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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access October 14, 2016

Race and Responses to Violence in Prayer Shawl Ministries

  • Donna Bowman
From the journal Open Theology


Prayer shawl ministries, overwhelmingly led and staffed by women, aim to give comfort to the bereaved. Shawl makers often want to respond to communal tragedy and grief such as mass shootings. This case study uses qualitative interviews with shawl makers from white and African-American ministry groups, placing their statements in the context of benevolent handwork, disaster response, and the culture of mass shootings. The ordinary theology of shawl makers is forged in a “chronic mode,” responding to individual instances of grief in the ministry’s neighborhood. “Crisis mode” operations, where shawls are part of multifaceted mobilization efforts to bring relief to a large number of victims, may clarify, test, extend, or alter these meanings. White shawl makers were appalled at the suffering inflicted by the Sandy Hook school shooting and took pride in their ability to make a difference, while black shawl makers were guided by concerns about discipline, process, and preservation of community. These results suggest that perceptions of normalcy influence the response of caretaking ministries to violence and trauma, revealing a distinction between restorative efforts and the development of resilience.


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Received: 2016-6-30
Accepted: 2016-9-22
Published Online: 2016-10-14

©2016 Donna Bowman

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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