(Another story in our series featuring the life-giving work of Affirming ministries.) For the past four years, First-St. Andrew’s United Church in London, Ontario has been in partnership with the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC) for some of their outreach projects. One of these projects has involved our Knit Wit group knitting red scarves for RHAC’s public awareness program.
We have joined with knitters from all over Southwestern Ontario who supply red scarves to the agency each year. This campaign has steadily grown from 500 scarves in the first year to over 1730 donated scarves in 2016! The scarves are labelled with information about ending transmission of AIDS, fighting stigma and discrimination of the disease, and how to contact the agency.
During AIDS Awareness Week at the end of November, the scarves are passed out to shoppers in London’s downtown core and put up as decorations on fences and lamp posts. Any remaining scarves are given to clients of RHAC throughout the winter. Two years ago, one member of the Knit Wit group, Pat Sole, knit a five-foot long red scarf that has been used for publicity photographs around town.
For the last two years, our minister, Rev. Michelle Down, has invited the coordinator of the Red Scarf Project, Martin McIntosh, to attend our service to be part of blessing them. The scarves are artfully draped all around the Chancel. During the last hymn, members of the congregation who want to stand in solidarity with those who are working to end AIDS are invited to come forward and place a scarf around their necks. After blessing the scarves and Martin McIntosh for the important work that he does, Rev. Down then invites the congregation to present the scarves to Martin to take them out into the world with our love.
This simple yet moving ceremony expresses the loving kindness that our congregation hopes to transmit to people who are dealing with HIV/AIDS.