In Genesis 41, we read the story of Joseph being called to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. In them, God reveals that for seven years there will be an abundance of crops in Egypt, which will be followed by seven years of famine.
Joseph helps the Pharaoh realize that he needs to do some long-term planning, so that when the famine strikes, Egypt will have enough resources stored up to feed the citizens during the food shortage.
As I read this story, the word famine jumped off the pages of Scripture, and I realized that in many ways people in churches have experienced something of a spiritual, pastoral, and fellowship famine during these last 12 months with the COVID-19 restrictions.
Depending on where your church is in the United States, this unique famine can range from being really awful or just a slight inconvenience. But, in both situations, we need to look at how this spiritual famine is impacting people. Is a malaise setting in amongst the laity at your church, or do you sense people are anxious to get back to worship, ministry, and outreach?
Recognizing that, unlike in Joseph’s day, no one had time to prepare or plan for our current crisis, I applaud how churches were able to adapt to the unusual circumstances and move to virtual services. But now I believe we need to think strategically about how our churches can plan to re-start life-affirming ministry.
Anglicans for Life has identified six different ideas, any of which are easy to implement at your church, to re-energize efforts to end abortion in your community.
- Ensure that your local pregnancy center can offer women ultrasounds. They can be used not only confirm to a pregnancy but to also help the mother see the development and humanity of her child. Research indicates that over 85% of women who view an ultrasound of their baby will choose life for the child instead of abortion. In partnership with your local pregnancy center, you can help them finance ultrasound machines and identify technicians to volunteer to operate the equipment.
- Enlist the testimonies of women and men who have lost children to abortion to help the next generation understand the grievous impact it has on everyone involved in the abortion decision. The Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which is co-sponsored by Anglicans for Life, has over 2600 testimonies of mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, friends, and even survivors of abortion that can be shared during worship testimony time or featured in your newsletter. Each story not only acknowledges the deep loss of our children but also highlights the power of God’s redemption and forgiveness for those wounded by abortion.
- Be intentional to educate your parish family about life topics. Bring in guest speakers, share AFL’s YouTube videos featuring speakers from previous SUMMITs, plan a movie night using one of the many pro-life films available, use AFL’s Project Life curriculum, which is an 8-week video study that provides an overview of all the life topics we address, or start a book club focused on reading books that have life-affirming messages.
- Prepare to provide life-affirming ministry for the variety of needs that COVID-19 has created. Some states are reporting an increase in the number of abortions in 2020, so as a community outreach consider offering an abortion after-care program that helps people begin the grieving process, while recognizing their need to seek God’s forgiveness. Grief ministry will also be needed for all who have had loved ones die of COVID-19 or for those who were not able to be with them at the end or even attend or hold a funeral for them. Loneliness and isolation have also increased, so establishing a visiting angel ministry (even over the phone or through ZOOM) can help re-connect people. Invite new moms to a morning program that features a simple message with lots of time for fellowship.
- Build a spirit of life-affirming advocacy into your church’s activities. Start with educating those in your church about the sanctity of life by using Scripture to form a foundational understanding of God’s value of life, so the laity are equipped to answer why they believe life is sacred and to advocate for all life. You can help people appreciate the concept of incarnational advocacy, which is based on looking at where God is specifically working in your community and joining existing ministries which need additional help and support. Foster care and outreach to the disabled are key areas of on-going need that pairs nicely with this type of advocacy.
- Finally, the most timeless idea ever suggested – build an army of life-affirming prayer warriors. Every church that emphasizes the importance of prayer to protect life has seen God move in mighty ways to answer. Your group can also join the 40 Days for Life campaign in praying to close abortion clinics in your community or state. Prayer can be done corporately or individually, at home or in front of clinics. Additionally, AFL offers a quarterly prayer calendar, a daily Prayer for Life, and pro-life litanies. We are also now posting a daily prayer on our social media outlets, which you can share with others. While we all recognize that abortion is truly a spiritual battle between God and satan, good and evil, we often place more emphasis on what we do in the flesh rather than in the spiritual realm. Emphasizing the importance of prayer reminds us who our enemy really is—and the mighty power of our God!
While most of us in the western world have never actually experienced a real famine, I believe that, in addition to the spiritual famine being felt in churches, many people are struggling with an emotional famine. This reality is another reason why the Church has a critical role to play in preparing God’s people (the Church) to use the ideas above to minister to the emotionally hurting. The difficult circumstances that so many have experienced in the last 12 months has unfortunately led people to making bad choices, and they now require help, healing, forgiveness, and intervention.
by Deacon Georgette Forney, AFL President