OR, The Litany for Women Who Have No Choice.
The following can be used as a litany or a multi-voice sermon. It was originally written for a prayer service focused on advocating for women’s health rights for the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
VOICE 4: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
VOICE 1: I have no children of my own. About 25 years ago my partner and I talked about trying to raise kids together. I thought she’d be a great mom. With her as co-parent, I hoped I could be, too. Back then, adoption by same-gendered couples was not really heard of. There could be legal challenges and roadblocks. We were afraid that if we adopted, we’d live in fear that someday we’d face a lawsuit by the child’s family, if they found out just what kind of family we were. Instead of taking that chance, we decided on artificial insemination.
VOICE 2: I am catholic. I do not believe in abortion. My husband and I became pregnant. At 18 weeks, our doctor told us that we would have a boy, but that our boy had Trisomy 18 (also called Edward’s syndrome). This is a chromosomal disorder that meant his organs will never fully develop, and for some reason, still born rate among boys is higher than girls. If our baby lives at all, he will be immediately put on life support such as dialysis and ventilators and receive nursing home treatment until he eventually dies. Less than 10% of trisomy babies live to their first birthday.
VOICE 3: In my congregation, I am pastoring to a woman who desperately wants to be a mother but there are so many factors against it. Impulsively, she became pregnant. She feels that she was irresponsible. She is unemployed and has only enough savings to last a month. She sees her friends through her own eyes and experience, emotionally supportive, but with limited resources and less time because they have jobs and need to care for their other relationships. Is God there for her? How? Where?
VOICE 4: Blessed are you.
VOICE 1: Blessed am I?
VOICE 2: I am … blessed?
VOICE 4: Blessed are you who are hungry now, you will be filled.
VOICE 2: I believe that all life is sacred, but our doctors pressured us to abort our son. They said it would be less painful that way; our grief would be easier. It felt like they were trying to twist our arms and force us into a decision that would go against our faith. We went to a midwife instead. We carried our son to term. When he was born we named him Jorge, after my father. He was peaceful, had the face of an angel. But we could tell that his lungs had not developed, he struggled to breathe. We held him in our arms for six hours before he died.
VOICE 3: There is a woman in my congregation, who was purchased by her husband and brought here from Sudan when she was 14. She has four children already, at the age of 20. She is working hard to become a nursing assistant, but right now she is not making ends meet. The church helps her with food for her children. She came to my office and told me she is pregnant again. She wanted me to help her get an abortion before her husband found out. If he knows she is pregnant again, he will make her quit nursing school. I see evidence of abuse on her skin, and I know she does not have the kind of marriage that I do; and so I wonder… Is God there for her? How? Where?
VOICE 1: Unlike adoption, we were aware of trail blazers from the gay and lesbian community who were already becoming parents this way. We’d heard their stories on public radio. Sometimes gay couples worked with surrogate mothers. Sometimes lesbian couples opted for anonymous donors through a sperm bank. (Can I say that in a chapel worship service? I never imagined I would…) Ultimately, we opted for using a donor s-bank for artificial insemination, working through a clinic with a lesbian doctor and nurse practitioner. I went on fertility drugs to increase my chances of becoming pregnant. Several attempts failed. It was at this point that I asked the nurse and doctor if it could be possible that I had endometriosis, or “endo.” You see, for some 4 years or so, I suspected that I had this disease.
VOICE 4: Blessed are you who are hungry…
VOICE 3: I hunger for answers.
VOICE 1: I hunger for contentment.
VOICE 2: I hunger to hold my son Jorge in my arms again.
VOICE 4: Blessed are you… for you will be filled.
ALL: I am hungry.
VOICE 4: Blessed are you who weep now, for you will be comforted
VOICE 3: In my youth group, there is a girl who recently told me she is pregnant. She is fourteen. When she came to my office to talk to me about it, she was a mess. Crying uncontrollably; I didn’t understand why she was so inconsolable, I mean, people get pregnant all the time. Teen pregnancy is not that uncommon in our community, there are ways to move forward. Then she told me who had gotten her pregnant. It was her father. What do I say to her now? Is God there for her? How? Where?
VOICE 4: Blessed are you.
VOICE 1: Well, it turns out that I had the most advanced stage of endo, and the worst case that my endo specialist had ever seen. It was at this point that my partner and I decided to stop trying to have kids. Conquering and controlling the disease became the new plan. The battle plan started with 6 months of drug induced menopause. The maintenance hormonal treatment involves continuous birth control pills. It’s ironic that here I was, in a same-gender relationship, going on birth control pills for what has become over half of my life.
Just as ironic, my enduring fight has become a recurring battle with the health care system for coverage of birth control pills in order to keep my disease under control. Just as the arena of women’s health devalued my questions and concerns for so many years, society also devalued a woman’s right to provide coverage for birth control drugs, to plan for having children and fighting disease as well.
VOICE 4: Blessed are you.
VOICE 2: No matter how much it hurt to lose Jorge, I still do not believe in abortion. The hours that we held our son meant more to my husband and I than any moment of our lives together. It has made our marriage stronger, it has made our very faith stronger. We believe Jorge was a gift from God. I think of him every day, and I grieve, but I would not change a single minute of our journey. Life is too precious.
ALL: Blessed are you.
V1: You, who mourn.
V2: You, who show mercy.
V3: You, who act as peacemaker.
V4: You, who are persecuted for my name’s sake.
ALL: Blessed are you, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.
V4: Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.
V1: Do you exclude me on account of the Son of Man?
V2: Do you revile and defame me because of my faith?
V3: You’re reward will be great in heaven.
V1: Blessed am I.
V2: Blessed am I.
V3: Blessed are you.
V4: Blessed are we.
ALL: Blessed are we for the Kingdom of Heaven is ours.
Permission to use/adapt with attribution. C.M. Kolwey (c) 2013.