How Two Million Stitches Turns Into 150 Prayer Shawls at Augustana Care

Knitting prayer shawls for those who are experiencing tough times is a tradition at many Augustana Care campuses. Hundreds of people have received the shawls at our Minneapolis, Minnesota location. This summer, Augustana Apartments of Minneapolis resident Greg Knipp is knitting his 150th prayer shawl since he began participating in the project eight years ago.

Greg has spent 6,000 hours on more than 2,000,000 stitches to complete 149 shawls. After learning to knit in fifth grade, Greg has been knitting ever since. “A minister once told me he thinks prayer shawls help put the hand of God around someone’s shoulders,” Greg says. “When I give a shawl to our chaplain to pass on to people in care centers, I’m hoping they can be a little more at peace with how life is going.” He sees people who use the shawls daily, keeping them out so they are handy when needed.

Augustana Care’s tradition began when an intern inquired about a project that could involve the residents at the Minneapolis campus. Regional Director of Housing Mary Jo Thorne suggested the idea of creating prayer shawls to provide comfort to residents and families and it’s been a popular pastime ever since.

Although the concept originated from two graduates of the 1997 Women’s Leadership Institute at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, Thorne successfully implemented the program while working at another care community. The graduates originally created prayer shawls as part of their experience in a program of applied Feminist Spirituality under the direction of Professor Miriam Therese Winter.

The project creators believe prayer shawls combine care and the love of knitting into a prayerful ministry that reaches out to those in need of comfort and solace. Many blessings are knitted into every shawl.

As the gift is sent along, some recipients continue the kindness by making one themselves and passing it on to someone in need. When Mary Jo Thorne suggested it at Augustana Care, she never expected it would be embraced with such passion by people like Greg Knipp.

Thank you, Greg! You have helped so many people already, and your prayer shawls will no doubt help many more. While we don’t know who is using the prayer shawls, we know they are greatly appreciated.

On a personal note, some years ago Greg received a prayer shawl himself which he now keeps as his very own. That’s just a small token of our appreciation for all he does for the residents at Augustana Care and their families.