W e live in a world in which stories of abuse, harassment, and sexual violence are all too common. And yet, many churches are reluctant to speak about abuse and sexual violence in worship. We may stay silent for fear of saying the wrong thing, of reopening painful wounds, or of making others uncomfortable. However, in our silence, we have sent the message to survivors of harassment, abuse, and sexual violence that their stories and their pain do not belong in worship. The church must not stay silent; the church must speak.
When the church addresses harassment, abuse, and sexual violence with care in the context of worship, the church enters into the work of healing in Christ. When the church speaks out against harassment, abuse, and sexual violence in worship, we declare with a loud voice: “We, as women and men, as children of God, as a church, courageously stand together against any word, deed, or policy that diminishes the dignity of women and girls [and men and boys] in our communities.'”
This resource collection includes liturgical materials and ideas to help your church work toward a future in which all God’s children are treated with dignity, respect, and love through a service of worship. They were gathered as part of the We Are Speaking movement, when more than 800 people signed a statement committing as the church to speak up in support of survivors and work toward an end to sexual abuse and violence.
Service Planning Tips and Guidelines
Guidelines for Addressing Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Violence
It’s important to make your worship feel like a safe place for people who have experienced sexual assault or abuse to share their stories and heal. These guidelines will help you acknowledge and speak against sexual assault and abuse in a way that supports the healing of those who have experienced it.
Worship Planning Resources from the Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada
This is a great collection of worship materials and service planning tips that the Women’s Inter-church Council of Canada has compiled for churches who want to hold a service focused on ending violence against women.
Sample Worship Services and Sermons
Service of Lament and Prayer Liturgy
A worship leader who was abused by her husband worked with her pastor to develop this liturgy for a service of healing both for her personally and for her church, where her husband had also attended. They have given other churches permission to adapt the liturgy to bring healing in their communities.
We Are Speaking Sunday Sample Worship Service
Hold a service like this one focused on intentionally speaking out for an end to sexual assault and abuse.
A Mothers’ Prayer Meeting
Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier imagines a prayer meeting of biblical mothers who cry out in torment, despair, and loss. Their prayers of lament are expressed through Psalm 31 and mirror the prayers of mothers today, who too feel the pain of empty arms.
Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier challenges the church to care for the bruised body of Christ and to speak up against the violence that destroys. Neither the abused nor the church should be quiet forever.
The Violence of Silence
Rev. Dr. Denise Kingdom Grier shares the biblical story of Leah to demonstrate the violence of silence. Yet in the silence, God sees and God hears.
Sermon Podcast: Facing Reality, Bill White
Rev. Bill White connects the story of the rape of Dinah to the current reality of sexual violence today. Before you listen to this sermon, you should be aware that at the conclusion of the sermon, Madeline – a survivor – shares her story.
- For Such a Time as This – #867 Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal (to the tune of Amazing Grace, words by Dr. Carol Bechtel)
- Gather Us In – #529 in Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal, #8 Sing! A New Creation
- Open Our Eyes (Come and bring light to a people in darkness) – #297 Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal, #263 Sing! A New Creation
- They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love – #256 Lift Up Yours Hearts hymnal
- O God, When Trust Is Shattered (to the tune of O Sacred Head Now Wounded)
April Fiet is copastor of First Presbyterian Church of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. April is an integral part of the Reformed Church in America's Women's Transformation and Leadership ministry. She serves on the ministry's guiding coalition, as a theological and social media consultant, and as the main editor of the Building God's Church Together resources. She blogs at At the Table with April Fiet.