Prayer shawls and harps

Posted on April 22, 2010 by Franklin Ishida
Lyra Precaria students and their prayer shawls

Some of the Lyra Precaria students with their prayer shawls

Shame is a common human experience and the medicine is grace and unconditional love. ELCA missionary Carol Sack has taken some of the theological aspects of shame and has developed this into a framework for understanding healing as offered through Lyra Precaria, a program of pastoral harp supported by the Lutheran church in Japan.

“The word ‘shame’ has its roots in a word that means ‘to cover,'” says Carol. “The human phenomena of shame is that you feel ‘exposed’ and you intrinsically want to ‘cover’ yourself — to hide or veil, or wear a mask that makes you look on the outside not what you know yourself to be on the inside.”

Based on this, Carol offers Lyra Precaria students the image of the Prayer Shawl as a healing of shame. She then invites them to envision the music Lyra Precaria offers as a kind of swaddling blanket and prayer shawl to envelop people in the warmth of their belovedness in the eyes of God and other human beings.

[Lyra Precaria offers comfort for the sick and dying through harp and song. Many patients are in hospice care, even forgotten by society — something that became a theme of a film in Japan.]

Recently, one of the Sacks’ sponsoring congregations, St. Philip’s Lutheran Church, Fridley, Minn, sent prayer shawls for Lyra Precaria students. “They were thrilled,” Carol said, “and some of them have mentioned that they keep these prayer shawls with them by their pillow or whatever at all times. It is a powerful image for what we hope our music to be.”

Compiled by Y. Franklin Ishida, Director for Asia and the Pacific, ELCA Global Mission, from information provided by Carol Sack.