On a recent trip to Lancaster, located in the north west of England, I visited the cathedral. It sits atop a hill with a view towards Morecambe Bay. It was a winter day and the warmth of the cathedral was a reprieve from the biting wind. I entered into the building and was struck by the colourful stained-glass windows that were a contrast to the grey clouds outside. The sounds of the organ being tuned were a joyful accompaniment as I looked around.
Whenever I am in a cathedral, I look for candles and a place to offer a prayer. Towards the back of the cathedral I came upon a delightful discovery – a Parish Weave (pictured below). On a table beside it, there were strips of paper for people to write a request for prayer. After writing their request, they could fold it and place it within the woven fabric. The Parish Weave was colourful made of red, blue, green and yellow material and different coloured buttons. I wrote a prayer request down and placed it within the weave.
Recently, as part of this project, we have been thinking about the ‘materiality of prayer’. In what ways, does the material facilitate prayer in clinical spaces of healthcare? Often, it can be an artefact such as wooden Catholic Rosary beads, a red, yellow or white prayer ribbon, the giving of the Eucharist (i.e., bread and wine), a vibrant green plant, yellow and pink flowers, a painting of a landscape, or a deep red, blue and green prayer mat. Such objects play a part in making and sustaining a life-world including those religious, nonreligious and spiritual (Morgan 2016). The material can be a way in which one connects to another, whether an ancestor, life force or divine entity. The Parish Weave was all of these things, a material, social and sacred object. In the spaces of healthcare, we found material objects placed within formal sacred spaces or by bedsides, along corridors or in communal spaces could help patients, family and staff to feel connected to others and a part of something bigger than themselves, especially during times of recovery, desolation or distress.
As I placed my prayer request within the weave of the strips of fabric, I felt connected to others who had done the same, those that would read my request and pray for me and the life force that would (hopefully) hear it too. The material assisted in bringing forth my prayer, as I could see there was space for it/me within the inter-laced cloth. The Parish Weave was a representation of inclusivity and placed there for all to be woven in.
Morgan, D. (2016). Introduction: Material analysis and the study of religion. In Hutchings, T. and McKenzie, J. (eds) Materiality and the study of religion: The stuff of the sacred, 1st Edition, pp. 14-32. Abingdon: Routledge.