Mary Gene Boteler, in Ohio, had an idea. Mary Stout, in Nebraska, took it another step.
The result was a special stole presented Friday to the brand-new Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Why not enlist the members of the committee – who hadn’t yet met each other – to knit or crochet “pocket” prayer shawls to be presented to the ecumenical guests and leaders of the assembly?
Boteler set up a Facebook page for the committee, and shared her idea. And the committee delivered beyond all imagining.
Committee members, recruited church groups, random knitters – produced a pile of prayer shawls. Enough for all ecumenical guests of the assembly, with plenty left over.
Enough for retiring Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons.
But when the pocket prayer shawls were heaped in a pile, one was not like the others.
Mary Stout of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska, who has taught her foster grandchildren and many of the young people in her church to crochet, had started crocheting and been unable to stop. She crocheted.
And crocheted. And crocheted.
And after two weeks she had a sparkling white prayer shawl that wasn’t pocket-size at all.
It was as big as a cloud. Just the right size for one special presentation.
“Mary has a big heart,” said her pastor, Jeff Warwick, a teaching elder commissioner from Homestead Presbytery. “It will be a big joy for her when she learns that it was her stole that went to J. Herbert Nelson, the new Stated Clerk.”
Lisa Eye of Transylvania Presbytery, the vice moderator of the assembly committee, explained what happened.
“When we looked at all the pocket shawls, there was this one. It looked like a stole.” They knew it was the one that supposed to mantle the new Stated Clerk upon his installation.
Eye also explained more about the pocket prayer shawls. “Because we have so many ecumenical and interfaith delegates among us, we wanted to show them that we are connected to them and praying for them.”
A legacy of this assembly is that traveling all over the world will be pocket prayer shawls with this attached: “This pocket prayer shawl was handmade by artisans across our denomination and other faith communities, and was prayed over by members of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the 222nd General Assembly. May it be a reminder that you are covered by God’s grace as we journey together.”
And travelling with a new Stated Clerk with be the blessing of the pocket prayer shawl that grew into a stole.