Use of Questions as Spiritual Practice

I imagine any number of religious communities use questions to help guide spiritual reflection. Quakers use the term Query to refer to these questions. Different Quaker meetings create their own sets of queries. The following relates to the Advices and Queries of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), but my example of answers are not official responses. Those who have been following my blog posts can see how my recent experiences related to Native spirituality are part of my response. We apply our recent experiences into our answers to the queries.

Commonly there are twelve sets of Advices and Queries. These are the topics for my yearly meeting.

  1. MEETING FOR WORSHIP
  2. OUTREACH
  3. MEETING FOR BUSINESS
  4. HARMONY WITHIN THE MEETING
  5. MUTUAL CARE
  6. EDUCATION
  7. HOME AND FAMILY
  8. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
  9. CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY
  10. ENVIRONMENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
  11. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
  12. PEACE AND NONVIOLENCE

The Advices provide an introduction to the queries that follow. Time is usually set aside monthly for the whole meeting to discuss answers to that month’s set of queries. A response is written that combines what Friends have said during that discussion. Since there are a number of Friends who belong to the meeting, but live too far away to attended, several years ago we started the practice we call “long distance queries.” The Advice and Queries for the month’s consideration is emailed to distant members, who can and sometimes do email back their response to the queries. Those response are read at the meetinghouse and included in the discussion of the queries.

The following introduction to the Advices and Queries is from the Faith and Practice of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). https://www.iymc.org/faith-practice/

Introduction

Quakerism is a living faith made real through the inward light of the living Christ. This faith holds that our individual lives and the corporate life of the meeting can be guided by continuing revelation through the Holy Spirit.

When we behold the splendor of creation, we realize that knowledge of what is divine is beyond description. Traditionally, Friends have referred to the divine in such terms as God, the Inward Light, the Living Water, the Creator, the Christ Within, and the Spirit. Many believe that when we limit the divine to one gender we also limit ourselves and each other. Becoming aware of how we discern Spirit is important to our worship.

The Quaker faith is not written in the form of a creed, but is experienced in our lives as a vibrant, living truth. Advices and queries serve to engage our minds and hearts in a process which may provide openings to the leadings of the Spirit within us. These leadings may speak to our individual and corporate needs. The advices and queries reflect experiences from many lives as they contribute to the gathered wisdom of the group. They serve to guide us on our spiritual journeys by opening our hearts and minds to the possibility of new directions and insights.

Uses of Advices and Queries

We look for our own truths and the truths of our meeting when we discuss the advices; and answer the queries. It is suggested that one advice and one query be considered by the local meeting each month.

This month Bear Creek Friends Meeting will be discussing the following Advices and Queries, which are related to meeting for worship.

MEETING FOR WORSHIP

ADVICE

Meeting for Worship is the heart of the meeting. In the silence, we seek direct communion with God the Spirit, conscious of the seeking of others. From the depths of living silence may come an awareness of the presence of the Spirit.

Sometimes the silence is unbroken. At other times a message may come to any one of us which seems intended not simply for the worshiper, but for the gathering as a whole. If the message is not expressed one may feel a sense of not having been faithful to a leading of the Spirit, but if it is spoken, a sense of peace may follow. We are most effective if we speak clearly, simply and from our own experience. Because we are unique individuals who come from varied backgrounds and life experiences, our messages reflect diversity. Part of our worship together is listening with an open spirit, holding the speaker in love, remembering that silence after the message is part of the message.

Our daily lives are linked with Meeting for Worship. In the search for truth, Friends are encouraged to spend time in individual study, meditation or prayer and to be open to other sources of inspiration around us. The life of the meeting may be strengthened by a deep level of sharing, discussion or worship at times other than regularly scheduled meetings.

Friends should make an effort to arrive a Meeting for Worship prepared in mind and spirit to support one another in a worshipful atmosphere. As we give and receive, in speech or in silence, we are drawn together in the life of the Spirit.

QUERY
• Are our Meetings for Worship held in a spirit of expectant waiting and communion with the Holy Spirit? How do we prepare our hearts and minds for worship?
• How do we refer to that which is divine? How does ascribing gender to the Holy Spirit affect our worship?
• How does the vocal ministry of the meeting contribute to its spiritual life? In what ways do we recognize and nurture vocal ministry and other spiritual gifts?


Following is my own response to these queries. When we meet at Bear Creek this morning, everyone’s responses will be combined into the meeting’s response to this set of queries. Following is just my response as an illustration and NOT anything that has been approved.

My spiritual experience has expanded greatly as I learn more about indigenous peoples spirituality. One of my main reasons for participating on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March was to learn more about native spirituality and share about my own. I had some difficulty with this, being aware of Quaker’s participation in forced assimilation in the boarding schools. I felt I made progress with this after I was able to share stories related to this during the March with my friend Matthew Lone Bear.

I have begun to learn about and pay attention to the presence of the Spirit in all things-animate and inanimate. My nearly daily walks are much more interesting as I pay attention to the trees, sky, squirrels, rabbits and hawks (3 of which routinely fly above me). I recently wrote a blog post about my tree friend. https://jeffkisling.com/2019/08/26/my-tree-friend/


I think the query about gender and the Holy Spirit is interesting in these days of us being more aware of non-binary gender definitions and the use of pronouns.


Sometimes my spiritual life feels like it is a rut. I think we need to go deep into our spiritual selves, because I think we are being called to be among those who lead as we rapidly move deeper into environmental collapse. We will have to find answers from God, because we don’t have many right now.


I would like us to begin to share our spiritual journeys with each other. In Indianapolis such a sharing was done by a given person speaking of their spiritual journey during pre-meeting.

Individual and NOT approved response from Jeff Kisling

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