How to Host a Candlelight Vigil on October 3rd – A Day of Worship Reflection and Healing for the Gulf

How to Host a Candlelight Vigil on October 3rd

Seeking God’s Grace for the Gulf: A Day of Worship Reflection and Healing – October 3, 2010

STEP 1: Pick a time on October 3rd for your event.

  • Touch base with your church and church leadership team. Schedule a time on October 3rd that works for your congregation, or consider holding it after a regular worship
    service or at a time when the congregation is already gathered.
  • Let NCC Eco-Justice staff know your plans. We want to highlight this national day of worship and healing for the Gulf. Please let us know you are participating – email us at

STEP 2: Plan your vigil.

  • Plan on the service lasting between 15 and 20 minutes.
  • Put together a service using the hymns, prayers, and litany provided. Mix and match pieces in a way that will meet the meet the needs of your congregation. For instance, you may want to simply stand in silence and conclude with a prayer.
  • Ask for volunteers to read scripture, prayer or liturgy, lead hymns, distribute
    candles, and make sure participants have everything they need.

STEP 3: Advertise the Vigil: Invite people of faith from throughout the community.

  • Make the announcement about the vigil at your church – from the pulpit, in the
    bulletin insert, on an announcement screen, and in the church newsletter.
  • Make it Ecumenical. Invite neighboring churches to participate. If you take this step having the vigil immediately after Sunday worship service might not work. Consider having it later in the afternoon or evening of October 3rd.
  • Advertise in your local paper and invite a reporter to cover the event.
  • Invite your state, local and federal legislators to attend the vigil. Be sure to give them at least four weeks notice. See the sample invitation to send to your Members of Congress.
  • Try to have a general idea of how many people will be attending so that you have enough materials for everyone.

If you’re a student organizing an event on campus… you’ll also want to do the following things:

  • Send the event announcement out on every campus and community listserv you can think of—organizations, clubs, academic departments, etc. Also post something on your Facebook page or another social networking site.
  • Hang flyers around campus.
  • The day of the event, and a few days before, “table” outside a high-traffic
    area like the cafeteria or student lounge and pass out small flyers about the
    event to increase visibility and momentum.
  • Consider sending a mass blast of text messages to your friends.
  • Make sure the event is included in your campus newspaper’s calendar.

STEP 4: Prepare to Worship

  • Gather all the materials you will need.
  • Materials found in this packet: sample hymns, prayers, and liturgy.
  • Candles and a holder to collect dripping wax so participants don’t get burned.
  • Confirm that volunteers are still willing/able to participate and make sure they know what to do.

STEP 5: Time to gather!

  • Arrive early. If the vigil will follow regular worship, have all of your materials ready and available to begin the vigil immediately upon the conclusion of the service.
  • During the announcements period of the service ask the congregation to remain after the service and participate in the vigil.
  • Thank everyone for participating in the vigil.

Step 6: Hold the Vigil

  • Worship God.
  • Allow your spirit to be renewed, filled with God’s hope and empowered to seek justice for God’s people and God’s Creation.

STEP 7: Follow Up

  • Announce the success of the vigil. Make an announcement during a worship service, write an article about it for the church newsletter and submit that to you local paper as well.
  • Let us know about your success!
  • If you legislators participated, be sure to thank them with a hand written note. If they did not attend, let them know how the event went.
  • Thank everyone who participated especially those who volunteered to lead the vigil service.

Tips for success

1. Leave Yourself Plenty of Time. Make sure you have plenty of time for planning,
promoting, and putting together the details of your gathering! Get started now.

2. Engage. Make sure participants have access to resources to help them become informed
about and engage in the issue. Consider setting a time for fellowship and discussion after
the vigil

3. Worship! Remember, you are there to celebrate God and God’s Creation. Do that!

Candle Light Vigil Timeline and Checklist

* keep this somewhere handy and refer to it often.

Get started- Four-Six weeks before the vigil

  • Check with your church. Touch base with the pastor and relevant committees to get them all involved.
  • Set a time for your vigil (if you don’t hold it on October 3rd you will also need to set a date):October 3rd, 2010 ______ am/pm to ______ am/pm.
  • Make sure you invite the whole church.
  • Send out invitations (optional): Be sure to send out invitations to other who may be interested in attending. This may include:
    • Other faith communities/groups
    • Friends/ Neighbors
    • Legislators

Four weeks before the vigil

  • Distribute information about the vigil to the congregation.
  • Announce the event in church – on Sunday, in the bulletin, in the church newsletter.
  • Touch base with the Council’s staff for resources, suggestions and outreach assistance. Email:
  • Order candles and gather additional supplies.

Two weeks or 10 days before the vigil

  • Remind your congregation and others who have expressed interest in the vigil.
  • Call your legislator if they haven’t responded and ask if they are planning to attend. Let the NCC Eco-Justice Program know how many guests you’re expecting.

Three days before the vigil

  • Gather together any handouts you need (prayers, liturgy).
  • Review the agenda for the vigil.
  • Line up a couple of volunteers to help you pass out candles and lead the vigil.

Day of the vigil

  • Arrive early so that you have plenty of time set up, and attend to anything you may have forgotten in the process.
  • Set up a table for candles. Have volunteers act as ushers and pass out candles to people who did not pick them up.
  • Follow the service as planned.

After the vigil

  • Share the success of the vigil with your congregation.
  • Find ways to make Gulf Coast recovery part of your congregation’s ministry.

Sample Letter of Invitation to Legislators

Dear Senator / Representative ______________,

The congregation at [name of church] is hosting a candle light vigil to pray for the Gulf Coast
after our regular worship service on [date], and we would like to invite you to join us. We believe
that the oil spill and our response to it as a country is a moral issue, and as Christians, we are called to be stewards of Creation and to work for justice.
We are holding the vigil as an act of worship and as an expression of our call to stand up for those in the Gulf Coast, both human and non-human, who are suffering now and will continue to suffer in the years to come. It is our hope that this vigil and others taking place across the country this month will call attention to the need for the United States to address the needs of those in the Gulf Coast, both now and in the long-term, and call on each of us to play a role in the recovery of God’s bountiful creation.

Please join us for worship at [time] on [date]. The candle light vigil will immediately
follow the service. If you are planning to attend please contact [your name] at [your contact info].

Please let us know if you would like to participate in the vigil by reading scripture or liturgy or
leading us in prayer.

Peace and Blessings,

[your name or congregation]


National Council of Churches of Christ – Eco-Justice Programs

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