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Readings for Reflection: August 2003
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel

[Part One]

Many times in the period of meeting for worship in which we share joys and sorrows, we will be asked to “hold someone in the Light.” This old Quaker phrase may hold different meaning for different people, however. Below are personal thoughts from five members of the Committee on Ministry and Counsel on “what it means to hold someone in the Light.” Additional statements will be shared in a future column.

Many years ago at a Young Friends gathering I heard someone speak on prayer. He said he had started out with one-word prayers, “thanks” and “help,” and proceeded to two-word prayers saying the name of God and the name of someone he thought needed God’s special attention, for example “God. . . John,” “God . . . John." I think of holding someone in the Light as being the same as those two-word prayers. I also like to envision someone in need of God’s special attention as literally being bathed in golden Light. When I hold someone in the Light I take a few minutes and focus on the person either with a two-word prayer or envisioning that person bathed in Light, or simply take a few moments of silent worship focusing on their name or envisioning their face.

My feelings concerning holding others in the light are shaped by my lack of belief in a God that directly intervenes in human lives. As a result of this belief I think of holding others in the light primarily in terms of the impact of it on my own attitudes and behaviors, and then, indirectly, on the attitudes and behaviors of others I interact with.

When I'm asked to hold someone in the Light, my immediate response is to picture them surrounded by a kind of halo of light as I pray for their well-being. I hope, then, that I will continue to think of them during the coming week and month, again praying that they will be well/healed or whatever is needed. I interpret "holding" to mean "carrying," so my intention is to carry concern and love for them over a period of time. At times this concern might transform into a practical act (taking a meal, making a phone call, sending a card). This is much harder, of course, if someone has asked us to "hold my mother's best friend's secretary in the Light" or if the speaker is someone I don't know by name. It is also hard when there are more requests than I can "process," and in that case I leave the "holding" to someone else.

I find holding others in the light of most value when it directs my own actions in more God-mindful channels. Holding others in the light helps keep balance in my life and nudges me towards a spiritual concept of right living. My actions are more informed by the inner light. This in turn translates to attitudes and behaviors towards others which may assist them in more effectively dealing in positive, constructive and spiritual ways with the difficulties facing them.

I once asked Dorothy Steere this question at Radnor Meeting. Her answer has been my image ever since. When making a bed and fluffing the sheet over the bed, as it billows out, Dorothy imagined that as God's hands and she gently placed a person on that sheet. As they lightly rested surrounded by a billowing sheet in her mind, she imagined God holding them gently, surrounding them with light and love. It's now what I imagine too.

All Readings for Reflection
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