When vacationing, Barbara Senft and her husband always seek out a United Church of Christ to attend during their trip. On a recent stay in Florida, the couple, members of St. Paul's UCC in Stoverstown, Pa., was welcomed at DeLand's New Hope UCC. Senft noticed information about the UCC's Synod Scarf Project printed on the back of the church bulletin, and found it coincidental that she was wearing one of her recently completed scarves around her neck. She took a few moments to talk about the project to New Hope's members who were not yet familiar with the initiative, and gave her scarf to the pastor before she left.
"It was what I call a God sighting," said Senft. "To be able to pass my scarf to her gave me a sense of the joy it will be for participants to take their scarves and give them to someone else at General Synod."
In a colorful, symbolic move to take a stand against bullying and violence, the UCC is collecting rainbow-colored scarves, knitted, woven or crocheted by people who want to join in and support the cause. The UCC is looking to collect 3,000 scarves in time for General Synod 2013, beginning June 28 in Long Beach, Calif. Each scarf will be given to an attendee who pledges to take action against bullying and other types of violence. Whether it's writing to their senators, working with school administrators, or addressing violent behavior when they see it, each scarf recipient will do their part to put an end to America's violence and bullying epidemic.
Senft's congregation is just one of many that have joined the movement. Senft leads St. Paul's Sharing Yarn Ministry, which has about 10 members. As the former president of the UCC's York Association, Senft also spread the word to the association's 29 member churches, the majority of which are also participating, she said. The group collected 178 scarves at its November meeting, and Senft has personally made 25 so far, using different patterns and types of yarn she hopes will appeal to various age groups.
"We are just going to keep making them until we run out of time," Senft said.
St. Paul's UCC in Westminster, Md., is also making scarves for the project. Lucy Brady, pastor for children and youth ministry, leads the congregation's prayer shawl ministry, Sacred Threads. The group's seven regular members have already completed about 20 scarves and have a goal to finish at least 100. Brady said the congregation has used the project to address the topic of bullying during Sunday school. A few children have since spoken out about being bullied, and Brady was able to alert one child's parents, who were not aware their child was being picked on daily at school.
"Bullying is here, at all levels," Brady said. "One of the benefits of this project is opening the conversation, talking with kids, and letting them know they are not alone."
Carolyn Ulrich's prayer shawl group at First Congregational Church UCC in Hutchinson, Minn., has also begun churning out scarves for Synod. After having its first meeting about the project last week, the smaller group of about five knitters and crocheters hopes to make 20 scarves by June. With few yarn shops in the area, Ulrich, a self-proclaimed "yarn snob," said she's had some difficulty finding yarn she likes, and even drove an hour to a shop in Buffalo, Minn., to get some of higher quality. But once the group finds the right supplies and really gets started, Ulrich thinks things will move quickly and more people will come on board.
"It's new yet," said Ulrich. "I'm hoping as we talk it up more, people will come to the front with it."
Senft agrees that word of mouth and social media will help generate awareness and participation for the project and its worthy cause as the countdown to Synod begins.
"We feel like those of us who are aware of the project have been slowly fanning those embers and the fire will keep spreading," Senft said of getting the word out. "We are really excited about that."
Scarves should be colorful, vibrant, and full of love and hope, measuring 4 to 6 inches wide and 60 inches long. Knitters, crocheters and weavers should send their completed scarves to arrive no later than June 14, 2013 to:
The Scarf Project
c/o UCC Southern California Nevada Conference
2401 N. Lake Avenue
Altadena, CA 91001-2418
For project participants who are attending General Synod, scarves can also be dropped off at the booth of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns in the exhibition hall. Please fill out and include this form with all shipments.
Learn more about the Scarf Project on Facebook.