Loving Hands

Sue JacksonKnit one, purl one, create a fresh expression of church in the Warrington Methodist Circuit. Support worker Sue Jackson explains how the simple idea of knitting groups has led to a loving community wanting to help those around them and find out more about faith.

How wonderful to be paid for something you love doing, what a gift from God! To start off, we had heard of a similar initiative operating in Ellesmere Port and we visited it. We were amazed by what we saw because it was so vibrant. We developed the resources they gave us, and incorporated the devotional at the end of the time together. Now it's simply church on a Thursday afternoon, and we love it.

Loving Hands - knittingIt's fantastic to see that church taking shape as people come together, enjoy time together and with God, and create something that really makes a difference. I get my knitting devotions by going online; Christians around the world are doing similar things and there are some inspirational studies to use.

People's lives have been transformed by Loving Hands. One of our members, Robin, first came along with his wife Eileen. She duly gave him some needles and wool to knit a square, but he quickly moved on to lacy blankets and all sorts of things. Robin is well known locally as a choirmaster but found himself unable to conduct while awaiting hip replacement surgery, he was glad to put his hands to good use by knitting instead.

Loving Hands - bagA lady turned up and asked me to teach her to knit. I helped her to cast on, and she told me that I wasn't doing it correctly! She then said she had been a knitter when she was younger but hadn't done anything for years. Next time I saw her she was knitting quite a complicated basket weave blanket. Now the lady who 'couldn't knit' is on the internet all the time learning new stitches and teaching them to everyone else.

When people arrive they have a rummage through the wool and needles and patterns we've got and then decide where the results of their efforts are going to go. We've done things for the Mission to Seafarers, and the Children of Honduras Trust, but we've also knitted lots of fingerless gloves for all the local ministers…

Loving Hands - jumperWe meet on alternate weeks at Lymm Methodist Church hall, Eagle Brow, Cheshire, and the Ryfields Retirement Village, Warrington. One 95-year-old lady, who is registered blind, said she hadn't knitted for 'donkey's years' and feels her life has been transformed by this simple act. We've also got a knitting corner in the coffee shop at Padgate, where people knit squares for blankets while they chat, eat and drink.

If we know of anyone who has been bereaved or ill, or could do with a bit of comfort, the Lymm group make them a scarf and send it with a card. Every time they are feeling lonely or desperate, they wrap these scarves around their necks or cuddle them.

Loving Hands - dollOne lady took three scarves to friends who were unwell. She said to me:

Now I understand. I knew we were a group knitting things for charity, but I didn't see the bigger picture until I took those scarves to people who needed them. One of my friends wrapped it around herself straight away; it was so comforting and meant so much to her. It's not the knitting, it's not knitting at all, it's God.

Methodist minister Revd Jackie Bellfield is thrilled at the church's development.

Knitting is one of those things that used to be very commonplace, and every family had someone who could create that much-needed jumper or baby outfit. Then it went out of fashion as people bought ready-made items off the shelf but now it's making a comeback, and Loving Hands is part of the revival.

What started as an opportunity to create knitted goods for charities and community groups has developed into a place where people talk, share their problems, pray and take part in a short devotion. Church in a new sense has emerged, and it’s about a lot more than people getting together and having a chat.

The group makes all sorts of things, including items for the local premature baby care unit, and the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands. As a result of that, some of the women in the church have talked about miscarriages and stillbirths they suffered 40 or 50 years ago. These are things they have never talked about before, and would never have talked about to this day without Loving Hands. That can only come from God.