayer shawls when Jeanne Brotherton saw a woman knitting one at a seminar we went to. After that a few of us from CTSL, Faith Lutheran, and St. John’s Lutheran put a notice out. We said, for anyone interested in knitting, we're going to start a ministry where we make prayer shawls.

What challenges are there to running a prayer shawl ministry?

For a good part of the time, we donated our own money buying the yarn. Now have a couple sponsors for two hundred dollars or so, and all that gets spent on yarn, people make that many shawls.

It can also be challenging knowing who needs a shawl and at what time, as well as getting them to those people. So, distributing them, I guess would be the hard part. The knitters keep going no matter what. I mean, people have had carpal tunnel, they have their surgery, and they start knitting again.

How does the prayer shawl ministry interact with health ministry?

The CTSL health ministry committee has different departments. They have a group that does blood pressure screenings, they partner with the Lutheran Counseling Network, we have comfort baskets that are made up for people who have lost a loved one, there are prayer stations. So, the prayer shawls get intertwined with all of that, but they are also considered to be their own group within the health ministry committee.

Do you have stories of prayer shawls being impactful?

I worked with a lady at a local tech school who was teaching nursing assistants for many years, and her husband got Lou Gehrig's disease. I gave him a green prayer shawl and he loved it so much that his wife really thought about burying him with it when he passed away. That was really heartfelt for me, but she couldn't do it. She kept the prayer shawl and that’s the one she uses.

The lady that made my husband’s prayer shawl wrote a letter that came with it. She knitted it during a camping trip and wrote about where she was. The funny thing is, we had actually already visited a lot of the places she had written about on a trip of our own.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

The amazing thing is that there are always prayer shawls there when people need them. We’ll be out of shawls and someone will need one and then there it is, hanging on the office door.

Interviewed by Sampson Alvarado on August 14, 2019.

Upcoming Events

Spirit of Giving: Annual Recognition Lunch

Saturday, October 19, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM First Congregational Church, 2401 Cornwall Ave, Bellingham Please join us as we recognize faith community nurses and health ministers for their outstanding service, honor a Clergy Champion, celebrate our generous community and raise funds for Health Ministries Network. Clergy Champion awards will be excepted until Saturday, October 12. Nominate your faith leader today!

We hope to see you there. RSVP to sampson@healthministriesnetwork.net or 360-788-6408. More details are available online.

November Meeting

Friday, November 15, 11:00 AM – 01:00 PM

Silverado Bellingham Memory Care Community, 4400 Columbine Dr, Bellingham

Silverado will provide a hot lunch and attendees will have opportunity for group discussion and for a Virtual Dementia Tour. We hope to see you there!

*Photo credit: Silverado


Community Events

33rd Annual Caregiver Conference

Wednesday, October 09, 8:30 AM – 04:30 PM Four Points by Sheraton, 714 Lakeway Dr, Bellingham

Dementia Support NW, formerly known as the the Alzheimer's Society, invites you to, "The Balancing Act that is Caregiving" featuring Teepa Snow. Scholarships available for interested FCNs and HMs.


Community Clergy Training Program

Oct 15, 8:30 AM – 04:00 PM Bellingham Vet Center, 3800 Byron Ave suite 124, Bellingham, WA 98229, USA

Chaplain Gary Cowden of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will empower pastors, mental health professionals and others to better assist veterans.


Community Conversation: Advance Care Planning

Thursday, October 17, 3:00 PM – 05:00 PM St. Luke's Community Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Pkwy, Bellingham

Northwest Life Passages Coalition invites you to a community conversation about Advance Care Planning.


In an effort to connect our volunteers with relevant resources, we publish community events in our monthly newsletter and on our website. Email sampson@healthministriesnetwork.net to add your own.

Did You Know?

Third Quarter Hours due October 12

Health Ministries Network (HMN) is a non-profit that initiates, develops and supports faith based health ministry in northwest Washington.