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Quaker Practice

The Hold-In-The-Light List

Every First Day, at the end of Silent Worship, the clerk of Reno Friends Meeting reads the Hold-in-the-Light List. This is a list of all those we are “holding in the Light of God.” It usually includes the names of loved-ones we are concerned about because of illness, injury or trouble, and also a statement extending our concern to “all those who live in places where there is strife and need.” In difficult times, the list can get quite long.

Like many other Quaker Meetings, we have always had a Hold-in-the-Light List, but at Reno Friends we haven’t always read it at close of Worship. We started doing that a few years ago during the pandemic. I do not remember who thought of reading it after Worship, but I soon came to appreciate how important the reading of the list was for our small Meeting.

To “hold someone in the Light” is the Quaker way of saying we will pray for them. When I say it, I imagine the person sitting in a beam of God’s love and light, soaking in the healing goodness. I like to think that God’s love and light is always there, ready for someone to step into the circle (or be carried there by the concern of another), so that they can feel their world illuminated by love. It feels better to me than praying, perhaps because the prayers I heard as a child always seemed like beseeching God to do what someone wanted – to heal a friend, relieve someone’s burden, or turn fate in our favor. Instead of asking God for what I want, I just imagine the person I’m concerned about bathed in the Light.

One of the things I love about Quakers is that everyone has their own take on things, including the concept of holding someone in the Light. At a recent Spiritual Discussion, Reno Friends shared their differing perspectives. Some said that holding someone in the Light feels like they are reaching out to shine that Light on them. One woman said she envisions a radiating loving kindness coming through her from a power outside or behind her. Others said they center down into Silent Worship by holding in the Light all those who are in the room, one by one. As one Friend said, “I assume God will know what I mean and what is needed.”

What I came to understand during the pandemic was that the Hold-in-the-Light list was a vital reminder of how much hurt and sadness was afoot in the world, and in our small circle. People listed friends who had been sick, relatives who needed medical care, people they knew who were lonely or struggling. The list also included many of our Meeting members and attenders at various times. There was loss and grief in the Meeting, and the list was our testament to that difficult truth.

I have little doubt that our Hold-in-the-Light list strengthened the sense of community in our Meeting during that challenging time, when we could not gather in our Meeting House and had to rely on Zoom for worship, discussions, meetings and social get-togethers. The list helped keep us united despite our isolation, and tender toward each other and the world. The list became more important than ever.

As we head into the season of Light this December – the celebration of the Star of Bethlehem, the Hanukkah candles on the Menorah, and the Kwanzaa lights – I am reminded of the power of God’s Light and how holding someone who is hurting in the sweet bath of that Light can be a step toward healing. Sharing the Hold-in-the-Light list every First Day keeps our Meeting cohesive and concerned about one another. It reminds us that this Friend is worried about her elderly sister; that another is grieving the death of a dear companion; that someone else is weighed down by illness. And it reminds us to reach out and find a way to help.

Wendy Swallow, Blog Editor, Reno Friends Meeting

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.