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Advices and Queries (As&Qs):

The Little Red Book of Quakerism.

    [GSJ:29.03.17]

Our shared experience, of exploring As&Qs in our monthly study group, has proved immensely rewarding for us all. It has however provoked me to look even more closely at our ‘little red book’.


The first thing to note is that it is actually divided into four sections, indicated only by a single dividing line, which is located between the sections. As you read through you can see that each section is loosely ‘themed’.

Section One:        1-7 Concerns the religious aspects of Quakerism.

Section Two:        8-16 Refers to Meetings for Worship and Business.

Section Three:    17-30 Focuses on relationship and personal life.

Section Four: 31-42 Is concerned with ethics and public life.


To learn more about the background to As&Qs, it has an excellent short introduction and at the back, a brief history. Should you wish to look deeper into the themes in these sections then there are relevant chapters in Quaker Faith and Practice (QF&P), which develop these themes by means of quotations from across the more than three hundred years of Quakerism. It is noteworthy that another description of QF&P is ‘The Book of Discipline’; it is in fact a documentary source, which provides the basis for a whole way of life


When you begin to examine the text more closely, all kinds of questions arise. What actually do we mean by ‘Advices'? Is it the same as simple advice? Likewise are the ‘queries just straightforward questions? And what about those elements that are in fact neither advices nor queries but rather appear to be forms of statement? A good example would be A&Q No. 4, which is both a rehearsal of historical fact but is also akin to a statement of belief;

The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found inspiration in the life and teachings of Jesus.’


The original inspiration for these documents takes us back to an elders meeting in Balby in 1656; these elders wrote to Friends ‘in the north’:

Dearly beloved brethren, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.


These words, which can be found toward the end of the introduction to As&Qs (p.4), indicate a desire to offer guidance but not an intention to lay down strict rules to be followed thoughtlessly.  The committee commissioned  to revise and renew the present 1994 version of As&Qs, will have aspired to fulfil this original  hope to provide a guide relevant to the time. Those, who may be commissioned to again revise and renew this document in the near future, will undoubtedly be motivated by a comparable aspiration.


[GSJ:29.03.17]




Thought for the Month   (March 2017)


Advices & Queries No: 31: The Peace Testimony A&Q.


First introduced in 1682, as three direct queries or questions, Advices and Queries has been gradually modified, extended and revised over the centuries. The changes offer one window, through which some of the corporate concerns of the Society of Friends can be viewed. This is perhaps exemplified no better, than in the development and changes to the A&Q relating to the ‘Peace Testimony’. In its present day form it states:


We are called to live ‘in virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion for all wars’.

Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ?

Search out whatever in your own way of life contains seeds of war.

Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.


Turning the clock back to its first appearance in 1742, the then newly formulated query incorporated a prior addition to the 1721 version, which had warned Friends against  ‘giving or receiving tithes’. In its new form the Query directed attention to a twin focus for or dual testimony in the life of the Society:-

Do you bear a faithful and Christian testimony against receiving and paying tithes? and against bearing arms? and do you admonish such as are unfaithful therein?


In 1758 its strictures were extended further and for the first time in a separate Query; ten years later in 1768, marking a subsequent and more peaceful era, some strictures were dropped.  Such changes not only give a clear indication of the historical times in which the Queries were set but may also suggest that there was a basis for genuine concern about behavior exhibited by some Quakers:-


Do you bear faithful witness against bearing arms, or paying trophy money, or being in any way concerned in privateers, letters of marque, or in dealing in prize goods as such?


Not until 1875 was this query simplified and then developments in 1928 begin to present a shape to the testimony, which makes it easily recognisable today.


Are you faithful in maintaining our testimony against all war as inconsistent with the spirit and teaching of Christ?

Do you live in the life and power which takes away the occasion of wars?

Do you seek to take part in the ministry of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations, and in the breaking of class barriers?


Quite early equality and diversity needs have begun to surface but gendered language in-sensitivities remains in evidence in additions to the 1953 version,


Do you behave with brotherly love to all men of whatever race and colour?


Reflecting on these developments and on our existing 1994 version, one wonders what changes might be introduced to this A&Q, in a possible 2020(?) version.






Thought for the Month (February 2017)

Background.

Some months ago, I started to offer a ‘Thought for the Week’ and this was entered by Rodney onto the website. It was a bit too ambitious and so I have stepped back and will offer a Thought for the Month instead. It will be distributed to everyone via our correspondent Judy (benefiting I trust, those who are not able to join us regularly) and also place it on the website (for enquirers who may be just taking a peek at local Quakerism).

We began our programme of reading an ‘Advice and Query’ in Meeting for Worship, consequent on being quite inspired by studying them in our 4th Sunday study group. The following A&Q is the one, which was shared in Meeting for Worship today.

Are you following Jesus’ example of love in action?

Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God?

How does his (Jesus’) relationship with God challenge and inspire you?

The word ‘root’ is interesting, it’s Latin source is ‘radix’ and from which come  words like ‘radical’ and ‘radicalization’. In the present climate, the latter word has come to mean something frightening, odious or even evil. One core use of the word is about ‘returning to roots’ – exactly what radical Quakerism attempted to do in the 17th century. In the course of challenging the church at that time, early Quakers learned a great deal about ‘the reality and cost of obedience’. Perhaps then, ‘in the light of our heritage’, worship, on 05.02.17 [Geoffrey]


Advices and Queries No: 4.

As well as ‘advices’ (essentially suggestions for living in the light of Quaker teaching)) and ‘queries’ (questions or challenges on which to think and reflect), “Advices and Queries’ provides statements of fact. In this case about the origins of Quakers and it’s ‘roots’, with accompanying questions.

The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found its inspiration in the life and teaching of Jesus.

How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage?

How does Jesus speak to y should always stop and ask questions about such labels as ‘radical’ and give some thought to those described as being ‘radicalized’.

The main point I would highlight from A&Q 4 however, is the first statement in which we are reminded that ‘The RSoFs is rooted in Christianity’. Let’s not forget our origins, nor that in those early days Friends ‘learned from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God’. But today is neither the 1st nor 17th century, so what does it mean to ‘interpret your faith in the light of this heritage?    

Let’s attempt to explore this and the other questions, individually and as a local community during the coming weeks.









Thought for the week


With the agreement of our group of meetings in E.Sussex, 

the Area Trustees were able to go into partnership with Wealden D.C. 

and provide a home for a Syrian refugee family. 

With other churches and organisations, who have also responded to this government commitment, 

a quite a small glimmer of hope is being offered for just a few families. 

Even if only tiny points of light can be sparked it is worth the effort – after all, 

the Christian story began with one homeless family being provided shelter.


The Quaker ‘Advices & Queries’ No. 34 offers a challenge: 

Remember your responsibility as a citizen for the conduct of local, national and international affairs. 

Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand’.



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Eastbourne Friends Business Meeting Held on Sunday 4 December.

The meeting opened with a short period of silence at 1200.

Clerks for the Day

Judith Barber was appointed clerk-for-the-day; Geoffrey Johnson to assist.....

Click here to read minutes



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Reflecting upon Advices and Queries No. 41

We're reading systematically through Advices & Queries on a week by week rota. 
Whoever is ‘welcoming' will choose an A&Q which has not yet been read, as shown on the recorded list.
There is a suggestion that Quaker Faith & Practice may be up-dated at some point. 
We are preparing for that eventuality by reading through As&Qs and also in our monthly study group, exploring different chapters in or subjects raised by QF&P.

To read this reflection click here








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Rodney Sear,
7 Oct 2016, 12:27
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Rodney Sear,
1 Dec 2016, 10:09
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Judy Barber,
11 Oct 2016, 14:43
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Judy Barber,
28 Oct 2016, 14:36
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Judy Barber,
12 Feb 2017, 14:25
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Rodney Sear,
7 Oct 2016, 12:08
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Judy Barber,
25 Oct 2016, 14:29
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Judy Barber,
26 Nov 2016, 03:53
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Judy Barber,
21 Oct 2016, 15:14