Affirmation Suicide Vigils
Some Information & Ideas for Planning a Suicide Vigil
Vigil poster to download, adapt for your use, and print. (Word format, 42KB)
- We are taking action to help church members understand how harmful church attitudes to homosexuality are. The focus is on recognition of harmful messages and effects, not on the church or its leaders. Message must be broad enough to include non-Mormons as well. Remember--address the issues, don't attack the church.
- The message should focus on (1) The problems (sexual minorities) GLBTI people face, (2) The traditions that cause the problems (from within and without the church), and (3) Using love and education to overcome the problems and build families.
- Our audience includes 3 groups: (a) church members, primarily Mormon; (b) media; and (c) Affirmation.
Pick a location that will bring high visibility and that is convenient and accessible for the media. Suggested places include a park or public space next to an LDS temple or stake center or any public space where there is lots of adjacent traffic. Remember that a location near a temple or a church will be an extra symbolic draw for the media.
Contact the police and see if a permit is needed to meet in a public place. Insurance should not be needed. Contact other gay-positive organizations that have held public vigils to find out about any related issues. We recommend a printed program to help participants know what to expect.
Strength in Numbers
Invite your local LDS support people, all supportive religions and support groups from the religious community, and your health care, education and political allies. You should also seek participants from other civil rights groups such as the Japanese American League, NAACP, ACLU, NOW, Jewish groups, etc., and every GLBT solidarity group - This is a great opportunity for us to learn to support each other in other public health & civil rights issues.
Prior to April 1st, a national press release will be sent out. We suggest the following:
You will receive a press kit to give to the media, which among other things will include harmful statements from church leaders. Prepare two or three people as press contacts, give them name badges that state "Press Contact," and identify them to the media as resources for answering questions and being interviewed.
- Each local chapter, or Affirmation member and ecumenical supporters, create a local cover letter of the event planned by your chapter, or by your supportive community, to be sent to your local media together with the national press release.
- A local contact name must be included.
- Include a list of speakers and performers.
- Place for the event.
Make placards or signs for participants to hold up with the names of suicide victims and the year they died. This will create greater visibility and impact regarding their lives.
Suggested Format for the Vigil
Welcome by local chapter leader or vigil leader. Be sure to include reason we are gathered, including brief explanation about who Stuart Matis, Clay Whitmer, and DJ Thompson were, and that we dedicate the vigil to them and all victims of homophobia.
Opening song and prayer (offered by church member, parents, supportive church leader or clergy from another denomination). Follow with a reading adapted from Bob Christensen's letter to the editor. Alternatively, or immediately thereafter, read the included statement adapted from the talk by Allison Bingham.
Arrange in advance to have several speakers speak for 3-5 minutes. Speakers should include family or friends of any deceased (or parents whose children have attempted or succeeded in suicide), government officials, religious officials, local celebrities (news anchors, etc.), health Care specialist (LCSW, doctors, nurses, etc.) Ideally, try to include a speaker who is an ex-Evergreen/ Exodus participant to speak about the negative experiences of attempts to change sexual orientation. Be sure to include a speaker, perhaps the last one, who can talk about the power of love and education to overcome the teachings of despair found in church messages.
Reading of Names
Read list of suicide victims nationwide. (Michael Lambert-MacKay of the Seattle chapter is compiling this list and will distribute it to local chapters; if you know of suicide victims and/or have contact information, please contact Michael). Use two readers, if possible, male and female, alternating reading, with a moment of silence between each name. After list is read, invite participants to state a name aloud of any deceased they know (flier/announcement should inform invitees that they will have an opportunity to share these names).
Soft music may be appropriate during the reading of the names. Silent vigils are just as meaningful with appropriate signs that say why and a handout to all who attend. If not silent, do a regular "memorial" type service with songs, prayers, and short testimonials.
Close with a blessing, invocation, poem, or simple statement that reinforces the theme of vigil: No more deaths! No more silence!
If the vigil is ecumenical, refraining from using songs that mention Christ is advisable; ecumenical leaders can offer suggestions.
You can often eliminate sexist references to God or Jesus ("He," "His," "Him") by using instead "God," "God's," "Christ," etc. Lyrics for some non-sexist hymns are available at www.affirmation.org/ chapters/ music.shtml.
To get copies of other LDS hymns, you can visit lds.org/churchmusic
- Amazing Grace
- Gypsy Prayer (from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame)
- I Am a Child of God - p. 301
- God is Love - p. 87
- Be Still, My Soul - p. 124
- Does the Journey Seem Long - p. 127
- Because I have Been Given Much - p. 219
- Have I Done Any Good? - p. 223
- How Great Thou Art - p 86
- Know This, That Every Soul is Free - p. 240
- Let Us All Press On - p. 243
- Music from Prayers for Bobby
- Music from Rent
- Billy Joel's "Keepin' The Faith"