The questions we ask. . .

For more than 300 years, one of the most distinctive things about Friends has been that we have not had a creed. Instead, we ask questions. Whether they are called “queries” or “questions for spiritual growth”, we have found it more effective to ask people to think instead of telling people what to do.

Rather than saying, “Do this, do that,” Friends ask, “Have you thought about this or that issue? Have you reflected carefully on how you live your faith?”

Many meetings read one of the queries at the start of each monthly meeting. Unfortunately, we don’t usually take the next step and take time to discuss them in depth. In the old days, this was one of the main purposes of meeting for business – meetings reflected on the queries and provided written reports on their struggle to follow God’s leading faithfully.

Like anything else, the language of the queries can easily become stilted and old-fashioned. And as the queries are revised, they tend to become longer. Quakers also have a bad habit of using the passive voice (“Are meetings held regularly?”) rather than stating questions in an active way (“Do you make meeting one of your top priorities?”)

Too many times, Friends ask questions which make us feel guilty, rather than feeling encouraged to change.  We need to ask challenging questions in a more inviting way.

And every so often, we need to dust off the queries, make them sharper, and re-tune them for the coming generation.

Here are some re-phrasings of traditional queries which should give you the idea:

  1. Is meeting a priority for us, and not just another “extra” stuck onto our week? Do we expect God to guide us in all parts of life, and especially in our life together?
  2. Are daily thanksgiving, daily communion, and daily awareness of God’s presence a part of our lives? Do we have an active sense of life as an adventure with God?
  3.  Do we seek the living Word of God, whether from the Holy Bible, the Holy Spirit, or the holy community? Is our ministry holy? What real, spiritual growth do we see in each other?
  4.  Are unity and healing dynamic concerns for us? How do our actions contribute to reconciliation?
  5.  Is God truly present in our homes and in our lifestyles, in our work and in our times of relaxation? What choices do we make?
  6.  Do our personal and meeting priorities reflect the fact that children are especially beloved by God, and not just nuisances to be dealt with so that we can get on with more “important” concerns? What do we teach our children?
  7.  Does God have anything to do with the choice and practice of our vocations? How does God influence our business dealings? Do fantasies about money exert a destructive influence on our lives?
  8.  Do we avoid abusive behavior in our lives, whether of ourselves or others? Are we truly free from gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, addictive behaviors of all kinds? Do we in any way misuse God’s creation?
  9.  How do we live out our calling to be responsible, active citizens? Do we work for the good of our society, and do we refuse to go along with our society when it would be contrary to the leading of God? Do our lives reflect our concern for truth, fairness and justice?
  10.  Do we have a reverence for all life, and do we struggle to bring that reverence to bear on all aspects of life?
  11.  Do we live in the awareness that there is only one humanity, and that all of us are made in the image of God? Do we practice any kind of discrimination or prejudice? Do we look for active ways to reduce suffering, poverty and misery in the world? What are we doing to set people free?
  12.  Do we live in that peace and power which take away the occasion of all wars? Are we mindful of our calling to share that peace and power, and not just talk about it?

There are many other questions we want to ask ourselves. Let’s keep them sharp, and let’s keep them positive — and let’s use the queries to change our own lives and our life together.

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2 Responses to “The questions we ask. . .”


  1. 1 Tom Smith January 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I very much appreciate your queries. Well done!!

  2. 2 Palma Richardson May 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I agree. I have them saved and periodically reread them.


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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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