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History of Safe Havens' Vigils

A vigil is an event where people gather and show their support with a symbol of remembrance taking place such as the lighting of candles. This support can be for a cause, to remember an important date, to quietly protest, or in remembrance of someone who has passed away. There are many reasons why vigils are organized, including: to raise awareness for a disease or illness; to draw media attention to a cause or injustice; to mark an historic or otherwise important anniversary; to show support for families of missing children; to remember fallen soldiers; or to pay tribute to the deceased.

The main point of a vigil is to provide a quiet and comfortable setting where groups of people can meet, support each other, and spread a message; in this case our desire is to make aware the issue of domestic violence.

In 1992, the first of many vigils were held by Safe Havens, formerly known as the Boston Justice Ministries, Board of Directors, to remember the women and children killed by domestic violence throughout that year. The vigil was held on January 13, 1993 at Old West Church. The vigil service was adapted from Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Women-Church in 1985 and “this tough spun web” developed by Womancenter at Plainville. The service had three main components: Silence, Naming, and Action.

Anne Marie Hunter began to spread the idea of the vigil during 1993. In early 1994 the Board held another vigil (making it an annual event) at Old West Church and were joined by other vigils that began occurring around New England in United Methodist Churches.

Each year, the number of vigils increased. Each year, Anne Marie would collect liturgy ideas from the various vigils and then distribute those ideas the following year. Safe Havens became a clearinghouse for vigil ideas and has attempted to spread the idea to congregations in order for them to hold vigils continuously every year.

In 1996, there were approximately 20 vigils held that year. There was a sense that people were frustrated by the low attendance for vigils and also felt as though they didn’t have time to organize a vigil. In response to this feedback, Safe Havens designed a new vigil packet with the liturgical ideas, as well as publicity suggestions and other tips to help the vigil run smoothly, which will be included at the end of this article.

Unfortunately, the amount of vigils began to decline due to the lack of funding support and time constraints. However, the goal of Safe Havens is to continue in this effort of promoting vigils throughout the Boston area. One way that we have done this is by hosting a virtual vigil annually during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This year marks our third annual virtual vigil and the theme is Listen with your Heart. It will be Thursday, October 27th from 6:00 to 7:00 PM EST. We have found that the virtual format has made the vigils more accessible and less costly, but a certain level of connection is lost with the screens. We look forward to seeing you!

Please support Safe Havens' Vigil project; some ways that you can do that are:

  • Attending our Listen with Your Heart Virtual Vigil (you can register here),

  • Sharing our flyer

  • Finding and attending local vigils

  • Hosting your own vigil

  • Reviewing and sharing the resources below

  • Join our mailing list (you can do that here)

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