A service of healing, repentance and forgiveness was held Jan. 22 for people of all denominations to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on demand across the nation.
Around 200 people, representing more than 20 churches, attended the third annual Lights for Life service at First Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville. The event featured a variety of testimonies, and it offered a time for those who were involved in an abortion to seek forgiveness.
A table at the front of the auditorium held more than 560 candles, each one representing 100,000 abortions. The total number of candles represented 56 million abortions that have taken place since the Roe decision.
The service was co-sponsored by the Henderson County Ministerial Association, Open Arms Crisis Pregnancy Center and area churches.
The event was an opportunity for people of many different denominations to unite on the controversial issue, said Sam Gibbs, with the Carolina Baptist Association in Hendersonville.
There are certain things different denominations disagree on, but the abortion issue brings them together, said Gibbs after the service.
Participants in Lights for Life light candles at First Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville. The third annual event on Jan. 22 recognized the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. More than 56 million abortions have taken place since the Supreme Court decision.
“We can’t speak for the whole country, but we can for Henderson County,” Gibbs said. “And we can save lives and are saving lives [through education and awareness].”
“We as Christians must unite and begin to speak [about] how wrong … killing babies is,” added Becky Garrett, director of women’s ministry at Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
“I personally have a beautiful, precious adopted boy. Thank God he [wasn’t aborted].”
Between 35 and 40 percent of all women in the United States will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45, said Carolyn Poteet, vice chairman with the board for Open Arms. “That number just blew me away,” said Poteet, who also is on staff at First Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville.
“You think how many women are sitting in the church pew who … are carrying this guilt and shame and feel like they’re not worthy of God’s love.”
“We know grandparents who said OK [for a loved one to] have an abortion who are grieving,” she said. “There are a lot of men who suffer silently about this and carry that guilt and shame all of their lives.”
During the service, everyone was invited to write down a sin they had committed on a piece a paper. All of the paper was collected in a metal garbage can and later burned.
‘The scent of abortion rising’
One portion of the service was not planned. A few of the 560 candles unexpectedly melted down and started to catch the table on fire.
An elder used a small fire extinguisher to put out the flame. This caused a plume of smoke to trigger the fire alarm that notified the local fire department.
Those in attendance later chuckled as they recalled the interruption. But the service continued forward as planned, with a few references to smoke added to the overall message.
Bill Campbell, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, seized the opportunity with his message.
“He said, ‘The smoke and the smells that we have right now are like the scent of abortion rising into God’s nostrils,’” Poteet said.
“All these lights have been extinguished, and think about all of the children’s lives [who] have been snuffed out. It was just a powerful image.
“God used it in an amazing way.”
Those involved with the service hope other similar events will be held annually in churches around the country. This service is the first step in helping set people free of the guilt and shame of abortion, said Joyce Wright, director of Open Arms Crisis Pregnancy Center.
“America has been so desensitized about abortion and ‘it’s really not a baby,’” she said. “It really is a baby, and God’s heart is bleeding over this.
“[This event is] not about Hendersonville. It’s about this thing growing and being bigger and spreading all over the country so we can realize the mistakes we’ve made.”