Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weatherly Heights offers service for those who've suffered losses

Photo by woodsy
The Rev. Jana Williams still dreads Mother's Day. In fact, if she weren't a minister herself, and married to a minister, on many Mother's Days she would have simply skipped church.

Skipped hearing the special prayers for mothers. Skipped watching other people's red-cheeked children run to take a rose to their mamas, smiling in the pews.

Skipped, in short, all those painful reminders of the babies she herself would never bear.

Even though Williams is mother twice over now, to a beautiful adopted daughter and to a foster son, an echoed pain from those childless Mother's Days still sounds for her each year. Her own pain has opened her eyes to the usually silent suffering of others around her who have birthed stillborn children, who have lost multiple pregnancies to miscarriage, who have seen their dreams of having the children the usual way be blown away, who can't forget past abortions.

This year, she and her husband, the Rev. Howard Williams, are leading a service on Mother's Day afternoon for others who find the holiday painful. The Service of Healing will be held Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, on Cannstatt Drive behind the YMCA on Weatherly Road.

Williams knows that the service, which will be a Taize-style service of readings, prayer and music, will offer a quiet time of renewal to any who come. She knows the service attempts to meet a need that church and society often forget about. She knows that somewhere around a quarter of all pregnancies end in miscarriage and that 12 percent of women have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term.

What she doesn't know is who all will come.

"Hopefully, the people who need it will find their way to it," Williams said Monday morning, as she and her husband, Howard Williams, described their own experience and the service itself.

"We know there is a great deal of pain," Howard said. "This is an opportunity to experience grace."

Everyday miracle

Williams, 47, minister to families at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, where her husband, Howard Williams, 51, is minister of spiritual development, spent years hoping to get pregnant herself. It's what any happy young couple did, she thought, after they'd finished school and found steady jobs.

"It was that next thing that was supposed to happen," Williams said.

It didn't.

"We discovered it wasn't going to be as easy as we thought it might be," Howard Williams said.

Jana Williams smiled sadly at her husband's understatement.

"It's easy to describe that in a few sentences, but that represents years of pain and suffering," she said.

During those years of exploring fertility options, they watched people around them have children, a few of them not even particularly wanted. Williams herself was working then with Child Protective Services, where she saw too many parents who either could not or would not care for their babies.

Howard Williams endured his own type of pain - he is the last of his particular branch of his family. His father had counted on him to carry on the family name in the traditional way, he said.

And where was God, Jana Williams wondered. Her seminary training and pastoral qualifications failed to answer the most basic question: Why?

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