Several months ago, I had an idea to create A Memorial Service for Aborted Children. In recently piloting it at a church in BC, I saw over 100 people flock to the church to honor and remember aborted children. This experience taught me that everyone has a story, and many are suffering silently. One person had, decades before, paid for an abortion. Another person’s mother had almost been aborted. Another person tried to dissuade someone from supporting a friend’s abortion—and failed. The stories go on, showing that while some have directly had abortions, all have been touched by abortion in some way. A memorial is a way of responding to these experiences. As one attendee said afterwards, “I’ve experienced a healing, and will sleep better tonight than I have in years.”
This event was extremely low cost, did not involve much work, and was hugely powerful. So if you’re interested in the simple steps to put on this life-changing event, consider yourself the leader who will follow what’s below and take charge of overseeing and delegating. This blog entry is designed to make it as easy as possible for this event to be replicated around the world. Besides you as leader and MC of the event, the main people you need to enlist to help you are as follows: a pastor, a church secretary, musicians, a sound person, a post-abortive woman (and/or man) to give a testimony, and a few counselors/prayer persons.
Here are the steps to take:
1. Read the document “A Memorial Service for Aborted Children: The Idea Explained.” Be sure to share this document with the planning team you develop below.
2. Consult your pastor to get “buy in” and select a date and time that works for him and your church. The service runs for approximately 1 hour and he will need to prepare a sermon of maximum 10 minutes (on the theme of memorializing the aborted and healing for the wounded), open and close the service in prayer, and select a Bible passage to read.
3. Book musicians. Ask your church’s worship team or 2-3 people to lead the music for the event. Find out what instruments, cables, etc., they require you to arrange for at the church (although ideally this would be primarily handled by the musicians themselves). We had two singers who harmonized and used one instrument (a piano) and it was hauntingly powerful; numerous attendees raved about the music. Of course, the musicians were extremely talented (led by Kathleen LeBlanc of “A Guy and a Girl”), but the point is sometimes less is more.
4. Book a person to ensure proper audio set up and the presence of all required microphones, cables, instruments, and other technology required by the musicians and for the whole service and confirm they will arrive early to work with the musicians to set this up.
5. Select songs. Ask the musicians to select 7-8 songs and provide lyrics to you. You can provide input. Songs should be chosen that are reflective and highlight mercy, as well as fitting for a funeral/memorial. When we piloted this event, we chose songs for the beginning and end that all attendees would likely know. As the service progressed, songs chosen were “less known” and primarily sung by the musicians to correspond with the service becoming more reflective and contemplative for attendees. See sample song choices here.
6. Book someone to give a post-abortive testimony. For our pilot of this in Maple Ridge, BC, we chose Elizabeth Sutcliffe of Silent No More Awareness Canada who gave an extremely powerful testimony. The testimony should last no more than 15 minutes, with 10 being ideal.
7. Book counselors/prayer team persons to be present at the memorial should attendees wish to speak with one afterwards. If the event is held at a Catholic church, book a priest or two to hold confession following the memorial as well. The counselors should be the welcoming committee to hand out the programs upon peoples’ arrival so that there is face-recognition when they are introduced later on (the role they play is announced by the MC in the closing remarks, which are in the MC’s detailed notes here).
8. Book reception hosts. At our pilot event, the youth group and their families took on the responsibility to organize all food and drinks as well as the set-up and clean-up of a reception for after the memorial.
9. Book a little boy and little girl (between the ages of 5 and 10) to be dressed in “Sunday best” and walk up the aisle, holding flowers, with the priest/pastor at the beginning. This is explained in the MC’s detailed notes which can be viewed here.
10. Promote! Promote! Promote!
a. Create, or work with your church secretary to create, a large poster that can be printed to be placed at your church and other churches within your geographic area. Deliver these to other churches 3 weeks ahead of time. See sample poster file here.
b. Write a sample bulletin announcement and have your church secretary put it in each weekly bulletin 4-6 weeks ahead of the event. See sample bulletin announcement here.
c. Set up a public Facebook event page and invite your friends, and have the other event helpers invite their friends. Share the FB event every week until the event (with an extra reminder the morning of) as well as write reminder posts in the event page itself. See sample FB event here.
d. Contact your local religious newspaper to see if they will do a story about the event so it’s printed 2 weeks before the event. See actual newspaper coverage here.
e. Have your pastor or priest preach on abortion at all weekend services/masses a Sunday before the event. See an actual sermon preached before a memorial here. See a document for ideas for pro-life sermons here.
f. You make an announcement at the end of each service/mass about the memorial the Sunday that your pastor would have preached on abortion. See sample announcement here.
11. Prepare program and ask the church secretary to print out sufficient numbers (we printed 150 the first time and had approximately 120 attendees). To see our program click here.
12. Items you need to gather for the night-of (ideally your church will already have them) and arrive early to lay out:
a. Tea-light candles: arrange these along the front of the church. (We laid out 200 across the communion rail.) Have a starter candle lit and wood sticks for when people need to light.
b. Pens and paper: distribute these throughout the pews/chairs.
c. Buy flowers: we bought two packages of red and white carnations.
d. A vase at the front for the flowers.
e. Name tags for the counselors/prayer persons to wear.
f. The printed programs for attendees.
13. Have your MC notes ready—click here to read the ones from our pilot event.
If everyone committed to a role above arrives early and is prepared to fulfill their responsibility, the event goes very smoothly. Ours did, and was an extremely beautiful and touching evening that attendees described as powerful, moving, and needed! If you do this, please send me your feedback and testimonies about how the event went.
Note: It is common at an event remembering pre-born children lost to abortion, for those affected by miscarriage to be reminded of their own loss of pre-born children too. This is natural and understandable because of the similar age of the children lost; the memorial, however, does not formally address miscarriage because there is a substantively different nature between miscarriage and abortion. In the former the children die naturally whereas in the latter, their lives are purposefully destroyed. So while I encourage remembering and memorializing miscarried children for proper honoring and healing, I recommend doing so in a different service from one remembering children unjustly killed. A different but powerful program can be read about here and here. Moreover, at the time of miscarriage one could also do a funeral and even a burial.