What is a Quaker query? As shopkeepers and businesspeople, Quakers developed queries as a way of taking “moral and spiritual inventory” of themselves. Doug Gwyn explains.
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When I hear a query it’s always sort of a gut check, you know? It’s sort of, “Oh yeah, hmm…” Am I continuing to live in the virtue of that life that takes away the occasion of all wars?
What is a Quaker Query?
The Quaker Queries are a wonderful invention of asking ourselves some simple questions that we can keep asking ourselves all through our lives, because our circumstances change and we keep maturing in various ways and we find ourselves challenged in new ways to answer these questions.
I’ve heard it said that throughout much of our history, we were shopkeepers and business people, and we were used to doing inventory all the time. And the queries are a kind of spiritual and moral inventory that Friends do well to keep track of.
A Common Query
For example, on traditional query—question—is “Do you come to meeting for worship with heart and mind prepared?”
It’s simply stated enough that—what does it mean to have my heart and mind prepared for worship? Usually you figure out that that means some form of daily or regular spiritual practice of meditation, prayer, reading… something inspirational that keeps us grounded through the week and keeps a spiritual process going, that makes us more prepared to be grounded and centered in the light when we get to meeting for worship, and more useful to the group when we’re in that worship process.
Unpacking a Query
Another query traditionally is, “Do you live in the virtue of that life that takes away the occasion for all wars?” So it’s a question whether, not only do I live a nonviolent life, but do I live a lifestyle that doesn’t support economic factors and environmental factors that we know are sewing seeds of war today. That runs a whole gamut of the products I’m buying and the causes I’m supporting. Not only do I need to avoid some things, but I need to be more actively supporting other things that are furthering the cause of peace and nonviolent resolution to conflict.
Helping Us Live Integrated Lives
These are questions that go in a lot of directions in our lives and can keep us really working on ourselves and deepening our spiritual life and living more authentic and integrated lives over time.
- Doug Gwyn says that as shopkeepers and businesspeople, Quakers developed queries as a spiritual and moral inventory practice. How do you take a regular spiritual inventory of your life? How can your meeting support you in this practice?
- Have you ever contemplated a query that was particularly useful at that moment in your life? What was the query and why did it have an impact on you?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.