Holding in the Light

Duncan Frewin
Michael Corbett and Duncan Frewin, Queensland Regional Meeting
Quakers often use the term “holding in the Light”.  Holding someone in the Light seems to replace the prayers of intercession used in other churches. The phrase has a vaguely comforting feel to it, but what do we mean when we say we are holding someone in the Light?  Our late Friend Mary Grbavac, over many years in the Friends’ Fellowship of Healing, made a practice of holding in the Light a number of Friends and others who were in need of healing – physical, emotional or spiritual healing.

We also speak of holding a meeting in the Light.  A number of Friends such as Michael Corbett make a practice of arriving early for worship, for instance, to hold the Meeting in the Light – both the group of people and the activity of gathering for worship or business.

Last Year the elders asked Mary and Michael to speak of their experience of “Holding in the Light” at our spiritual refection time on the third Sunday in November.  Unfortunately, Mary’s health prevented her from joining is, but she did send a short, written reflection a couple of weeks before she died.  Michael also wrote out what came to him on the topic.  Mary and Michael have offered these experiences and their insights into what it means to “hold in the Light” individuals and groups as they pass through the vicissitudes of life.

Holding someone in the Light – by Mary Grbavac

I have a few thoughts to share with you on the topic of “Holding in the Light” of God.

My introduction to this concept has come to me later in life.  I attended several AYM sessions of Friends’ Fellowship of Healing, which informed me of the history of Quaker healing, going back to George Fox’s healing activities, leading on to the movement of Healing among Quakers, Friends Fellowship of Healing, which I found fascinating.

When I started the practice of “Holding in the Light” myself, imagining a searchlight of light from God to soothe and heal pain was suggested, I found it very spiritual and absorbing.  However, I was unsure of the actual experience of the receipt of the loving offering.

I found it hard to describe the concept effectively to others, until I had a recent REVELATION.

As I was sitting recently looking at a multiple collection of flower displays from friends, I had an overwhelming feeling of love floating over me. It instantly occurred to me, that I decided this feeling was a transference of LOVE from God through my friends’ love offered to me.

It was a very strong feeling, at a low point in my life, a REVELATION that convinced me that this was the purpose and function of sending God’s healing LOVE [LIGHT] on to others.

This has proved, revealed to me, that “Holding in the Light” can be immensely beneficial, as I felt it strongly; it was overwhelming.

There is also another aspect of that practice, which is used in Meetings for Worship, which asks for guidance in our discernment in our business affairs at all levels to request a spiritual element to our life choices.

Holding someone in the Light – by Michael Corbett

When I was first asked to lead the third Sunday “spiritual discussion” on the words we frequently use – to hold someone in the light – I thought that this would be just so easy but, on reflection, this is seriously one of the hardest tasks I have undertaken.

I know what it means. I know how to.  I have been doing this for over 60 years, so I don’t need an instruction manual – I open my heart and soul, sitting in silent worship, it just happens, no matter where I am.  For example, I find it easier to hold someone in the light than when I try to centre down in a MfW. When I centre down, I sometimes struggle to let go of the world that I live in as too many things keep popping up into my thoughts. But I know that I can hold someone in the light, with all the distractions going at me full bore – I don’t need perfect peace and quiet. As Assistant Clerk, for example, I am able to hold the MfWfB, especially the Co-Clerks, in the Light, with all the flow of people, conversations, lawn mowers and aircraft disturbing the “silence”. But this does not help you. I still need to put it into words.

In Quaker terms I don’t know if George Fox was the first to use the term “Light”, but he certainly used it many, many times. He spoke of the “Divine Light” and “enlightened by the Divine Light”. In 1664, Margaret Fell said that “Christ is the Light”, asked “art thou children of the Light” and “hast thou walked in the Light”. Thomas Camm in 1652 said “Christ Jesus is the Light of life”. Other Quakers have left us phrases from the past 350 plus years like – “Live in the Light”, “divine Light”, “live up to the light thou hast”, “universal Light as the light of Christ”, the Elders of the Balby Meeting in 1656 used the term “with a measure of Light which is pure and holy may be guided”.

So the word “Light” is a fundamental of our faith but that still does not explain what I mean when I hold someone in the Light.  I have had to rely on others and use their words from two articles that I have read.

The first is from an American, Philip Gully, from his “Quaker sayings” and I have only used part of his essay. He says:

 I am holding you in the Light. We Quakers say that when we intend to pray for someone, when we want for someone, what God wants for them – peace and healing and well-being and soundness of mind and body and spirit. Though we often say it very casually, without much thought, it is more than just words.  To hold someone in the Light is not a casual greeting that we toss out without thought. It is a promise to work for the betterment and well-being of another. We shouldn’t say it unless we are prepared to do it. If we say to them “I will hold you in the Light”, we need to be prepared to lift them up. That is one aspect, our willingness to work for the betterment and well-being of another, to hold them in the light when they cannot hold themselves in the light.

 Now let us go a little further. We can hold someone in the light, and we can also hold someone to the Light. That is, we can hold someone to the Light when they are tempted to walk in darknessTo hold someone to the light is to hold them up to the Light of God’s love, mercy and justice when they are tempted to walk in darkness. It is not to scold or nag or condemn. 

It is simply to hold one another accountable to the higher Light and Life to which all humans are called. We hold others in the Light. We lift them up in the Light of God’s Love and Goodness when they are unable to lift themselves.    And we hold ourselves and others to the Light.

We keep before them, and ourselves, a vision of the Grace and Forgiveness to which we all are called.  We say “Remember who we are. We are merciful, not vengeful.  We are charitable, not intolerant. We are generous, not miserly.  Even when others have forgotten what they are to be, let us not forget who we are to be”

We live in the Light. We live and hold others in the Light.  We hold ourselves and others to the Light.


If I hold myself to the light, I am using self-criticism – did I speak harshly to someone today, did I treat others with respect, did I “listen and follow the prompting of the Light”? As it is says in the Advices and Queries 19 “Think it possible that you may be mistaken”.

Our Friends in the Ann Arbor Meeting, Michigan, issue regular readings for reflection from their Committee on Ministry and Counsel. I have used part of the August 2003 issue to help me with “what does it mean”.

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 the 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…….

 I like to think of “holding in the Light” as “holding in Love”. The Light to me represents God’s love and some of its qualities, and so when I think of holding someone in the Light, I picture them surrounded by a visual, bright Light, but also surrounded by something warm and a soft texture……

If illness, or some other bad turn in my life, struck me next week, I would like Friends to hold “me” in the Light, and not just my bad fortune. It is easy for the concern to focus on the illness, forgetting that there is a person there who has, or has had, a whole life that needs holding in the light as well.

Hold the person up to the light so that we may see illuminated all there is to the person. The thought above came to me recently when a Friend told me of seeing a person in need and not realising for the longest time that there was more to helping this person than tending to the need.

 Friends, I want to leave you with some thought provoking points.  What canst thou say?

What does holding someone in the Light mean to you?

Have you ever felt held in the light?

Do you hold yourself to the light?


Holding in the light

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