by Christian McGrew
On Saturday, January 13th, over 300 Pro-Lifers gathered to pray the “Liturgy for the Pre-born”, and march in downtown Jacksonville to pray for an end to abortion. Frank Pavone (Priests for Life), Sarah Neely (Operation Rescue), and Dean Black (State Representative), spoke during the event. Sarah spoke first and encouraged everyone attending, and she challenged the attendees to attend more than just one Pro-Life event this year. Dean Black reminded us that life is an inalienable right in this country. Frank Pavone ended the trio of speakers with an electric speech about how the Pro Life movement is winning despite the current narrative, which continued the theme of rallying of the troops for this pivotal year in Florida. After a group of Pro-Life leaders in north Florida prayed the prayers and readings in the liturgy, we took to the streets to march. As we marched through the streets of Jacksonville, and around the state courthouse, marchers were reinvigorated with the vigor to fight for the rights of the pre-born. The march exceeded all expectations, including making local news. However, this successful march did not always seem like it would even happen for a time. Fr. Scott Looker (Church of the Messiah), Sarah Neely, Christian McGrew (CEC For Life), and several other local leaders, were run through the mill in the planning process.
The difficulties with the city lasted several months. At first it was a lack of timely responses from the city, but after receiving conditional approval to promote the event, the struggle became getting insurance. Three different organizations reached out to at least a dozen agencies to acquire an insurance policy for road closure, but all of them failed. For the last couple of months, the struggle was not only the insurance, but the potential prices for police, and an unnecessary amount of supplies. The team decided to march on the sidewalks to avoid having to shut down the roads, but the city then tried to make the Church of the Messiah sign a “hold harmless” agreement that would make the church liable for anything that happened in the area during the march. Many experienced Pro-Life leaders had not seen this much difficulty in the permitting process for a march or event like this to take place. With the help of very skilled lawyers and experienced individuals on the team, the march was able to take place on the sidewalks.
The difficulties encountered while planning the march reveals the spiritual battle that we are facing with in the Pro-Life movement. Florida has become the abortion capital of the southeast, with pro-abortion ballot initiatives that seek to allow abortion with much less restrictions. After much prayer and counsel, we were able to overcome the roadblocks from the city, and spiritual attacks that tried to stop us. As we prayed in the liturgy; “Receive our brothers and sisters into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let their hearts and souls now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live.”, the enemy knew he had lost this battle. He was reminded again of his defeat when we prayed in the closing prayer, “May your kingdom and church apprehend and overtake the culture of death that has prevailed through deceit and selfishness; may the Seed of the woman crush the head of the serpent through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Through the liturgy, the speakers, and the march, I believe that not only will hundreds of Floridians be sent out to do more Pro-Life work this year, but also that we will bring our determination to all states, and throughout the world to see the end of the merciless shedding of innocent lives in our country, and world.