Ecumenical service held as nation prepared to mark the 43rd anniversary of landmark Roe v. Wade decision
By Bill Brewer
Pro-life supporters from Blount County gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa Jan. 12 for a celebration of life and remembrance service as the nation prepared to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.
The ecumenical service in Alcoa featured speakers from different faiths who spoke on the need to protect life at all stages, especially the unborn.
Speakers included Deb Maupin, an Our Lady of Fatima parishioner who heads the Blount County chapter of Tennessee Right to Life, Rev. Dr. Willa Estell of St. Paul AME Zion Church in Maryville, Deacon Bill Jacobs, who serves at Our Lady of Fatima, Valerie Millsapps, who is executive director of the Pregnancy Resource Center in Blount County, Pastor Derek Roberts of Praise Lutheran Church in Maryville, and Lisa Morris, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Cathedral who also is a co-director of the Diocese of Knoxville’s 40 Days for Life vigil.
Mrs. Maupin and Our Lady of Fatima organized the service.
In her opening prayer, Dr. Estell asked God to give everyone the wisdom and courage to stand up for the things that please God, such as defending the unborn.
Deacon Jacobs then cited Scripture to begin his reflection on post-abortion healing, recounting the woman caught in adultery in John 8:2-11. When confronted by scribes and Pharisees and challenged to condemn her to stoning,
Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
“Like the prospective stone-throwers in the Gospel passage, the realization of the error and sin of abortion can come to a woman slowly. … Women who are suffering after abortion can feel very much alone. … Their grieving might be unrelenting. They may not know where to turn,” Deacon Jacobs said. “As loving faith communities, we must first reassure these women that they are absolutely not alone.”
Deacon Jacobs spoke of programs in the community to assist women dealing with post-abortion issues, such as faith-based counseling and support groups.
“As with any healing of past hurts, a woman who seeks healing from an abortion will probably feel worse before she feels better. … The caring support of a counselor and the Christian community can be invaluable,” he said. “Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.’”
Deacon Jacobs’ remarks were just part of a program to recognize the victims of abortion, from mothers and fathers to the unborn children who have been aborted.
“All of us should be encouraged to see such a gathering of Blount County Christians, across the spectrum, all united in a common desire. That desire is to preserve the precious gift of life in all its forms,” Deacon Jacobs said.
The celebration of life and remembrance service attracted more than 50 women, men, and children, who demonstrated their pro-life stances in prayer, song, and acclamation, including placing carnations in an outdoor cradle that is part of a memorial to unborn children.
“We live in such a society where awareness of sin is suppressed and the delineation of right and wrong is blurred. However, it is an objective truth that the taking of an innocent life in the womb is a sinful act. And the sin of abortion has consequences on the psychological health of a woman who has undergone this procedure,” Deacon Jacobs continued. “As loving faith communities, we must first reassure these women that they are absolutely not alone. They must recognize that many others have experienced abortion and pregnancy-related injustices, harm, and heartbreak. They need to know that many others care about them and what they are going through. Hope, help, and healing are possible.”
Deacon Jacobs went on to explain the assistance available to women who are seeking post-abortion healing.
Mrs. Millsapps discussed the dilemma facing many young women who are pregnant: give birth or have an abortion. She gave an impassioned talk about the importance for these women to summon their courage and give birth while resisting the temptation to have an abortion.
She detailed how the religious community reaches out to embrace women who are facing such dilemmas and offers guidance on the best way to choose life.
Pastor Roberts used a popular film to help him deliver his message that the protection of the unborn is up to all of us.
Citing “A Few Good Men,” Pastor Roberts recalled that characters Lance Corp. Harold Dawson and Pvt.
Louden Downey regretted not doing more to protect defenseless comrade Pvt. Willie Santiago. After being acquitted of murder charges, Dawson and Downer received dishonorable discharges for following orders. Asking what the two Marines did wrong, Downey was told by Dawson that they did nothing to protect Santiago in the face of orders to the contrary.
Pastor Roberts, drawing an analogy to Santiago, told the group they had a responsibility to protect those who can’t protect themselves – the unborn.
Citing Scripture, Pastor Roberts quoted, “Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.”
He said the people of God have many examples from Scripture where God says we must protect life “from the womb to the tomb.”
He urged the attendees to get involved in protecting life, especially the unborn, through social service agencies, social media, and through churches and prayer.
“Above all, there is a God who will listen to your prayers to help you stand up, to speak up, to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves,” he said. “There is forgiveness in Christ; wholeness once again; God’s love revealed to a culture confused on matters of life and death. How can we be silent and sit by idly? Maybe, just maybe, you can’t handle the truth.”
Mrs. Morris spoke on the 40 Days for Life, a Diocese of Knoxville vigil during the 40 days of Lent to pray for the unborn in front of Planned Parenthood’s clinic on Cherry Street in Knoxville.
Mrs. Morris complimented the other speakers for their eloquent devotion to protecting life.
“This is what 40 Days for Life is all about. It’s a prayerful, peaceful witness for the sanctity of life of the baby, of the mothers, of the fathers. The shock waves of abortion go on and on and on. Everyone is affected. One in four women sitting in our church pews have had an abortion. And many are sitting in silence. We have to break through the silence from the pulpit,” she said.
She said she prays these women will be reached and will seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, asking the attendees to do everything they can to assist these women.
“The more that we can do to break through this shame and silence and guilt, then the more we can do to help women … and men. Men suffer, too. Grandparents suffer. Everyone suffers,” she said.
She said this country must rid itself of the scourge of abortion. “We cannot continue to kill our children and think that God is going to bless this country.”
Mrs. Maupin said the service has been held for a decade to commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to honor the lives of more than 57 million children killed from abortions, and to celebrate their lives while praying for those who made the decision to abort their child.
The service has rotated among churches in Blount County and was back at Our Lady of Fatima this year.
“We want this to be an ecumenical opportunity for the Blount County community. I think our speakers were exceptional,” Mrs. Maupin said. ■