The Mary Hannah Circle of the United Methodist Women at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Fort Payne started a ministry of crafting Protestant prayer beads for members and friends of the church and the Fort Payne community who they thought needed a reminder that people are praying for them. Katie Poe, a reporter with the local paper the Times-Journal, wrote an article about this new ministry. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in other publications across the country. That’s when requests began to come from Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Tallahassee, Florida. Individuals in many different places now request the ladies make a set of beads for their loved ones. So, the ladies of Mary Hannah Circle do.
Connie Phillips, the originator of the prayer beads project, told the Times-Journal reporter, “A lot of churches give prayer shawls or blankets, but this is what we do.”
Phillips first got the idea for the prayer bead project after seeing an advertisement. To being the women ordered a few kits to see what was involved in creating the beads. They also relied on the book A Bead and a Prayer by Kristen E. Vincent, available at bookstore.upperroom.org. Vincent encourages readers to be creative and make their own beads, so the ladies of St. Paul UMC began to gather supplies. They created 25 sets at their first gathering and 40 at their second. The ministry continued to grow from there.
The Protestant Prayer Bead sets include a cross and different types of beads – each with different meaning such as representing an invitation to prayer, symbolizing the resurrection, the four Gospels, or the number of days in a week, etc. Each set contain 33 beads denoting the number of years Jesus lived on earth plus a resurrection bead. Phillips notes that the beads are meant to be a tool to help people enhance their times of prayer and that there is “no wrong way to use them.”
Now when the women have crafted a large number of prayer beads, St. Paul UMC Pastor Rev. Darrell Morgan lays them on the church’s altar. The congregation then lays hands on them and prays for each set and for the person who will receive the beads to know God’s healing and comforting power. He explains, “It is truly a church blessing being sent out.”
Rev. Morgan adds that he is proud of the ministry the ladies have created and how it has grown to be a blessing for so many. “It is nice to know that this humble ministry is affecting lives of people we will never meet and who need intercessory prayer and the comfort that comes with it.”
Phillips explained to the Times-Journal reporter that the women of the church enjoy assembling the beads and enjoy the time they have together making them. She adds, “We just felt like prayer is important in our lives and helps get you through the good and bad.”