adapted from this publicly shared resource:
A Service of Lament and Healing following the overturn of Roe vs. Wade
For God alone our soul in silence waits.
God is present in me, in us. Amen.
We gather in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, changing decades of settled law. We might be angry. We might be frightened. We might be confused. We might be numb.
We come together as a community in the wake of this shock. This is a place to hold all of these feelings, not to solve anything. This is a place to bring all of our feelings, all of our fears, a place to rest in a time of chaos, of cacophony. Not everything we say or pray or sing will be for everyone, for there are many people, many feelings, many convictions in this room. Rest in what is for you; let go of what is not.
In this time of fear and conflict, come, rest: whatever you feel, whatever you believe. Come, rest: whether you need to cry or to be silent or to cry out. Come, rest: with your fears and your worries.
This is a place, this is a time for lament. This is a time for reflection. This is a time for us to come together.
Hope will come. Action will come. Joy will come.
But for now, just be.
An Excerpt from A Liturgy of Longing by Sandra Maria Van Opstal, found in Sarah Bessey’s A Rhythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal; Convergent Publishing, 2021.
We believe you are at work bringing peace. True peace—flourishing, wholeness, and
well-being. We hear your words of truth and
know in our minds that you are: Lord, the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God,
mighty and awesome.
You show no partiality.
You defend the cause of the fatherless, motherless,
and the widow.
You love the stranger.
We believe and we feel overwhelmed—sometimes
it is hard to believe that you actually care about the injustice and suffering. When we don’t see
your work. When we sense the apathy from the church. When we feel small and forget that
we were designed to be different and to make things different.
When we feel overwhelmed by the darkness in the world—
the violence, injustice, poverty, oppression, abuse.
Give us hope not to be overcome.
Give us eyes to see your goodness for our world.
Give us the strength to hold the pain of injustice in
our world and faith that it will end.
Give us courage to be honest with ourselves about
why and how we are doing justice.
We believe. So. Empower us to disrupt our broken
thinking by learning truth from diverse leaders.
Enable us to discover the beauty of justice and
inspire action in others. Embolden us to display your
goodness in the world.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.
Psalm 69: 1-4, 16-18
1 Save me, O God, *
for the waters have risen up to my neck.
2 I am sinking in deep mire, *
and there is no firm ground for my feet.
3 I have come into deep waters, *
and the torrent washes over me.
4 I have grown weary with my crying; my throat is inflamed; *
my eyes have failed from looking for my God.
16 Save me from the mire; do not let me sink; * let me be rescued from those who hate me and out of the deep waters.
17 Let not the torrent of waters wash over me, neither let the deep swallow me up; *
do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.
18 Answer me, O God, for your love is kind; *
in your great compassion, turn to me.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my accuser.’ For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
Thanks be to God.
A time for small group reflection is held following the readings
An Affirmation of Faith:
A Profession of Faith by Sister Joan Chittister, OSB (modified)
We believe in God who made us all
and whose divinity infuses life with the sacred.
We believe in the multiple revelations of God,
alive in every human heart, expressed in every culture, found in all the wisdoms of the world.
We believe in Jesus, the Christ,
who leads us to the fullness of humanity,
to what we are meant to become.
Through Christ, we become new people,
called beyond the consequences of our brokenness, lifted to the fullness of life.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the breath of God on earth,
who keeps the Christ vision present to souls yet in darkness,
gives life to hearts now blind, infuses energy into spirits yet weary, isolated, searching and confused.
We believe in God who is life.
Amen to courage, to hope, to spirit of truth, to nature, to happiness, to wholeness, to the partnership of people in God’s plan, to the Christ who calls us beyond the boundaries of ourselves, to forgiveness, and to everything that stretches our hearts to the dimensions of God.
In all of this, we can surely believe, as God does.
A Litany Based on The Prayer of St. Francis
We pray for those who, near or far, are without peace. We pray for all who partner with those in need of reproductive health care as they seek and strive to honor the dignity of every human being. We remember physicians, nurses, spouses, partners, friends, and strangers alike: may there be a great network of love and support to meet the demands of the times that lay ahead. May we learn to walk with each other without judgment or shame, knowing that it is with action that peace is found.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
We pray for the hubris of humanity, that by acting legislatively, we assert that we can know the journey of another and deem it unworthy. We pray for an end to the dehumanization of those who claim autonomy of body and mind. May we be those who can love beyond our own needs and choices, knowing that it is within ourselves that we must first sow love if it is to grow through us.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
We pray for those who have already been shamed and belittled and caused harm by their choices to seek reproductive health care. We pray for those who have already been harmed by state legislation that limits education and access to safe care. We pray for those who, because of fear or shame, cannot gather with us now in community.
Where there is injury, pardon;
We confess, God, that we are a United Divided States. And we wish that we were in perfect harmony with you and with each other, and that pregnancy would only occur in situations of love, safety, perfect health, and to the benefit of mother, child, family, and community. But that is not so now. In our discord, may we find grace for each other. In our discord, may we offer supportive and caring companionship to each other. In our discord, may we find union with you, the God who loves us. May we be committed to union in the face of imperfect circumstances, imperfect relationships, and imperfect democracy.
Where there is discord, union;
We pray for an end to legal action, rhetoric and violent acts that target reproductive health care providers. We pray for the day when health care providers, women and their families, can exercise their rights to reproductive choice in security and peace. We pray for those who are not of the same mind regarding reproductive rights and choices, that all may be led to wise actions and safe choices. May our earthly faith, combined with the faith of the great cloud of witnesses, be strengthened to meet the days and demands that lay ahead.
Where there is doubt, faith;
We pray for those who are afraid, lost, and in the midst of turmoil of spirit and mind. We pray for those who lament the loss of bodily autonomy, for those who fear the loss of other civil rights, and for those who fear the unknown of the world ahead. We pray especially for all who will be disproportionately affected by a lack of reproductive rights, especially people who are Black, Indigenous, Asian, Brown, People of Color, trans and nonbinary. We pray for all who live in poverty, and for those who live in rural areas, who will also be disproportionately affected. May we be resolved in our commitment to hope, knowing that to hope in God is to never hope in vain.
Where there is despair, hope;
We pray for those who have died because they lacked access to safe health care. We pray for the loss of life yet to come from forced childbirth and illegal abortion. We pray for the continued assault on the respect, dignity, and citizenship of those in need of reproductive rights. May we remember that there is no darkness too dark for you, God, and that your presence is never-failing.
Where there is darkness, light;
We pray for the most vulnerable among us, especially the people and families who will be directly affected by this decision. May we remember and make sacrifices to care for all who will face economic hardship, hunger, and difficult choices because of this new ruling. We pray for those in grief and sorrow as they look to the future with dread and trembling. We pray for those who do not see the promise of hope and those for whom life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will never be realized. May we be comforters for those in sadness and bearers of joy for those who have none.
Where there is sadness, joy.
space is held for individual prayers, concluding with:
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.
As we go forth into what may feel to some like a new, strange and uncertain world,
may God make us instruments of God’s peace:
Where there is hatred, sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
God our Mother, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
A translation of this liturgy is available in Spanish by clicking here.
About this liturgy
This outline of a worship service was designed by a group of lay and clergy leaders within the Episcopal Church as a way for the church-at-large to respond to an anticipated overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. The service may be just one way you may choose to respond pastorally to those who will be affected by the overturn of this historic precedent.
Since 1967, The Episcopal Church has maintained its “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and to act upon them.” At the same time, we also recognize that issues surrounding family planning and reproductive health are complicated for many in the church, and we intentionally designed this liturgy so that all have space to be together in the presence of the Holy One in a time of grief, fear, confusion, hurt, and lament.
We offer this liturgy, then, as a gift to the wider church and religious communities, including our ecumencial and interfaith friends. We leave it as an intentionally “open” document so that faith leaders may adapt prayers to local customs or circumstances. (Especially in an interfaith setting, appropriate sacred texts representing all faith traditions will need to be included.) It is a starting point—a framework of options and ideas around which to build. We invite you to adapt it to your own setting and context in the hopes of being a voice of healing and hope.
Yours in Christ,
The Very Reverend Katie Churchwell, Dean, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Reverend Charlie Dupree, D.Min., Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia
The Very Reverend Gray Lesesne, D.Min., Dean, Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis
Ms. Yuri Rodridguez Laureani, Seminarian, University of the South at Sewanee
The Reverend Katie Nakamura Rengers, Staff Officer for Church Planting, Episcopal Church Center
The Reverend E. Suzanne Wille, Rector, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago, Illinois