Fearfully and wonderfully made – Celebrating the beginnings of human life
Read about the conference proceedings and watch videos of the presentations.
Lutherans for Life National Conference, held 18 September 2021
Psalm 139:13,14 was the theme of the recent National Conference organised by Lutherans for Life (LfL) at Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Aberfoyle Park, SA. Over 40 people were privileged to be able to attend the conference in person and over 20 people watched the livestream on YouTube from around Australia.
Pastor Josh Pfeiffer (Chairperson of LfL) opened the conference with a devotion based on Luke 1:39-45 – the account of Mary visiting the pregnant Elizabeth and the unborn John leaping for joy at the news of our Saviour’s impending birth. Pregnancy does not always engender feelings of joy. We may experience feelings of fear, of being overwhelmed and uncertain about the future, particularly if the pregnancy wasn’t planned. And unfortunately, pregnancy doesn’t always have the outcome for which we had hoped. But this text reminds us that life is a gift that should be celebrated. And Jesus’ life is the most precious of all gifts because his life gives us life – eternal and abundant. Kathie Renner sang Right from the beginning by Erin Bode to finish our time of devotion and segue beautifully to our first speaker.
Our first guest speaker was Pastor Tim Klein (Faith Lutheran Church, Warradale) who looked at the Biblical reasons why life should be celebrated. He posed the question “What is the worth of life”? Using numerous texts from scripture, Pastor Tim demonstrated how each of us was planned in the mind of God right from “the beginning”. God deliberately and intentionally formed us from dust (unlike the rest of his creation) and breathed his own breath into us. He made us in his image to partake in his immortality. We are all unique with a specific job or purpose to fulfil. Our worth is found in God, not ourselves – we need look no further than the cross and Jesus’ sacrifice to see how much we are loved and valued by God.
Jodie Pickard (founder of Love Adelaide) presented the biological side of the beginnings of life. Jodie bemoaned the fact that whilst the biology of fertilization and conception may be taught in schools, the ‘miracle of life’ is not. Two videos explaining the intricate, scientific detail of fertilization and the development of the unborn child in the womb were presented and reinforced just how miraculous the whole process is! Pro-choice groups often accuse the pro-life movement of using emotive language about pregnancy, but pro-choice groups use unscientific lies to dehumanise the unborn so that abortion is “acceptable”.
Abortion is the leading cause of death in Australia, and it is estimated that 1 in 4 women will have an abortion. With recent changes to abortion legislation in numerous states, it is tempting for pro-life groups to give up hope, but Jodie is calling on churches to unite and to continue the fight against the devaluing of life. Apathy towards abortion is what the pro-choice movement relies on to progress their agenda. One way of publicly showing our opposition to abortion is by joining in with the “marches for life” that take place in most capital cities annually. See our Facebook page for notices about these events.
The morning’s programme concluded with another musical item from Kathie Renner – Little things with great love by The Porter’s Gate.
Meagan Schwarz and Pastor Andrew Brook (St John’s Lutheran Church, Unley) shared personal perspectives on when things go wrong with the beginnings of life. Meagan suffered a miscarriage of her second child at 10 weeks gestation. She discussed the poignant physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles that followed – the guilt, the questions, and the pain of other women’s pregnancies and children when her arms were empty. She feared forgetting her “Little One”. Meagan also shared what she has found helpful in her healing process, including collaborating with Pastor Andrew Brook to hold a service of remembrance in 2019 on International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day (October 15).
Pastor Andrew Brook’s daughter was born gravely ill with a congenital heart defect. Separated from interstate family, Pastor Andrew and wife Jodi learnt what it is like to feel powerless and how to lean on the power of prayer. Colleague Pastors visited them and their daughter (Emilia) in the hospital, anointed Emilia with oil and prayed over the family. These Christian rituals brought them comfort and strength at a difficult time and this experience became a great lesson in how to help others going through similar experiences.
The service of remembrance held in 2019 at St John’s Lutheran Church, Unley, was based on resources produced by the LCA in “Rites and Resources for Pastoral Care” – an invaluable part of any Pastor’s toolkit. It provided the opportunity for anyone who had experienced miscarriage or stillbirth to have that loss acknowledged – even if it had occurred decades previously – and to hear words of comfort and healing. The service was greatly appreciated by all those who attended. Pastor Andrew also said that even having something as simple as a prayer petition in the Prayer of the Church on All Saints Day to remember all the babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion is a powerful way to acknowledge loss. You can download some of these resources (including the actual service order used by Pastor Andrew in 2019) from our website (see link below).
Our final guest speaker was Kimberley Pfeiffer who spoke about some of the ethical issues surrounding the beginnings of life:
• How do we treat embryos that have been created using reproductive technology?
• Should they be used in research?
• How do we measure their worth?
• What do we do with “excess” embryos?
• How do we deal with the information that comes from pre-natal screening for genetic abnormalities?
Our postmodern society likes to deconstruct everything in order to understand it. Unfortunately, this deconstructionism leads to the breakdown of relationships – the relationship between mother and child, husband and wife, pregnancy and healthcare, sex and love, procreation and marriage. Christians can bring a lot to ethical discussions because we believe these relationships should not and cannot be separated or deconstructed. Our ideas of good and bad, right and wrong, moral and immoral are based on our faith. And Christians also bring something unique to ethics – forgiveness. Forgiveness has been described as a form of love that goes beyond good and evil, a love where there is no judgement and no condemnation. Kimberley encouraged us to share our stories and perspectives, to live out what we believe, to thank God for his gift of life and ask how we can serve in a way that serves/celebrates life.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion of questions raised by conference attendees throughout the day. There were far too many questions to get through, but it was great to hear some different perspectives from the various guest speakers on the same topics. I think all those who attended in person and online would have come away from the conference feeling very encouraged and hopefully inspired to look for ways to celebrate life in their own homes and congregations.
Editor, Life News
Photos courtesy of Rose Vonow
Resources for miscarriage and stillbirth:
Worship and pastoral care – Lutherans for Life
Fertilization/conception video from Nucleus Medical Media (sample only):
Fetal development month by month video:
Fetal development month by month
Miss the conference? Catch up on YouTube:
Pr Tim Klein, Biblical perspective
Jodi Pickard – Biological, political perspective
Meagan Schwarz & Pr Andrew Brook, Personal/pastoral perspective