Friends have assessed the state of this religious society through the use of queries since the time of George Fox. Rooted in the history of Friends, the queries reflect the Quaker way of life, reminding Friends of the ideals we seek to attain. From the Christian tradition, Friends have taken as a standard the life and teaching of Jesus, not only as recorded in the New Testament, but even more importantly as revealed inwardly, as we seek God’s truth and its expression through our lives today. Friends approach queries as a guide to self-examination, using them not as an outward set of rules, but as a framework within which we assess our convictions and examine, clarify, and consider prayerfully the direction of our lives and the life of the community.
Over the years, the content of the General Queries has changed, as each generation finds its own voice. The earliest General Queries of London Yearly Meeting asked for specific facts and figures: which Friends imprisoned for their testimonies had died, which present prisoners there were, and what sufferings. Even in the more abstract question, “How does Truth prosper among us?” there was an expectation of a quantifiable answer—in this case, the number of new Friends. Today, queries that are looking for specific factual answers are not included in the general queries. Rather, they are considered supplementary to the queries (see the checklist, pp. 188-190) and their focus is the ‘right ordering’ of the monthly meeting organization.
The language of the General Queries today is language that encourages the probing-in-depth of an issue or a concern. While changes in specific focus and language are inevitable over time, the queries have been marked by consistency of convictions and concerns within Friends testimonies—simplicity, peace, integrity, stewardship, equality and community—as well as by strength derived from worship, ministry, and social conscience.
Meetings consider the General Queries in a variety of ways. Some Meetings value the preparation of written answers; some use them as an aid to inward reflection; some make them part of the meeting for worship, some of the meeting for business. Friends may consider each in turn, or may consider several together that meet a current need. There may be times when a Meeting will reword a query or contemplate a new one to meet its particular situation. Friends will benefit from review of the full cycle of queries over a year or two. It has been common practice to use the responses to the queries addressed to Meetings as a basis for reports to the quarterly meeting. Whatever the approach, Friends’ faithful attendance to the queries in openness to the Spirit enriches the life of the Meeting.
The following General Queries are arranged with a set for the Meeting and a set printed in italics for the individual. In addition, within the section of Care for One Another there is a set for the family to consider. While some Meetings read aloud and consider both the corporate and individual sets, others consider only the corporate sets, leaving the individual sets for personal reflection and response.
- Meeting for Worship
- Meeting for Business
- Spiritual Nurture, Ministry, and Religious Education
- Care for the Meeting Community
- Social Responsibility and Witness
- Ministry of Outreach
- Stewardship of the Environment
- Stewardship of Resources
- Integrity and Simplicity