Thousands of scarves sent to support Old South Church's Boston Marathon Scarves Project
Written by Emily Schappacher
April 7, 2014

The Rev. John Edgerton, Old South Church associate minister, and the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister and CEO, stand next to more than 200 scarves for the Marathon Scarf Project.

From California to Maine – and even all the way from France, England and Germany – members and friends of the United Church of Christ sent hand-knitted scarves by the thousands to the steps of Boston's Old South Church UCC. From this outpouring of support, Old South Church has nearly 5,500 scarves to distribute to runners of this year's Boston Marathon during its Blessing of the Athletes services on April 20. Each scarf, knitted on behalf of the Marathon Scarf Project, will wrap runners in love, hope and prayers on the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, a day when love, hope and prayers will most certainly be needed.

"Originally, we had hoped for a few hundred," said the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Old South Church UCC. "This project has engendered an extraordinary abundance of friendships, good will, healing, and delight in each other and each other's creations. And, not least, knitters are talkers. As needles clip and scarves lengthen, they share their lives, their stories, their fears and hopes. Out of terror: beauty."

Posts on Old South Church's social media sites indicate that scarves were shipped from nearly every state in the U.S. Other denominations, including the Episcopal Church, the Methodists and the Baptists, participated as well. The number of scarves arriving at Old South Church grew rapidly every day – 75 scarves on March 14, 700 on March 27, 1,263 on March 31, 3,206 on April 3, to a grand total of 5,357 on Saturday, April 5, the project's soft deadline. Taylor still expects more scarves will arrive in the coming days.

Members of Old South Church and the Boston community were touched beyond words when a group of firefighters from Burlington, Mass., hand delivered scarves to the church on April 3 after attending memorial services for fellow firefighters Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh, Jr., who were killed fighting a fire in Boston's Back Bay area on March 26.

"They were in Boston grieving the deaths of their brothers. But before they left, they dropped off marathon scarves, still wearing their uniforms…words fail us," a post on Old South Church's Facebook page read.

Lynne Krehbiel-Breneman, member of St. Anthony Park UCC in St. Paul, Minn., with the scarves her church sent to support the Marathon Scarves Project.

Countless UCC churches participated in this initiative, inspired by the Synod Scarf Project, which encouraged UCC members to send handmade rainbow-colored scarves to General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif., as a stand against the bullying of LGBT youth. McFarland UCC in McFarland, Wis., UCC Stoughton, in Stoughton, Mass., Barrington Congregational Church UCC in Barrington, R.I., Immanuel UCC in Wright City, Mo., and First Congregational Church of Salem, in Salem, N.H., were just a few of the churches to contribute scarves to the cause.

Twelve people from St. Anthony Park UCC in St. Paul, Minn., knitted and sent 20 scarves to Old South Church. Led by children of the congregation wearing the scarves, the church conducted a blessing of the scarves on Sunday, March 30, during which they offered prayers of comfort and hope, wrapped in the promises of Easter, to the work of Old South Church and to the world.

"Until I read about the scarf project, I did not know of Old South's proximity to the finish line, nor was I aware of its rich tradition of blessing the runners," said Lynne Krehbiel-Breneman, member of St. Anthony Park UCC who coordinated her church's participation. "Being part of that ministry and offering our congregation a tangible way to connect, in love, with sadness and hope, particularly this anniversary year and on Easter, spoke to me. To give hope and to bring healing seemed important." 

The Marathon Scarf Project is one of several ways Old South Church will recognize the bombing's first anniversary. On April 8, the church conducted a memorial installation of the blue and gold banners that overlooked the marathon's finish line the day of the bombing, as well as the peace cranes that were delivered to Old South Church from Newtown (Conn.) Congregational Church in the bombing's aftermath. These items will be displayed until April 22. On April 15, the church will hold a service of Remembrance and Hope with music, prayers, readings and reflection.

Each scarf will be presented to a runner at Old South Church's annual Blessing of the Athletes during two services on Sunday, April 20, the day before the marathon, which also falls on Easter Sunday.

"Who knew that with skeins of wool and a lot of needles you could literally knit the world together?" Taylor said. "I didn't. But I am now a believer. I have come to believe in the power of wool and knitters."

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Ms. Emily Schappacher
Communications Specialist
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-2177
schappachere@ucc.org

Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-2196
larkmanc@ucc.org