Dozens of women gathered Tuesday night at Christ United Methodist Church in Chattanooga to make prayer beads and learn how to use them.
Unlike their Catholic or Greek counterparts, the bead strings discussed are distinct and part of the Anglican tradition.
Cathy Robbs Baker, the church's director of education, led a soldout crowd of 100 women through the history of the beads and assembly. She said prayer can often be difficult for people, and having a set of beads to guide their prayers, or at least remind them to pray, can be helpful.
"Even if I'm not touching it, I see it," she said. " ... They're a visual reminder to pray. Then, I can touch it to pray."
Anglican prayer beads were developed in the 20th century and have moved from the Anglican tradition — developed by the Church of England — to other Christian denominations, such as the Methodists. The Anglican bead string has 33 or 34 beads, unlike the Catholic rosary, which has around 60 beads. Praying with the Anglican beads typically involves assigning a prayer or intention for each bead or set of beads around the loop.
Lori Heath had never heard of prayer beads for Protestants before the event. She said she was interested in having something to keep her focused during her prayers and stop her mind from racing between thoughts.
"In the busy world that we live in, there are so many distractions," Heath said. "This will be a tool, to have something to hold and something to stay focused."
Sara DiRuscio also wanted to learn about the Protestant tradition of using prayer beads. Her husband grew up Catholic, she said, so when she heard about the event she assumed the group was making rosaries.
Assigning a purpose or prayer to each bead will help bring more intention to her prayer, DiRuscio said.
"A lot of times, life will give you something and you don't know how to think about it," she said. "So it's good to have something [to help]."
At the end of the session, Baker led the group through several prayers for help with anxious thoughts, family and confession. Baker emphasized to the audience that the beads were a way to engage in faith and not holy by themselves. They are only a reminder, she said.
"These is no magic or power in these beads," she said. " ... The power is in the prayer."