By Sarah Schafer
WASHINGTON — A record 160-plus Lutherans from 10 states gathered here Jan. 22 for the 37th annual “March for Life.”
The march observes the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States.
Lutherans joined an estimated 300,000 other pro-life supporters for a pre-march rally on the National Mall and the march along Constitution Avenue, up Capitol Hill to the U.S. Supreme Court building.
“This has been the largest participation we’ve had in the 14 years we’ve been doing this,” said Dennis Di Mauro, leader of the Lutherans For Life chapter in northern Virginia, and an organizer for Lutherans in the march. “God has blessed this ministry.”
“We’re just really excited that more and more Lutherans seem to be becoming part of the broader pro-life movement,” said Rev. Christopher Esget, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Va., host for the pre-march worship service and brunch since 2002.
Among the Lutherans were 20 who arrived via the first-ever “Road Trip for Life,” a bus trek sponsored by LCMS World Relief and Human Care and Advent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zionsville, Ind.
Ann Richardson of Avon, Ind., accompanied by her 18-year-old son, Robert, said the need to show her support for life issues prompted her to make the 13-hour bus trip and take part in her first March for Life. Richardson said she has been eager to help others understand the sanctity of human life, especially pre-natal life, “ever since I learned the truth about what happens in the nine months before birth,” she said. “Every single life is valuable.”
Rev. John T. Pless, assistant professor of pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, delivered the sermon at the 9 a.m. pre-march service at Immanuel. He preached instead of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Executive Director Rev. Matthew Harrison, who was in Haiti taking part in LCMS earthquake relief efforts. Pless referred to the devastation in Haiti in his sermon.
“Last week in Haiti, an earthquake shattered the land, causing buildings to crumble down, delivering death to thousands or even hundreds of thousands — a grim reminder that nature itself groans in travail under the burden of our sin,” he said.
“Even as we are here this morning, the suffering that continues there is immeasurable, beyond calculation,” Pless continued. “We recoil in horror over the immensity of the casualties in Haiti, but we cannot forget that whatever the body count from that devastating earthquake finally totals, it will still not come near the tally of the unborn whose lives ended not in collapsing buildings but in a clinic in the nearly four decades since the passing of Roe v. Wade.”
To download the transcript of Pless’ sermon, visit www.lcms.org/ca/worldrelief/ministries/life/PlessSermon_MFL2010.pdf.
After the service and brunch, Lutherans gathered at the National Mall for the pre-march rally and March for Life.
Rev. Robert Koehler and Vicar Joshua Keinath marched with fellow members of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fredericksburg, Va. Koehler said this year’s march was particularly meaningful for their fast-growing congregation — with 45 percent of its members under the age of 25 — because two couples from the church adopted infants in the last year who would otherwise have been aborted.
Rev. Ron Orovitz, a retired Lutheran pastor from Hickory, N.C., marched for the first time. His wife, Betty, also attended for her third time. “I’m glad to be here to support the cause for life … it is God’s gift,” said Rev. Orovitz. “We need to endorse that gift and protect that gift and make sure every child has the opportunity to experience the blessing that God gives.”
Lutheran youth made a large showing at this year’s March for Life.
Rachel Kloppe, a student at Lutheran High School South in St. Louis, took a day off from school to participate in her first march.
“This cause is really important to me because my mom works at a hospital with newborns,” Kloppe said. “It just really is important to me that everyone does their part, even if they are young like us.”
Six other Lutheran High South students also were at the march.
Ross Smith, 16, from Mooresville, Ind., part of the “Road Trip for Life,” also was a first-time marcher.
“I’m here talking for the person who could be my future doctor or senator,” Smith said. “That’s important to me. I think it’s awesome to see so many kids our age out here … a lot more than I expected.”
Tim Wilcoxen from Benson, Ill., a freshman at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, said he attended the march to learn more about the pro-life movement as he looks forward to joining the university’s Students for Life group.
LCMS Life and Health Ministries Director Maggie Karner said this year’s march was particularly important, with the changes in Washington and new health care legislation looming.
“It is especially important to let our lawmakers know that a large part of their constituents value life,” Karner said.
Karner, Pless, and Ed Szeto, coordinator for LCMS Life Ministries special projects, represented the Synod’s Sanctity of Life Committee at the march.
Szeto, participating in his ninth March for Life, said that being surrounded by tens of thousands of Christians all speaking with one voice on this issue helps “re-charge [his] batteries” to continue working to uphold the sanctity of life each year.
For Di Mauro, the experience isn’t so much about the march itself, but that marchers are encouraged to continue pro-life ministry long afterward. He added that includes activity “like sidewalk counseling, like volunteering in pregnancy centers, like being active in their church in discussing the pro-life ministry. It’s not the March for Life that’s important, but the energy that we get to go out and do pro-life stuff.”
LCMS Life Ministries is a program of LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) devoted to upholding the sanctity of human life, both in the Synod and the culture at-large.
For LCMS WR-HC’s online coverage of the March for Life, visit www.lcms.org/marchforlife. For more information about LCMS Life Ministries, go to www.lcms.org/life. For more information about Lutheran For Life, visit www.lutheransforlife.org.
Sarah Schafer is the communications project manager for LCMS World Relief and Human Care.
Posted Jan. 27, 2010