27 April 2007

Advices and Queries: Reaching Out

Many of the members of my Meeting believe that the Queries (some would leave out the Advices) are the heart of Quakerism. They say that earnest and consistent attention to the Queries has deepened their faith and caused them to examine the integrity of their practice.

Here are the Advices and Queries my Meeting is considering during the month of May (from Pacific Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice):

Advices and Queries

Reaching Out

Friends’ fellowship begins and is nurtured within the home and Meeting. It reaches greater fulfillment as we carry our beliefs into the wider community.

Share your Quaker faith. Take time to learn about other people's experiences of the Light and, as you learn, give freely from what you have gained. Respect the experiences and opinions of others, but do not be afraid to say what you value. Welcome the diversity of culture, language, and expressions of faith in your Monthly Meeting, the Yearly Meeting, and the world community of Friends. Encourage discourse with Friends of pastoral and programmed traditions, and with members of other faiths.

Friends have a long history of involvement in public and private education, sharing our values with the world and nurturing future generations. Be mindful of the needs of children in your community and of avenues for deepening understanding between peoples.

• How does my life reflect Friends beliefs and thus encourage others to be interested in the Religious Society of Friends?

• Do I respond openly to inquiries about Quaker experience and belief?

• What does our Meeting do to make others aware of Friends principles and practices?

• What are we doing to help people of various races, cultures, and backgrounds feel at home among us and we among them?

• How do we encourage newcomers to return and participate in activities of the Meeting?

• In what ways do we participate in the life of the interfaith community and in the wider fellowship of Friends?


RichardM said...


I'd be interested in hearing about how your meeting answers the Queries. Please, describe for me the nuts and bolts of what you really do with them.

Heather Madrone said...

Currently, we're not doing much with them. I put the month's queries in the newsletter, and someone reads them in worship on the first First Day of the month.

At times, we've had query groups where we get together and do worship sharing around the month's queries. Worship & Ministry is starting that practice up again this summer. I've found that practice helpful in considering the queries more deeply, and from different angles.

Occasionally (and usually with queries from the quarterly or yearly meetings rather than with the monthly queries), we have a larger gathering to address queries. We did this last fall with PYM's Jubilee Year queries.

Many of the members of the Meeting read and consider the queries each month, and refer to them when they are troubled or unsure.

RichardM said...


Glad you've made it back to blogging.

Our YM has both individual and corporate queries. It sounds like your YM treats the queries as more or less individual queries. There is much value in the practice of corporately considering and corporately answering queries.

Getting together to discuss a query is the first step toward getting a corporate answer, but it is only a first step. In our YM the answers to the queries by the MM are read out at the YM. Many times I hear an answer from a MM that is not genuinely a corporate answer. It goes something like this: one Friend said X, another Friend said Y, etc. Those are individual answers collected into one bag. What a corporate answer entails is that there is a sense of unity about a single answer shared by those present. It's just like business meeting where we don't proceed to new business until there is a sense of meeting to record in the minutes.

I hope this doesn't come across like I am nagging at you. I have found that the practice of giving corporate answers to queries is such a valuable one that I try to talk it up whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Heather Madrone said...

Friend Richard,

It's good to be missed. Blogger didn't tell me I had comments waiting, or I would have been back sooner. It was only when I logged in to finally write about my canvas bag ministry that I saw your comment.

Tell me more about how you address the queries as a corporate body. Do you take time in business meeting to consider them each month? Do you meet at some other time to address them? Whatever you can tell me about your process would be helpful.

RichardM said...


Each MM is unique but typically a MM will set aside time to consider one query at a time. It should be considered part of the business of the MM and enough time set aside for it. Some MM do it during regular business sessions and others have a session devoted exclusively to the query. I think it's a good idea to have someone with a fair amount of experience as a recording clerk to formulate the answer for the group and, just as in a regular business session, read the answer back to the group to confirm that they are in unity as to the answer. And if not, to make necessary corrections.

Often quite reading the query provokes quite a bit of discussion about what the query means and its history and how it relates to the testimonies or to the other queries etc. This provides a bit of education for novice Quakers and the whole process has that as a side benefit. But while the rambling discussion around the query is valuable it isn't really the answer. Answering the query is essential and often the truth stings a bit. Honesty is important. A MM needs to watch out for a tendency to dodge a query that they don't want to answer honestly. But it's a lot better to say "Love and unity were not maintained perfectly among us this year as we quarreled among ourselves over the school budget." than to get vague and evasive.

My own MM had gotten so small that we abandoned the practice for a number of years and are just now getting back to it. Having a lot of people new to Quaker process makes it harder but it is actually a great way to teach people about Quaker process.