"Paper Crane Prayers": Plymouth congregation crafts 1123 origami birds for 1123 prayers

paper cranes Courtesy photo via Facebook At Christ Church in Plymouth, 1,123 paper cranes and swallows were folded by members of the congregation in time for Pentecost, each representing a single prayer.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Johnna Fredrickson, who serves as interim director of education at Christ Church in Plymouth, had been folding origami figures to use in and around church classrooms to note changes in learning themes, but when the pandemic forced churches to move worship and activities online, making prayer cranes made sense as a parishwide activity.

According to Fredrickson, the directions for paper cranes and swallows--along with an instructional video--were posted online, and members of the congregation were asked to write on origami paper the name of a person, situation or group that they wished to hold up in prayer and then fold it into a tangible symbol of that prayer.

The goal was to fold 1,000 paper cranes, an idea that came from Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and the traditional belief that 1,000 cranes folded brings good health. Starting at Easter and going until Pentecost, Christ Church members of all ages folded 1,123 paper cranes in all, which were strung together to form garlands to hang in the sanctuary.

"When all the origami swallows and cranes were placed, and I stepped back to see them, I was absolutely stunned by them," said Fredrickson in an e-mail. "So many people spent so much time in prayer, and so much effort to fold such beautiful symbols of those prayers - what a blessing."

Linda Ashcraft, a retired school teacher and member of Christ Church, helped to fold many of the cranes, having read the story of Sadako to her students over the years

"I was delighted to participate and particularly appreciated the emphasis on prayer," Ashcraft said in an e-mail. "Somehow, writing a person’s name on the origami paper made my prayer more concrete, more meaningful. Then, I shared pictures of the cranes with some of the people for whom I prayed: a COVID-19 patient (a nurse in a long term health facility); a neighbor starting dialysis; a friend whose daughter-in-law died suddenly, etc. All were most appreciative."

"The most special part was saying a prayer for someone or a special request, and then writing that inside the folds," Christ Church parishioner Debbie Hill said in an e-mail. "It was moving to think that those prayers were swirling around the sanctuary! The altar looked beautiful that Sunday, and I felt very connected to my church family in spite of watching the service from home."

--Bridget K. Wood