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Readings for Reflection: October 2016
from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel


This Reading is excerpted from an article by Barry Morley in the May 1, 1988 Friends Journal, entitled “A Query Buff Looks at Queries.” Barry, who died in 2000, was a member of Sandy Spring Meeting in Maryland. He taught at three Quaker boarding schools – Sandy Spring, Oakwood, and Westtown, directed the Catoctin Quaker Camp for children, and wrote the Pendle Hill pamphlet “Beyond Consensus: Salvaging Sense of the Meeting” (#307). His article expands my understanding of what a query can be.                                                                                                    ~ Catherine McClary

Quakers did not invent queries. Mothers did. . . .

The secret of my mother’s queries was simplicity. They were short, clear, and pointed. In contrast, my Book of Discipline contains one query which asks nine distinct questions. By the time the end is reached, I’ve lost track of the beginning. I never had that trouble with my mother’s queries. . . .

Applying the simplicity principle to [this nine-question query] might yield, “Do you respect that of God in every person?” I would actually prefer this query grounded in another George Fox statement, “Do you walk gently over the earth, answering to that of God in every person?” That’s one I treasure, one I use, one I frequently contemplate. I have made it into a personal query, one that is particularly potent for me. It centers me, it grows in me. I focus on it often and long.

I want queries that look beyond expected behavior. I want queries that go deeper than proper responses to Quaker concerns. I yearn for something that touches my core, that holds me to my center, that speaks primarily of inward essence. If I am centered in the power of the Spirit that dwells in me, I reason, outward manifestations will take care of themselves. I think of ancient stories about properly tended vines bearing good fruit. Our lives are filled with calls to action, with causes to be won or lost, with cries for attention to this person’s need and that person’s plight. My need is not so much to respond to all the clamor, but to function within the Light. For me the powerful queries are ones that cleave me to the Light. . . .

Your own imagination is a treasure trove of personal queries which can comfort, lead, and transform you. Don’t make one up. Rather, take some time to find one. Find as many as you like. Allow them access to you. Fish for them during quiet times when they can pop into consciousness. A hot bath or shower is a good place to catch one. Hold it about two feet in front of you and look at it through closed eyes. Be careful not to answer it. Just look at it. Look at it frequently. If a time comes for it to go, don’t cling to it like some prized possession. Let it slip back where it came from. Then look for another. . . .

©1988 Friends Publishing Corporation. Reprinted with permission.
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