Prayers From Duluth
Following retirement as a staff writer with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, I returned to my native state of Georgia. Foremost in my mind on the decision of where I would reside was assurance of a good United Methodist Church fit. During my working years in New York City, I had the good fortune of being part of a congregation fully engaged in mission, and I didn’t want this to change, especially as a retiree when there was more time to be involved.
I found such a place at Duluth First United Methodist Church, a congregation with six circles of United Methodist Women from which to choose. Along with attraction to the church’s strong United Methodist Women involvement, I was impressed with its overall emphasis on children and youth and the congregation’s ecumenical outreach, which had been highlighted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution shortly after I arrived.
While there is often a tendency for new arrivals to get lost in large congregations, this is not the case at Duluth where Sunday school classes are well organized, as are various groups where close relationships are established.
As mission coordinator for spiritual growth for my new local United Metho-dist Women, I inquired about a ministry of the church called “Prayers and Squares” and was encouraged by our president, Katherine Posey, to attend its workshop. Lizabeth Staley, the current leader, graciously extended a tour and explained how the program started.
“Spring of 2003 found Margaret Glass with her mother, who was very ill. She opened a package from her brother to find a beautiful prayer quilt, which came from his church. Margaret was so touched by the quilt she felt God calling her to start this program at her own church,” Ms. Staley said.
Over the past eight years the group has given away 600 quilts to people who need prayer for serious health concerns. Church members and friends fill out a quilt request form and quilts are hung with their specific prayer request. Church members pray and tie a knot whenever a quilt is hanging in the Gathering room or the Grand Hall.
“We hold two workshops per month,” Ms. Staley said.
The quilting and prayer mission is part of Duluth’s ministry of care, headed by parish nurse Linda Bailey, but many United Methodist Women members participate in the effort.
As I toured the quilting workshop, I saw among the array of beautiful stored quilts some that had been especially designed for children. The quilters try to respond to favorite colors when possible. I was awed by the exquisite designs — but then I have come to understand that there are many ordinary women in church doing extraordinary things.
A varying age group filled the warm and busy rooms where they worked. Ms. Staley shared that Lauvonne Childens, who they bring from a local nursing home, is a specialist in quilting whose work is displayed at the Atlanta Historical Center.
School-age girls, including Girl Scouts, also participate.
The quilting outreach has drawn individuals to the larger church, said Ms. Staley, a wife, mother of two adult children and a part-time employee. When questioned about how she has been able to balance leading the project along with personal responsibilities, she responded that she was deliberate in not selecting Saturday as a time to meet, as it so often is a time for family. “I think the success of longevity of our group is the choice of time agreed upon for attendance. We wanted convenience for as many as possible,” she said.
A final benefit of the program is that it offers time of solitude and reflection for anyone simply in need of quiet time and desire to work alone on a given day.
“There was uncertainty of how the church leadership would receive the proposal for beginning this ministry,” Ms. Staley said, “but women stepped forward in faith.”
Brenda Wilkinson is an award-winning children’s book author who has written more than 11 books. Ms. Wilkinson retired as staff writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.