The Advices and Queries
It is not opinion, or speculation, or notions of what is true, or assent to or the subscription of articles and propositions, though never so soundly worded, that …makes a man a true believer or true Christian. But it is a conformity of mind and practice to the will of God, in all holiness of conversation, according to the dictates of this Divine principle of Light and Life in the soul which denotes a person truly a child of God.
William Penn, 1692
FRIENDS BEGAN TO USE QUERIES to ascertain the state of Society only a few years after its founding in England. The first set of such questions to be asked of monthly meetings read as follows: Which Friends in service to the Society, in their respective regions, departed this life since the last Yearly Meeting?
Which Friends, imprisoned on account of their testimony, died in prison since the last Yearly Meeting?
How among Friends did Truth advance since last Yearly Meeting and how do they fare in relation to peace and unity?
By 1700 the practice of answering in writing had begun. The list of queries soon was enlarged to make inquiries concerning the conduct of meetings. In 1791 the first general advices were adopted. Periodic revisions occurred in various Yearly Meetings; queries and advices were developed on discipline, evangelical soundness, moral and spiritual instruction,social responsibility, and ministry. Thus the queries and advices represent a continuing exploration of our common faith and practice.
The advices and queries are a reminder of the basic faith and principles held to be essential to the life and witness of the Religious Society of Friends. Each of us is therefore asked to consider how far the advices and queries affect us personally, and where our service lies. We may be disheartened at times because the ideal of Christian discipleship seems impossibly demanding. However, we should all remember that we are to seek it, not with our own strength, but with the strength of the Guide whom we follow.
The advices and queries are intended for use in Monthly Meetings as well as for personal devotions. Their use varies in Meetings according to the needs of the members. Many Meetings read and consider one or several of the queries, with appropriate advices or other material, once a month during business meetings or in other meetings. Meeting committees may find certain queries helpful in evaluating their activities. Meetings often publish the queries regularly in their newsletters. They offer a basis for Monthly Meeting’s annual report on the state of the Society.
While the advices and queries are divided into categories for convenience of consideration, Friends are reminded that the sections are part of a whole, as life itself is a unity. All aspects of life are holy; distinct lines cannot be drawn between secular and religious