Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.
George Fox, 1656
What is A & Q?
To those already familiar with Quakers the term ‘advices and queries’ is the recognised title of a small but precious little red book! At any Quaker meeting there will very likely be a copy readily to hand. Although small, its contents are weighty. It is a collection of numbered reflections made over time, intended for private devotion and reflection, as a challenge and inspiration to us as Friends in our personal lives and in our life as a religious community, and as a concise expression of our faith and practice readily available to enquirers and to the wider world.
Below you will find a full rendition.
1.01 As Friends we commit ourselves to a way of worship which allows God to teach and transform us. We have found corporately that the Spirit, if rightly followed, will lead us into truth, unity and love: all our testimonies grow from this leading.
Although the corporate use of advices and queries is governed by more flexible regulations than in the past, they should continue to be a challenge and inspiration to Friends in their personal lives and in their life as a religious community which knows the guidance of the universal spirit of Christ, witnessed to in the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Advices and queries are not a call to increased activity by each individual Friend but a reminder of the insights of the Society. Within the community there is a diversity of gifts. We are all therefore asked to consider how far the advices and queries affect us personally and where our own service lies. There will also be diversity of experience, of belief and of language. Friends maintain that expressions of faith must be related to personal experience. Some find traditional Christian language full of meaning; some do not. Our understanding of our own religious tradition may sometimes be enhanced by insights of other faiths. The deeper realities of our faith are beyond precise verbal formulation and our way of worship based on silent waiting testifies to this.
Our diversity invites us both to speak what we know to be true in our lives and to learn from others. Friends are encouraged to listen to each other in humility and understanding, trusting in the Spirit that goes beyond our human effort and comprehension. So it is for the comfort and discomfort of Friends that these advices and queries are offered, with the hope that we may all be more faithful and find deeper joy in God’s service.
Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.
Postscript to an epistle to ‘the brethren in the north’ issued by a meeting of elders at Balby, 1656
ADVICES AND QUERIES 1.102
1. Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.
2. Bring the whole of your life under the ordering of the spirit of Christ. Are you open to the healing power of God’s love? Cherish that of God within you, so that this love may grow in you and guide you. Let your worship and your daily life enrich each other. Treasure your experience of God, however it comes to you. Remember that Christianity is not a notion but a way.
3. Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God’s guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God.
4. The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found inspiration in the life and teachings of Jesus. How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage? How does Jesus speak to you today? Are you following Jesus’ example of love in action? Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God? How does his relationship with God challenge and inspire you?
5. Take time to learn about other people’s experiences of the Light. Remember the importance of the Bible, the writings of Friends and all writings which reveal the ways of God. As you learn from others, can you in turn give freely from what you have gained? While respecting the experiences and opinions of others, do not be afraid to say what you have found and what you value. Appreciate that doubt and questioning can also lead to spiritual growth and to a greater awareness of the Light that is in us all.
6. Do you work gladly with other religious groups in the pursuit of common goals? While remaining faithful to Quaker insights, try to enter imaginatively into the life and witness of other communities of faith, creating together the bonds of friendship.
7. Be aware of the spirit of God at work in the ordinary activities and experience of your daily life. Spiritual learning continues throughout life, and often in unexpected ways. There is inspiration to be found all around us, in the natural world, in the sciences and arts, in our work and friendships, in our sorrows as well as in our joys. Are you open to new light, from whatever source it may come? Do you approach new ideas with discernment?
8. Worship is our response to an awareness of God. We can worship alone, but when we join with others in expectant waiting we may discover a deeper sense of God’s presence. We seek a gathered stillness in our meetings for worship so that all may feel the power of God’s love drawing us together and leading us.
9. In worship we enter with reverence into communion with God and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Come to meeting for worship with heart and mind prepared. Yield yourself and all your outward concerns to God’s guidance so that you may find ‘the evil weakening in you and the good raised up’.
10. Come regularly to meeting for worship even when you are angry, depressed, tired or spiritually cold. In the silence ask for and accept the prayerful support of others joined with you in worship. Try to find a spiritual wholeness which encompasses suffering as well as thankfulness and joy. Prayer, springing from a deep place in the heart, may bring healing and unity as nothing else can. Let meeting for worship nourish your whole life.
11. Be honest with yourself. What unpalatable truths might you be evading? When you recognise your shortcomings, do not let that discourage you. In worship together we can find the assurance of God’s love and the strength to go on with renewed courage
12. When you are preoccupied and distracted in meeting let wayward and disturbing thoughts give way quietly to your awareness of God’s presence among us and in the world. Receive the vocal ministry of others in a tender and creative spirit. Reach for the meaning deep within it, recognising that even if it is not God’s word for you, it may be so for others. Remember that we all share responsibility for the meeting for worship whether our ministry is in silence or through the spoken word.
13. Do not assume that vocal ministry is never to be your part. Faithfulness and sincerity in speaking, even very briefly, may open the way to fuller ministry from others. When prompted to speak, wait patiently to know that the leading and the time are right, but do not let a sense of your own unworthiness hold you back. Pray that your ministry may arise from deep experience, and trust that words will be given to you. Try to speak audibly and distinctly, and with sensitivity to the needs of others. Beware of speaking predictably or too often, and of making additions towards the end of a meeting when it was well left before.
14. Are your meetings for church affairs held in a spirit of worship and in dependence on the guidance of God? Remember that we do not seek a majority decision nor even consensus. As we wait patiently for divine guidance our experience is that the right way will open and we shall be led into unity.
15. Do you take part as often as you can in meetings for church affairs? Are you familiar enough with our church government to contribute to its disciplined processes? Do you consider difficult questions with an informed mind as well as a generous and loving spirit? Are you prepared to let your insights and personal wishes take their place alongside those of others or be set aside as the meeting seeks the right way forward? If you cannot attend, uphold the meeting prayerfully.
16. Do you welcome the diversity of culture, language and expressions of faith in our yearly meeting and in the world community of Friends? Seek to increase your understanding and to gain from this rich heritage and wide range of spiritual insights. Uphold your own and other yearly meetings in your prayers.
17. Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.
18. How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.
19. Rejoice in the presence of children and young people in your meeting and recognise the gifts they bring. Remember that the meeting as a whole shares a responsibility for every child in its care. Seek for them as for yourself a full development of God’s gifts and the abundant life Jesus tells us can be ours. How do you share your deepest beliefs with them, while leaving them free to develop as the spirit of God may lead them? Do you invite them to share their insights with you? Are you ready both to learn from them and to accept your responsibilities towards them?
20. Do you give sufficient time to sharing with others in the meeting, both newcomers and long-time members, your understanding of worship, of service, and of commitment to the Society’s witness? Do you give a right proportion of your money to support Quaker work?
21. Do you cherish your friendships, so that they grow in depth and understanding and mutual respect? In close relationships we may risk pain as well as finding joy. When experiencing great happiness or great hurt we may be more open to the working of the Spirit.
22. Respect the wide diversity among us in our lives and relationships. Refrain from making prejudiced judgments about the life journeys of others. Do you foster the spirit of mutual understanding and forgiveness which our discipleship asks of us? Remember that each one of us is unique, precious, a child of God.
23. Marriage has always been regarded by Friends as a religious commitment rather than a merely civil contract. Both partners should offer with God’s help an intention to cherish one another for life. Remember that happiness depends on an understanding and steadfast love on both sides. In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.
24. Children and young people need love and stability. Are we doing all we can to uphold and sustain parents and others who carry the responsibility for providing this care?
25. A long-term relationship brings tensions as well as fulfilment. If your relationship with your partner is under strain, seek help in understanding the other’s point of view and in exploring your own feelings, which may be powerful and destructive. Consider the wishes and feelings of any children involved, and remember their enduring need for love and security. Seek God’s guidance. If you undergo the distress of separation or divorce, try to maintain some compassionate communication so that arrangements can be made with the minimum of bitterness.
26. Do you recognise the needs and gifts of each member of your family and household, not forgetting your own? Try to make your home a place of loving friendship and enjoyment, where all who live or visit may find the peace and refreshment of God’s presence.
27. Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?
28. Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.
29. Approach old age with courage and hope. As far as possible, make arrangements for your care in good time, so that an undue burden does not fall on others. Although old age may bring increasing disability and loneliness, it can also bring serenity, detachment and wisdom. Pray that in your final years you may be enabled to find new ways of receiving and reflecting God’s love.
30. Are you able to contemplate your death and the death of those closest to you? Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully. In bereavement, give yourself time to grieve. When others mourn, let your love embrace them.
31. We are called to live ‘in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars’. Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.
32. Bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?
33. Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?
34. Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.
35. Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God’s purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply. Ask your meeting for the prayerful support which will give you strength as a right way becomes clear.
36. Do you uphold those who are acting under concern, even if their way is not yours? Can you lay aside your own wishes and prejudices while seeking with others to find God’s will for them?
37. Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.
38. If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity, are you prepared to resist it? Our responsibilities to God and our neighbour may involve us in taking unpopular stands. Do not let the desire to be sociable, or the fear of seeming peculiar, determine your decisions.
39. Consider which of the ways to happiness offered by society are truly fulfilling and which are potentially corrupting and destructive. Be discriminating when choosing means of entertainment and information. Resist the desire to acquire possessions or income through unethical investment, speculation or games of chance.
40. In view of the harm done by the use of alcohol, tobacco and other habit-forming drugs, consider whether you should limit your use of them or refrain from using them altogether. Remember that any use of alcohol or drugs may impair judgment and put both the user and others in danger.
41. Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength. Do not be persuaded into buying what you do not need or cannot afford. Do you keep yourself informed about the effects your style of living is having on the global economy and environment?
42. We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.
George Fox, 1656
When Yearly Meeting in 1682 decided to ask the representatives from each quarterly meeting to reply to three questions orally, Yearly Meeting itself had only been meeting consecutively for the previous few years and the systematic organisation of quarterly and monthly meetings had been recently completed. These questions were intended to produce factual information from Friends with local knowledge, so that the progress of the Society throughout the country could be seen and help given in the areas where it was most needed.
What Friends in the ministry, in their respective counties, departed this life since the last yearly meeting?
What Friends imprisoned for their testimony have died in prison since the last yearly meeting?
How the Truth has prospered amongst them since the last yearly meeting, and how Friends are in peace and unity?
These three questions were expanded into six in 1694 and further amended in the early 1700s but their purpose was still mainly to elicit factual information. The practice of requiring oral replies to the questions soon became too cumbersome and was replaced, following Yearly Meeting decisions in 1700 and 1706, by written replies from the quarterly meetings. The system of replying to the questions took root in the Society and the term ‘query’ was increasingly used, in Yearly Meeting minutes from 1723 onwards, instead of ‘question’.
As the practice of replying to the queries became more formal their purpose also began to change. In the early eighteenth century Friends generally ceased to believe that the whole nation would accept the truth that they had been preaching and became more concerned in preserving the Society as ‘a precious remnant’ devoted to the truth. The queries were increasingly used to ensure consistency of conduct among Friends and to obtain information as to the state of the Society. In 1721, for example, a query was added as to the receipt and payment of tithes, and in 1723 as to defrauding the king of his customs and excise, and many other subjects were included in additional queries.
The Society declined in numbers in the eighteenth century. Yearly Meeting in 1760, troubled that standards in the Society were falling, set up a committee ‘for the promotion and revival of wholesome discipline’, which visited meetings all over the country. One of its principal instruments was to insist on a more systematic reading and answering of the queries by monthly and quarterly meetings. The purpose of the queries after 1760 became principally disciplinary, and monthly and quarterly meetings and their elders and overseers regarded the queries as a touchstone on which they could rely in administering the discipline.
There were periodic revisions of the queries during the next hundred years, although the number of substantial changes was few. When the queries were revised in 1791 Yearly Meeting adopted the first ‘general advices’ for consideration by monthly and quarterly meetings. They were short, and mainly concerned with the domestic life of the Society and its members. They were regarded as being of subsidiary importance to the queries, and were treated as an additional aid to the discipline. During the early nineteenth century Friends were much influenced by the evangelical movement and this was illustrated in the revision of the general advices in 1833. They were completely re-written and much expanded. They became of much greater importance than before, and their purpose was no longer mainly disciplinary but instead they were used to emphasise the importance of evangelical principles and to encourage Friends to consider whether they should not adopt them personally.
As Friends in the early nineteenth century entered more into the public and social life of the times, many of them began to question traditional practices of the Society including the very large amount of time spent at business meetings in reading and drawing up answers to the queries, which were often formal in nature. The value of the queries for self-examination had been commended by Yearly Meeting from 1787 onwards; increasingly Friends came to regard this aspect as more important than their disciplinary use and this change in emphasis resulted in the revision of the queries in 1860 and 1875. The requirement of preparing written answers was virtually abolished, and while the regulations continued to provide for a corporate consideration of the queries by monthly and preparative meetings, this in turn became in many places a formality. The general advices were revised over the same period. They were lengthened and extended in scope, and provision was made for them to be read at the close of meeting for worship.
No major revision of the general advices and queries took place until 1928. By this time many Friends considered that they were too negative in approach, had become uneasy at the evangelical language then in use, and wished for greater emphasis on the social responsibilities of Quakerism. These views were reflected in the revised general advices and queries; the general advices were again increased in length, and divided for convenience into three parts, while the queries, covering much of the same ground as the general advices, were also increased in number. The requirement of corporate deliberation on the queries by Friends’ business meetings remained but this became of much less significance. The use of the queries became increasingly devotional – ‘a collection of exhortations on the right management of one’s own affairs both inward and outward, and a collection of questions, or groups of questions, in pondering which a whole meeting can achieve a corporate examination of conscience’. The practice was established in many meetings of reading the queries in meetings for worship in addition to the general advices, which under the regulations adopted in 1931 were required to be read there.
In 1928 the advices on ministry were for the first time brought before members of the yearly meeting as a whole. Twenty years later, in response to a plea that they should be rewritten in modern language and should encourage those who had not yet taken part in vocal ministry, additional advice on ministry was adopted in 1949.
A revision of Advices and queries, adopted in 1964, contained a number of alterations to the previous edition and included references to social problems not apparent in 1928. The principal change was that the advices on ministry and additional advice were no longer separate documents, although much of the material in them was again included.
By 1984 some monthly meetings were expressing unease with the 1964 edition of Advices and queries. Hesitations had been aroused by the use of masculine nouns and pronouns no longer seen as justifiable, by some of the theological language used, by the difficulty of reading aloud some of the longer paragraphs and by the absence of reference to some more recently evolved concerns. In 1986 Meeting for Sufferings appointed a Book of Discipline Revision Committee, and among the earliest tasks which this committee took up was a revision of the advices and queries.
As part of a major programme of consultation with the yearly meeting, the committee drafted a provisional document with the title Questions and counsel. Meeting for Sufferings agreed to publish the draft in 1988 and invited meetings to use it for two or three years and to join in the process of revision by telling of their experience. In the light of these responses and after several more years of work on the revision of the whole book, the committee prepared the present text which was approved by Yearly Meeting in 1994.
DUTY OF READING 1.05
The advices and queries are intended for use in our meetings, for private devotion and reflection, as a challenge and inspiration to us as Friends in our personal lives and in our life as a religious community, and as a concise expression of our faith and practice readily available to enquirers and to the wider world.
Their use will vary in different meetings according to the needs of the members. Generally it will be helpful to arrange for the reading of the advices and queries in meetings for worship over a specified period, while taking care that such reading should not be carried out within too limited a time. Friends may wish to consider during the year one or more of the sections in their meetings for church affairs or to hold special meetings and discussion groups for their consideration. The only duties laid down are as follows:
Area meetings 1.06
Area meetings should consider regularly the use made of advices and queries in their constituent meetings. This consideration should be undertaken annually or triennially as each monthly meeting determines. Preparative meetings should be asked to report on the use made of this document so that monthly meetings may be fully informed. It is hoped that out of such sharing of experience monthly meetings may be enabled to give advice and encouragement where necessary in order to ensure that this document is used to the best advantage.
Monthly meetings should also consider whether it would be helpful to arrange for the reading of sections of Advices and queries during their own periods of worship, and to make suitable arrangements for such reading. Some monthly meetings may also wish to arrange periodically for the discussion of appropriate sections.
Local meetings 1.07
Local meetings should give periodic consideration to the ways in which advices and queries can be used and they are to report to their respective monthly meetings annually or triennially, as directed, on the use made of them.
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