Pray while you knit, knit while you pray

If you can pray while you knit, you can knit while you pray — at least that’s what Rev. Linda Gesling of First United Methodist Church in Stillwater figures.

To prove it, Gesling has declared this Sunday, Oct. 27 “Knit-in-Church Sunday” at First United Methodist, at 813 W. Myrtle Street. Anyone who wants to is invited to bring a set of knitting needles or a crochet hook and set to work during her sermon.
Gesling isn’t afraid the activity will be a distraction to the knitters. On the contrary, she expects it to help.

“I am a knitter, and for years I’ve explained to people that … I actually focus better when I’m knitting,” Gesling said. “I know it’s not just me, because lots and lots of people talk about just the way that doing something with your hands then allows … your mind and spirit to be open to other things.”

That observation was one of the factors that led her to declare Knit-in-Church Sunday. Although it’s intended to be a fun event, for Gesling, it rests on serious philosophical grounds.

“I firmly believe that knitting or quilting or something like that are things people would really do in a very meditative way,” she said.

According to Gesling, scientific studies have found that what occurs in the brain while a person is knitting resembles what happens when they practice Zen meditation.
Gesling expects her sermon to focus on the idea of prayer and meditation. She wants to encourage people to think about some of the tasks they already do that could lead them into a more prayerful, meditative state.

“The sermon won’t be about knitting, but it will probably bring in knitting somehow,” she said.

Gesling said the idea was also partly inspired by a woman she saw in church years ago who would make quilt hangings for the church during the worship service.

“When I saw her doing that, I thought how appropriate that was,” Gesling said. “I felt that it made those hangings even more special.”

So far, Gesling has received positive responses from those she’s told about the event. Hoping to draw a wider audience, she has advertised it with flyers in the local yarn shops “darn. knit. {Anyway}” in Stillwater and Lila and Claudine’s in Mahtomedi.

Kirsten Skoglund of Mahtomedi, one of the owners of Lila and Claudine’s, doesn’t normally attend First Methodist, but she plans to go this Sunday.

“I think I’ll just go and sit in the front of the church, because I’ve never had permission to knit in church before,” she said.

Skoglund thinks knitting and church fit together well. Like Gesling, she finds knitting puts her in a more contemplative state.

“When life gets a little bit too much for me, the best thing is for me to sit down and knit,” Skoglund said. “I do my best thinking and processing, and it just calms me down.”

Despite the focus on knitting, Gesling believes the service Sunday will be useful to non-knitters as well.

“For me, it really is about exploring the different ways that prayer can be part of our lives, that may be a little different than what we think of when we’re kids and taught that we need to fold our hands and close our eyes,” Gesling said.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]