As Ohio Yearly Meeting’s Book of Discipline stated, the Queries and Advices “provide a means for maintaining a general oversight of the membership pertaining to our Christian life and conduct. … It remains this Yearly Meeting’s heartfelt desire that good order and unity may be maintained among us … the attention of each member of the Society should be drawn at regular intervals to individual self-examination … To aid the members in this exercise, a series of both Queries and Advices is provided to impress upon the minds of us all various principles and testimonies which should guide our daily lives.”

The tradition was for Quakers (the Society of Friends) to ponder a set of these Queries at each monthly meeting for business and have someone draft a summary to be reviewed the next month. (This is in contrast to the weekly times of worship on Sunday, or “First-Day,” morning and, if possible, sometime during the week.) The monthly meeting’s summaries would then be reviewed at the next quarterly meeting – a gathering Friends from nearby meetings – and another summary would be drafted, to be shared in a similar manner at the larger yearly meeting.

When I was living in Baltimore, one Friend suggested that those of us living at a distance from our home meetings sit down and partake in this exercise and then mail our written answers to our home meeting. Although intending to take up this practice, I procrastinated and Winona received nothing until a personal invitation arrived, gently urging me to join in the exercise.

Many of my short essays and poems originate in those responses, now turned from addressing the community of faith to the Source itself and outward again.


    1. The examen, as I understand it, focuses on the spiritual state of the individual as a daily practice. The queries, in contrast, arise in the action of individuals as well as the community and are considered at the monthly Meeting for Business. One, for instance, asks: “Are we sensitive to the needs of those around us who may be in less fortunate circumstances? Do we prayerfully consider how we can share one another’s burdens when the need arises? Do we counsel lovingly and prayerfully with those members whose actions in any phase of life give us grounds for concern?”

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