General Queries in the Western Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice.
Coming to terms with the Queries
The season of Lent is a time of self-examination. Friends have not emphasized Lent, but self-examination in the form of Queries has long been a part of our history.
Friends' statements of faith often include queries, and the Western Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice includes two sets, one for everyone and another for elders. The introduction to the General Queries describes them as "guides to personal and corporate discernment." Individuals and meetings are encouraged to read them frequently.
A lot of people dislike the queries. They understand the purpose behind them, and will agree that they can be useful, but they avoid them whenever possible.
Why we don't like the Queries:
Query #4 asks "Do you make your home a place of hospitality, friendliness, peace and Christian fellowship?" and all we can think of is last night's argument, the mess in the living room, or the anxiety over keeping or finding a job. We know we don't measure up and the Queries are good at reminding us of that fact.
-The Queries make us feel like Sisyphus, stuck in a life of rolling a huge boulder up a steep hill, and before we reach the top, watching it roll back down, so that we have to start over. Always striving, never arriving.
Query #1 asks, “Do you strive for the constant realization of God's presence in your life?” We have moments in which we experience the presence of God. And then those moments are gone and we start over again. Always striving, occasionally arriving.
Part of the problem is that constant string of “Do you? . . . Do you? . . Do you?” The presentation of the queries puts us off. I have come up with a couple of ways of thinking about them that would be more embracing and welcoming. Perhaps you have some suggestions as well.
How we might grow to like the Queries:
Here are two positive ways to think about the Queries--
The Queries, like a string tied around a finger, are reminders that there are things we need to be doing while we are busy doing everything else. We get busy and forget to "strive for the constant realization of God." We need help remembering.
Maybe Query #1 could start off “Please remember to strive for the constant realization of God's presence in your life. Try to find some ways to be sensitive and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit.” There must be some ways to word these things so that we don't hear a nagging parent in the background.
The Queries are preparation for a journey. They remind us of some important things that we need to pack, but they are not the journey itself. The Queries can help us make sure that the stuff we need is in the suitcase.
In this case, Query #1 might go like this: “In what ways am I experiencing God's presence in my life at this place that I am at right now? Where am I getting my directions from?”
How do Queries work for you? Any thoughts?