Chris Crowder explains how Knit and Natter in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, has become much more than a group for people who enjoy knitting.
We are now coming to the end of our fourth year and it seems hard to imagine that at the beginning we were nervous of introducing a spiritual element into our meetings. We talked of asking people if they'd like to come into Church after the group had finished for a short devotional time, we didn’t know how to introduce topics of spirituality and so on but - from the first meeting - it was obvious the members would welcome prayers said within group for the people they loved and the spirituality has grown naturally and is now inherent in every meeting.
Knit and Natter is Church - God's people all gathered together in one place doing God's work: caring for others by producing warm clothes for the needy, whether they be the homeless person on the streets of Liverpool or an abandoned child in Swaziland or a patient in the leprosy hospital in Nepal, and caring for each other as we get to know one another better through conversation.
Our meetings are relaxed and friendly – there is no formality. Our liturgy follows a similar pattern every week: knitting (some!) conversation (lots), tea and cake, perhaps some more knitting and lots more conversation, and then prayers for those we know are in need (a list is passed around during group) and finally the Lord's Prayer.
Members (there is now an average of 35 attending every week) come from all denominations and backgrounds; most of our group are over 60, but occasionally young mums call in with their children and feel at home in the warm family atmosphere that is generated. Members feel wanted, useful and loved and those that are depressed, or lonely, or bereaved can share their problems in a loving, caring environment.
This year we have sent off many kilograms of jumpers hats and mitts across the world, we have made piles of baby clothes for local hospitals and knee blankets and shawls for hospices. A member of our group accompanied Anna Briggs of Liverpool to Norway with the shawls she had collected from all over England to give to those affected by the Utoya massacre in July 2011.
We have also knitted hats, mitts and jumpers for all 29 children in the Sandra Lee Centre in Swaziland and we hope many people will consider sponsorship of a child there.
In January, for the third year in succession, we had a very successful Knit and Natter service at which the speaker was the Rev Ian Hu from Somewhere Else (the 'bread church' in Liverpool). The retiring collection was given to Ian towards his work and also, during the service, a scarf was completed by the congregation which was given by Ian to one of his members - along with a hat and gloves.
In May, we had a stall at a Diamond Jubilee Street Party and decided to use this opportunity not just to promote Knit and Natter, but also to raise monies for postage by selling vintage knitted items, such as covered coat hangers, hot water bottle covers, tea cosies etc as well as toys and bric-a-brac. We also had a pile of Jubilee Edition New Testaments marked 'free of charge' to anyone who wanted one. An hour before the end of the Street Party everything was gone and we had raised nearly £200 towards postage!
Some time ago, one of our founder members mentioned that she had never been baptised: she is now 82. On 26th June we put that right: through Knit and Natter Sibby made her wish known. She found a way into the Church and in the presence of her family, church and Knit and Natter members - in a glorious celebration within the group - she was welcomed into the family of the Church by Deacon Judith Ireland.
We have now finished for the summer break (during which time the members will all be knitting furiously). We are sure the table containing their work will be groaning under the weight of work on the first day back in September. Our last day coincided with the arrival of an Olympic torch which had been carried through Chester by a young lady who used to attend our Sunday School – what a glorious way to finish a magnificent year!