Carrying the Light

I’m late with my Friday Fictioneers contribution this week. The photo prompt, as some of you may know, is published Wednesday morning. I contemplated the ornate light fixture in the photo and copied it onto my hard drive, as usual.

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The photo reminded me of some lovely chandeliers I’ve seen in churches, but I had no idea what to write.

That night, I procrastinated and scrolled through my twitter feed instead of writing. I came across breaking stories from various news media and was horrified to learn of the vicious hate crime in Charleston, a mass shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The cold-hearted shooting of a church prayer group…how do we reconcile the irony, the inhumanity?

The historic status of the church and its founder, Denmark Vesey, was mentioned in the first two articles I read. This church has suffered unthinkable losses in the past. The church was founded in 1816 by black congregants who left their predominantly white churches over issues of discrimination. It was burned down in 1822 when its pastor was convicted of planning a slave revolt. When the laws of that era prohibited all-black churches, the members had to meet in secret. The church survived all of this and was rebuilt at the end of the civil war, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1886. In the twentieth century, the church was the site of seminal civil rights speeches and demonstrations, including a mass arrest of more than 900 protesters in 1969.

Now they have suffered more unthinkable losses. As I read the articles and watched the news videos, two questions gnawed at me: 1) Why are we the only advanced nation to have mass shootings on a seemingly regular, if not frequent, basis; and 2) Why, in a country that has the most ethnically diverse population of any country on Earth, do we still have racial hatred? The answer to the first question is fairly obvious.  The answer to the second is so complex as to be incomprehensible, but I’m sure we’ll hear many sociologists, psychologists, journalists, pundits and random internet trolls try to break it down for us in the coming days/weeks/months.  I welcome that discussion with open ears.

Meanwhile, the only answer I have is love.

I try to wrap my head around the so-incredible level of love and forgiveness displayed by the families of the victims at the shooter’s bond hearing. No one said it better than Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of one of the victims. She spoke directly to the shooter, saying, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love. Hate won’t win.” (Source:

Mother Emanuel will be open for Sunday services today. The light they carry into the world is witness to God’s love and to our human potential to love, rather than hurt, each other.  I hope my little poem reflects that light.

Photo by Stephen Hyatt

Photo by Stephen Hyatt
Source: photos/

Carrying the Light

by Jan Brown

Why do churches have such lovely chandeliers? Perhaps…

To remind us there is something irresistibly beautiful, something higher and more permanent than our imperfect selves.

To remind us of the beauty that can shine from just one beacon, even in a world otherwise devoid of light.

To focus the still-bright light of  our lost loved ones, so that we will not flounder in the dark.

To infuse love, the kind of love that shines on every living being, the kind of love that will never falter, never flicker out, never discriminate and never be darkened, no matter how deep the night.

shooting victims


Mother Emanuel’s light shines now, this very moment. I pray that everyone will let it in.



Friday Fictioneers is a lovely community of writers from around the world. My blog this week was a departure from the usual form. Normally we post 100-word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To read more stories of every conceivable genre, or to post your own, click here.



22 thoughts on “Carrying the Light

  1. Dear Jan,

    Little known fact-I was the token white girl in a black church for a little over a year, quite a few years back. This touched me to the core. These people could’ve been dear friends.

    And last year in KC we had a shooter target the Jewish Community Center here. Ironically the people he killed weren’t Jewish.

    Your poem is beautiful and timely. Thank you.



    • Thank you, Rochelle! I was just so troubled, I couldn’t bring myself to write fiction. I had to get this out of my bleeding heart. Thank you for reading it, and for your lovely comments ❤

    • Thank you, Tracey. For some reason I couldn’t write about anything else. But that does not diminish the significance of anyone else’s work. Everyone processes the photo prompt in their own unique way–and that’s a wonderful thing ☺️ I appreciate your kind comment.

  2. Jan, what else can I say? In Ghana here, I’ve never been a victim of race. Having never traveled outside the shores, I’ve not experienced any form of racism. And yet, that singular act by that lost white boy talked to me and others here across the oceans. Your words have brought it all sharply into focus.

    My heart bleeds at your words. And indeed, at the compassion of the families of the victims towards the boy.

    It is only the souls of those who have Christ that can forgive so much. May the Love of God that never flickers keep shinning on us all.

    Beautiful and moving post, Jan.God bless you. 🙂

  3. Thank you for putting faces to these lovely people. So very sad.
    I am not a religious person at all but I love your poem and all it says – we can all understand love and loss (and indeed recognise, if not understand, hatred).
    A fitting tribute.

  4. You can tell a lot about a person from their smile. For one thing you can see the God in them. You can see his agape love radiating from their souls. I see that love reflected in the 9 people that were gunned down. Learning to cope with tragedy is a gift from the Holy Spirit. You can’t pray for the people lost as they have reached their final destination. God was/is still in charge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s