As “Amazing Grace” was played on a flute, members of St. Gabriel’s Anglican Church in Springdale, Ark., filed out after the morning service and gathered on a grassy spot under a tree for the unveiling of a plaque placed there by the Rachel Memorial foundation.
Fr. John Slavin prayed over the marker and blessed it. Linda Wohleber, representing the foundation, spoke to the congregation about the memorial’s significance.
The plaque is the first pro-life memorial in northwest Arkansas, and the first of its kind for the organization, which has been seeking spaces to dedicate as memorial gardens to unborn children. It reads: “In Remembrance. Between the years of 1973 and 2013, over 20,000 souls were lost to abortion in Washington County, Arkansas. Each of these children is lost to the world, but known to God.” Below this is Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
Taylor Wohleber Yoes, Linda’s daughter, helped her unveil the plaque. Taylor is a member of St. Gabriel’s, which is a mission station in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Linda belongs to the Presbyterian church. She expressed gratitude to Fr. Slavin for volunteering to set aside the memorial garden, since the foundation’s efforts elsewhere had been unsuccessful so far. But since St. Gabriel’s had agreed – even before the formal dedication on May 11 – other churches had begun to express interest, Linda said.
“Many others are following your lead now. There are quite a few churches that want to place memorials, and an organization in Little Rock has asked us to partner in placing a garden next to an old abortion facility. So we are achieving our goals, and we are very thankful that it is largely because you all invited us here. You are being the Church.”
Once the blessing was complete, members of the congregation stepped forward to lay flowers at the base of the marker.
The little service closed with the singing of “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” again accompanied by 12-year-old Anya Jacobs on the flute.
This was the prayer used by Fr. Slavin:
Prayer of Blessing over Memorial for the Unborn
Father of Life and Love, we thank you today that you have called us to share in the life of the one human family. We thank you for all our brothers and sisters, and ask You to deepen the bonds of love among us.
We thank you especially for our youngest and smallest brothers and sisters, those in the womb. Today, Oh Lord, we remember them, while so many choose to ignore and forget them. We remember those who are living, and commend them to Your protection. We remember those who have died and we commend them to Your mercy.
Father, we dedicate to You this memorial. We pray that it will serve as a witness to the humanity of our youngest brothers and sisters. We pray that it will serve as a testimony that we are responsible for them. We pray that it will provide a place where those who have lost their children may mourn and find comfort.
We pray, Father, that we who are the living stones of the Church, may likewise be witnesses to the dignity of life. Give us the grace to confront the evil of abortion and eliminate it. May we see the day when all people who look upon this memorial will remember abortion only as a thing of the past, and may praise You forever for the victory of life.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
And may the blessing of Almighty God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit descend upon this memorial and remain with it now and always.