Sanctity of Human Life Sunday Worship Resources

 

The third Sunday in January is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) is pleased to offer resources for your church to honor the day. While this is not an official event on our denomination’s calendar, synod has encouraged Christian Reformed churches to commemorate the day’s significance (Synod 1981 and Synod 1995). OSJ would like to help churches commemorate the sanctity of human life in ways that are sensitive and mindful of the impact abortion has on society, our churches, and members of our congregations.

We have developed materials to observe the day in a way that we hope affirms the value of every human life--and at all stages of development. We encourage you and other leaders in your congregation to commemorate the day in ways that are sensitive to those in the pews who have been hurt by abortion--both women and men, those who chose abortion and those who had no choice. We hope to avoid rhetoric that wounds or is politically partisan and would encourage you to do the same.

 

Eloise's Story

Eloise Blaire Kuiper was born at 25 and a half weeks gestation, weighing just 1lb, 1 oz. She spent her 31 days of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, specifically in the Small Baby Unit. The Small Baby Unit is designed to meet the medically complex needs of babies born at 27 weeks gestation or under. These babies are known as micro-preemies.

After 31 beautiful days of life, Eloise went to be with Jesus. Though her life was filled with many ups and downs, she brought great joy and hope to many. All God’s children are fearfully and wonderfully made, and Eloise was no exception. In her short time on earth, Eloise touched the lives of many, teaching about the value of every life created in God’s image, no matter how fragile or small.

Though their time with Eloise was much too short, Eloise’s parents, Angelyn and Michael, discovered that in life’s most vulnerable moments, in Christ, we can find hope. Below are excerpts from the reflections that they shared with the people that were praying for their family:

“It's been a week since our Eloise went to be with Jesus, and we wanted to thank all of you for your prayers, cards, and support this past week. As you might imagine, it was the darkest week of our lives. It's hard to even put into words the pain we've felt and the variety of emotions that come with that pain--despair, hopelessness, guilt, anger. During my pregnancy and her month of life with us, we thought about and spoke about the hopes and dreams we had for Eloise...We imagined the pure joy we'd feel buckling her into her car seat and finally bringing her home. We imagined how it would feel to watch her grow up and someday tell her about her beginnings. But, God's plan is not always the plan we envision...

While we have such painful memories of that morning [when Eloise went to be with the Lord], we also are so grateful for the medical staff and their dedication to Eloise's health. They worked so hard that morning in taking care of her, and we're forever grateful for the 31 beautiful days they helped give us. We had the amazing opportunity to get to know our daughter and love her more each day. We'll always have beautiful memories of our time spent with her in the Small Baby Unit and the relationships we established with her doctors and nurses.

We know the pain we feel will follow us the rest of our lives, and it's hard to try to move forward knowing that we're always going to have a massive hole in our hearts no matter how much joy we have in other areas of our life. We do have hope, but it's hard to hold onto that hope and God's promises when our grief so consumes us right now.

Someday we'll be reunited with our baby girl, and what a joyous day that will be! Heaven can't come soon enough.”

Angelyn and Michael hope that Eloise’s story touches others and helps spread the truth that life is both valuable and beautiful at all stages.

You can read more of Eloise’s story by visiting her carepage, found here.

 

Statistics

This Sunday, as we honor the Sanctity of Human Life, we grieve with those who are grieving the loss of a child. The numbers are staggering:

  • One million children die as the result of preterm birth around the globe every year. Many of these deaths, especially in vulnerable communities, can be prevented through community-based maternal and child health and nutrition programs.
  • Preterm birth is a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children.
  • The U.S. and Canada have the highest rates of infant mortality among nations in the industrialized world.
  • Infant mortality among children born to African American women with college degrees is three times higher than among those born to white women with college degrees in the United States. Sociologists point to the stress of racism as a primary cause of these deaths.
  • And these numbers do not include the more than one million lives lost to abortion in the United States and Canada every year.

 

Giving

We encourage congregations to take an offering for a ministry working to protect the sanctity of vulnerable human lives. We recommend that you support local, national, or international ministries doing such work. If you'd like assistance selecting a ministry in your region, email us at osjha@crcna.org. Here are a few organizations based in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

If you are so moved, we ask that donations in 2017 be made in memory of Eloise Kuiper, whose story is featured on our bulletin inserts.

 

Planning Worship Resources

Texts

Psalm 22

Isaiah 49

Romans 8

 

Songs and Hymns from Lift Up Your Hearts

23     Children of the Heavenly Father

236     Praise the Spirit in Creation

269     All Are Welcome

402     Lord, Show Me How to Count My Days

 

Prayer of Lament

[Download prayer as a PDF here]

God of heaven and earth,

you create every human life in your image.

You knit us with care and sustain us each day.

You shower us with gifts and look on us with pride.

You alone are the source of every good thing.

You are our strength, our courage, and our hope.

 

Lord, we lament for a world that does not recognize the value of every life,

whether born or preborn.

We cry out to you on behalf of the lives lost each day through abortion.

We grieve with those who grieve the loss of children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

 

Lord, we lift up in prayer to you those who need you most:

 

For those, even Christians, who believe the lie of culture

that life is only as valuable as its capabilities or resources,

we ask for you to soften hearts and reveal your truth.

 

For the many, many women who want to keep their unborn children

but cannot see any possible options for doing so,

we pray for support, encouragement,

and for sisters and brothers in Christ to rise up and meet their needs.

 

For women told lies about the impact that choosing abortion will have,

and for women who are told they have no choice, Lord, we ask for clarity and courage.

 

For men who will never know or hold their child,

and are left to wonder “what if,” we pray for comfort and strength.

 

For women whose bodies have been damaged,

some even to the point of death, by an abortion, Lord, we pray for healing.

 

For countries where policies restrict the number of children that can be born

or devalue the lives of women to the point that abortion is forced upon them,

particularly when they are carrying a daughter,

we pray for your hand to move to change unjust laws, to protect women at risk,

and to raise up a generation that will call on your name.

Surely, your arm is not too short to save!

 

Lord, forgive us for being parts of nations whose policies promote access to abortion

more readily than access to food for children living in poverty.

Open our eyes to recognize your face in the most vulnerable

and to offer the gifts you have freely given us to them with ready and generous hearts.

 

Mighty God, we cling to your promises—

for justice to be fulfilled,

for your grace to be made known,

and for your peace to rule in hearts and minds and lives.

 

Help us to live out the vision you have given us for life in this world.

Give us the will and the courage to put the lives of others before our own

and to advocate on their behalf,

to sacrifice where necessary and to serve where needed.

Responsive Reading

[Download reading as a PDF here]

O love that will not let us go,

we rest our weary souls in thee,

though we sin, fail, hurt, and destroy,

you will not let us go.

Though we kill, impoverish, steal, rape, abort, and enslave,

you will not let us go.

Though we judge, silence, forget, ignore, and harm,

you will not let us go.

Though we fail to see the sanctity of life every day, in a million ways,

you will not let us go.

O light that follows all our ways,

we yield our flickering torch to thee.

You know the pain that follows those who have had abortions.

Your light follows all our ways.

You know the weight of bearing a child who is unplanned.

Your light follows all our ways.

You know the shock of discovering birth defects and disease.

Your light follows all our ways.

You know the trauma of rape and incest.

Your light follows all our ways.

 

O joy that seeks us through pain,

we cannot close our hearts to thee.

We lift up political leaders, whose decisions can change our laws.

We cannot close our hearts to thee.

We lift up health care providers, whose care can harm and can save.

We cannot close our hearts to thee.

We lift up congregations, whose grace can rescue and whose judgment can destroy.

We cannot close our hearts to thee.

We lift up sexuality, which can reveal deep vulnerability and belonging, or deep pain.

We cannot close our hearts to thee.

We lift up women, who can find strength and healing in you.

 

O cross that lifts up our heads,

we dare not ask to fly from thee.

In you we live, move, and have our being.

You lift up our heads.

You are the author of life.

You lift up our heads.

You created us in your very image.

You lift up our heads.

You knit us together in our mother’s wombs; we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

You lift up our heads.

All of life is a gift, and all of life is sacred. We offer our lives, our holy and sacred lives, to you.

Amen.

 

Free Bulletin Inserts

These bulletin inserts are available for your church to use during Sunday worship. The picture above is the back side of the bulletin insert. Order them from the Faith Alive website here. The deadline for ordering bulletin inserts is December 19. 

You can also order last year's bulletin inserts from Faith Alive here.

 

Things to Remember as You Plan

  • Statistically, it is highly likely that there are post-abortive women and men in your congregation.
  • Some women were forced to have abortions against their will.
  • Adoption was used as a tool in colonization and can still carry cultural baggage. While adoption is a wonderful option for many, it is not a culturally acceptable option for all women.
  • Many women choose abortion because they truly believe it to be critical to their survival. Economic hardship, lack of family or relational support, and work or educational responsibilities are the top determining factors for women who choose abortion.
  • Abortion has global effects, particularly in terms of gender selection and disability.
  • The CRC is blessed with many passionate advocates for life. If someone will be speaking to your congregation, seek to ensure that passion is tempered with sensitivity to the variety of experiences (like post-abortive men and women, families grieving miscarriages, couples struggling with infertility, women who have released children for adoption, and adoptive parents) represented by the people in your pews.
  • The Monday after Sancity of Human Life Sunday is the day when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is honored in the United States. There has been a historical connection between racism and abortion in the United States. Help your congregation connect the dots between the value of every human life and the dream that Dr. King worked to make a reality. 

 

Other Education Resources

God’s gift of life multiplies. We’ve taken that gift for granted. Abortion happens for a variety of reasons, rooted in humanity’s disregard for the value of life.

The statistics from around the world are staggering, but so are those close to home. One in three American women and nearly one in three Canadian women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion hurts women, but our culture seeks to normalize its practice. Abortion in the U.S. has deeply racist roots, but conversations in North America remain largely ignorant of these facts.

 

The Church Speaks

There are three important CRC synodical studies and statements on abortion, family planning, and life issues that may be helpful as we educate ourselves and become active in preventing abortions and nurturing life. Learn more about what the CRC has said about abortion.