A Ritual for Reproductive Choice

Notes:

  • This ritual may bring up difficult feelings for people in worship. Allow the ritual to take as much time as your community needs. We recommend that you make pastoral care or other forms of compassionate support available following your service.
  • Rev. Hamilton invites you to adapt this ritual as you need to, whether by changing the litany form (printed here), or by inviting people to light candles themselves after each section.

This sanctuary that we create together is a container for all our stories – the ones we share and the ones we hold close and quiet in our hearts; the stories that bring us joy and fulfillment and the stories that break us open; the stories that change and grow with us, and the stories we outgrow and leave behind. Each and every one of you carries a lifetime of stories every time you enter this space.

This morning, there may be stories from your life that surface in unexpected ways. I would like to invite you into a ritual to hold space for your story, whatever it may be. And if you need support after this service, please do not hesitate to reach out.

As I light a series of candles for the different paths we have taken, if you recognize yourself in one of these prayers, I invite you to put your hand over your heart, wherever you are, and know that you are not alone – there is someone else in this gathered community holding their hand over their heart too.

A white pillar candle is lit against a dark blue background.

I light the first candle for those whose story includes the choice to end a pregnancy. The circumstances vary, the timelines of our lives are diverse, but each and every end is also a beginning, and so I light this candle for all who have aborted a pregnancy or partnered someone in an abortion, for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance.

Congregational response: “May the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance.”

I light the second candle for those whose story includes the unwanted loss of a pregnancy or a struggle with fertility. The circumstances vary, the timelines of our lives are diverse, but the pain of infertility, miscarriage, and stillbirth are too often held in silence. And so I light this candle for all who have travelled this path of loss, for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance.

Response: “May the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance.”

I light the third candle for those whose story includes the choice to give birth. The circumstances vary, the timelines of our lives are diverse, but the choice to bring a new life into the world is a powerful one, and so I light this candle for all of who have given birth or partnered in the birth of a child, or those who have adopted a child birthed by someone else, for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance.

Response: “May the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance.”

A white person's hand holding a sign with the message "my body my choice" over a crowded street

I light the fourth candle for those story whose includes the choice not to conceive or have children. The circumstances vary, the timelines of our lives are diverse, but the freedom to chart the course of our own reproductive life is sacred. I light this candle for all who have made the decision not to conceive or bear children, for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance.

Response: “May the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance.”

I light the fifth candle for those whose story includes a forced choice, or no choice at all, or who have encountered violence where there should have been tenderness and care. The circumstances vary, the timelines of our lives are diverse, but not everyone has been in the position to control their own reproductive choices. I light this candle for all who have found themselves unable to exercise their own sacred reproductive freedom, for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance.

Response: “May the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance.”

I light the sixth and final candle for those whose reproductive story is still being written. The circumstances vary, the timelines of our lives are diverse, but the future unfolds in surprising and unexpected ways, that can be both beautiful and heartbreaking. And so I light this candle for all who are at the threshold, who have agency and choices still to make about their reproductive lives, for whatever reason, under whatever circumstance.

Response: “May the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance.”

May the flames of these candles and the many stories they represent remind us of the fire of commitment we carry inside, to ensure that all people have freedom and agency over their reproductive choices, and that reproductive justice is upheld as a fundamental right for this and future generations.

About the Author

Julia Hamilton

Rev. Julia Hamilton, a Harvard Divinity School graduate, serves as Lead Minister of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara (CA).

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