There is a stereotype of church-run craft groupsâ€¦ they run during the daytime, and there can be found a group of (predominantly) women, sat round a table or two, having a good olâ€™ chin-wag and a cuppa, accompanied by the clicking sound of knitting needles.
The dispelling of this image as a myth would be satisfying, but often it is quite accurate!
The opportunity for company during the day, time put aside for the creative things we often de-prioritise and perhaps a chance to learn from/with others is not one to be missed for many bored, retired or lonely people – not forgetting, of course, that some of us are blessed to be crafty as our profession and also want to spend some time being inspired by others.
[Note from Esther: I am yet to work out why it is usually women, however, or why we often call it â€˜Knit and Natterâ€™ when so many other crafts are also enjoyed in these groups and are, for me, far more successful! ]
Around the diocese, within church-run craft groups, the making of blankets and hats for premature babies, teddies for children being baptised, wonderful quilting, unique hand embroidery and many other crafts can be found. In churches, a rag-rug mural and a prayer quilt are among the many displayed efforts of these groups.
Inviting people to share in friendship within a caring group demonstrates the welcoming hospitality of the church family. The joy of creating a gift for another taps into a generous spirit which we are given by God to share with the community. The patience and discipline involved in growing and honing skills. In fact, there are lots of truly spiritual fruits which can be fostered among your craft group.
Once up and running, the opportunity to grow these groups and relationships further is ripe.
Do you have someone in your group who would like to come round for dinner?
Or perhaps there is potential for personal invitation to events or services in the church?
Or perhaps you could invite a faith-based crafter to come and share with your group?
Or maybe a simple prayer tree in the corner, with the knowledge that the prayers are read each day at morning prayer?
Maybe a small note of encouragement to an individual would let them know they are seen and cared for?
Recognising the need of those we meet, perhaps who are on their own or limited in relationship with others, is an invitation to help fill that gap.
Whatever is right for your group and your church, it is easy to see the link between encouraging the flourishing of God-given, unique and creative gifts in others and the mission of the church.
God loves each of the members of our craft groups, how can we ensure they know that?
Two examples of groups in Durham Diocese:
St John The Evangelist, Darlington
With a focus on fellowship and friendship, a 50/50 mix of the community and church family enjoy a time together each week on a Tuesday, 3-4pm in the church hall.
There is always a hot cuppa and a biscuit or two (which seems to be the norm in most groups too!) as well as a lot of friendly chatter and laughter.
Also, if you fancy it, the handbell ringing group meets just beforeâ€¦ (Click here for details)
Christ Church, Lumley
â€œWe go to Walsingham every year and we go to the parish church on the Sunday because it is more like our own church â€“ home from home! We saw that that they have a â€˜knit and natterâ€™ group and we thought â€˜We could do thatâ€™. So we did.â€
The group started in June 2018 and meets every other Wednesday 1.30-3.30pm in the church.
As well as covering the church in wonderful knitted (or crocheted) red poppies for Remembrance Sunday, the group have spent time learning new skills from each other â€“ such as quilting.
Although they have not (yet) had many from outside the congregation joining them during the session, the group is full of wonderful individuals who have used the crafts in their mission as ways to extend invitations to the village. For example, including others in the making of the poppies and inviting them to the service, or to their Saturday morning coffee to see what is on display.