20th December - Those who are childless

Sing, O barren one who did not bear; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate woman will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord.

Isaiah 54:1

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:16

Infertility takes many forms: couples who have been unable to conceive; those who cannot carry a pregnancy to term; and people whose circumstances are a barrier to starting a family (situational infertility). It can affect couples who already have children and may leave scars after a 'miracle' child is born or adopted. It is thought that medical infertility alone affects one in six couples, but coming out as infertile is still a big deal in our society.

Churches may unintentionally alienate people who do not have children through circumstance or through choice. Advent and Christmas, Mothering Sunday, and the veneration of Mary can be painful. Some churches present children as the model for any Christian family, while teaching that fertility treatment is wrong. Many routinely pray for parents, but it is rare to hear the infertile mentioned in intercessions, or for other paths in life to be acknowledged as worthy.

When I was going through my year of failed fertility treatments and miscarriages, I relied upon the support of my church community, because my faith was severely challenged. I felt called to be a mother, yet with every unsuccessful attempt I questioned whether I really knew what God wanted for my life. At times I found it hard to believe He listened to my prayers. I am incredibly grateful to my church family who listened, prayed for me and remembered my unborn babies in their prayers.

Marga Burke-Lowe goes to church in Newcastle. She now has a baby daughter thanks to IVF.

Daily prayer

Lord, we pray for anyone experiencing infertility, miscarriage or barriers to parenthood, and for those who are childless by choice. May our churches be welcoming and supportive places for them.


Lord, in this time of Advent open our hearts to those who feel excluded from Your church.
Help us draw in those on the margins and place them in the centre of our family.