General Conference delegates covered in prayer
By Linda S. Rhodes, director of Communications
Dot Ivey and Kirk Nave wear prayer mantles.
During the opening worship service at General Conference, all 988 voting delegates from around the world were asked to drape around their necks silk prayer mantles given to them by the Prayer Support Ministry Team and Florida Conference Host Committee.
In coordination with worship themes focusing on “Discipleship by the sea” that use visual symbols relating to water, the prayer mantles are all varying shades of dappled blue and green with patterns resembling drops of water.
The prayer mantles were made by United Methodist volunteers – women, men, boys and girls -- in all five jurisdictions of the U.S. The volunteers prayed for the delegates as they hand made each prayer mantle to serve as a physical reminder that the delegates are covered in prayer as they do the work of holy conferencing.
The Rev. Tom Albin, co-chair of the Prayer Support Team and dean of The Upper Room Ministries and Ecumenical Relations of the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) and Joyce Estes, silk artist who designed the mantles, traveled around the country and taught the volunteers how to make the prayer mantles.
“There are three different colors in here that represent the colors of the ocean,” said the Rev. Karen Nelson, pastor of Faith UMC in Troutdale, Ore., outside of Portland, and one of the volunteers who made the mantles. She said each mantle started as a plain white, 100% silk scarf. Each scarf was laid on a piece of white butcher paper and painted using a sponge brush and fabric paints in the three colors –about a third of the scarf for each color.
Rhonda VanDyke Colby puts on her prayer mantle.
“While you painted, you prayed,” Nelson said, “as much in an attitude of listening as in an attitude of talking. You let images of those who would be receiving these scarves come to mind as you prayed over them.”
After each scarf was painted, it was spread out and salt was sprinkled on it. The salt created a chemical reaction with the paints resulting in the water droplet pattern on the prayer mantles.
Nelson said some volunteers said they felt that sprinkling the salt on the silk was like sprinkling blessings on the recipients.
Throughout the conference, United Methodists are continuing to pray for the delegates. In some places, prayer vigils are being held 24 hours a day for the entire 11 days General Conference is in session.
In a Prayer Room in the Tampa Convention Center Tampa, prayer volunteers and trained spiritual directors are available to meet with delegates, staff members or participants who need someone to provide spiritual guidance and direction or to help them in their discernment process. Three prayer stations are also located throughout the center.