Worship Resources for Addressing Sexual Assault and Abuse
We live in a world in which stories of abuse, harassment, and sexual violence are all too common. And yet, many churches are reluctant to address these painful topics 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.'"
The following resources are offered here to help your congregation or ministry context work toward a future in which all God's children are treated with dignity, respect, and love through a service of worship.
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 your worship in a way that supports the healing of those who have experienced it.
This sermon resource includes Scripture passage recommendations, sermon illustration ideas, quotes from notable thinkers and leaders, examples of what is considered domestic violence, and statistics about the prevalence of domestic violence.
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. (Read the story here.) They have given other churches permission to adapt the liturgy to bring healing in their communities.
Hold a service like this one focused on intentionally speaking out for an end to sexual assault and abuse.
This three-part sermon series, originally delivered by Rev. Jason Fulkerson, draws from the biblical stories of Esther, Tamar, and Rahab. The messages support women’s leadership and courage, and speak against the silence, shame, and stigma that often surround those with painful, darkened pasts:
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.
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.
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.
Psalm 131 Prayer of Response and Reflection
This prayer may fit well in a service that speaks about sexual violence, but it could also be used in other worship contexts to express the safety we find in the arms of Jesus. Written by Rev. Brenna Rubio and Rev. Bill White.
All: Embraces me, like a child in its mother’s arms, quiet and content.
All: Embraces me, like a child in its mother’s arms.
All: Embraces me, like a child.
All: Embraces me.
This medieval prayer, written by a Benedictine monk, speaks poignantly of the healing we find in Christ.
Ellie Wilber originally offered this prayer at City of Church of Long Beach (RCA).
*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
*Come, Live in the Light (We Are Called) #296 Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal
*O God, When Trust Is Shattered (to the tune of O Sacred Head Now Wounded)
Rev. April Fiet curated these We Are Speaking worship resources as part of the RCA's Women's Transformation and Leadership initiative. If you have any questions, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org