To have and to hold

I’m nearly half way through the weddings I have to conduct this year (eleven of them all told) so this phrase stuck in my mind.  But the context is different.  Part of the work of a priest is “to have and to hold” for those to whom they minister.  


Put a different way people speak to me every day and articulate their dreams, their hopes and their fears.  I am safe because I am “their” priest.  I don’t think it is possible to encounter people on those terms and remain unchanged or unaffected myself.  To have and to hold can feel a very real challenge at times.   


In the early days of discerning vocation, I wondered why it was a requirement that priests should say the Daily Offices.  It seemed obvious that priests would pray, after all, isn’t that their job?  Now, two years after ordination, I understand with my bones the need for a regular structured prayer life.  I may feel that Morning Prayer comes alive, or I may (on Mondays) be so sleepy that I am “going through the motions”, but the act of saying the words grounds me, and prepares me for the day ahead.  What happens during that day may be pleasure and delight, or sadness and fear, or more likely a mixture of all of those and more.  Without that grounding, I could no more “have and hold” than I could fly to the moon.  And with Evening Prayer comes the opportunity to let go, to hand it all to God, a crucified God who bears all for all.  I am grounded once more, renewed and refreshed, ready to have and to hold all over again.

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2 responses to “To have and to hold

  1. I think you give a good description of the term. When I got married in a Register Office, we didn't use those words. I wasn't a practising Christian in those days.

    On our 20th Anniversary, we renewed our wedding vows in our Parish Church, surrounded by friends from the Parish and external to it. We went for renewing with the traditional words, which meant a huge amount to both of us.

    Taken in the wider context you describe, they apply across life as people share with each other their trials, tribulations, hopes and aspirations. What I have found is that Christians are so much more open with this than some – somehow, God seems to unlock their hearts in a way that perhaps a non-believer feels unable to do.

    It's a privilege when people share in this way, and we are formed in some way as we take on board perhaps how, God was, or might be, working in their life.

  2. Many thanks for your comment. Yes, I think it is all part of the never-ending process of formation – of growing into being the person God made us to be.

    And I'm so glad you enjoyed renewing your vows!

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