When we read the Queries as individuals, we begin the prayer of examen; we hold up our lives before God and examine our own faithfulness. When we consider the queries together and share our responses with other groups of disciples, we begin to provide each other with support, encouragement, and accountability as a body. Capitol Hill Friends considers one query each month, and we forward our answer to the other members of our network. Answering honestly and specifically, we hope that this discipline will help knit us together in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
1. Are meetings for worship well and punctually attended? Do we come with hearts and minds prepared to receive communion with Christ? Is our worship held in a spirit of expectant waiting on God, trusting that Christ is present, teaching his people himself? With waiting worship at the heart of all we do, are we open to other forms of worship – including vocal prayer, congregational singing and teaching ministry?
2. Do we live in the life and power that takes away the occasion of all war? As followers of Jesus Christ, do we refuse to cooperate with military efforts? How do we examine our own lifestyles to see how they contribute to the cycle of greed, oppression and war? How are we standing with the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed?
3. Do we forgive each other and ask for forgiveness when we wrong one another? Are we careful with the reputation of others? When differences threaten the unity of the church, do we take prompt action to seek reconciliation as a community, following the example laid out for us in Matthew 18? Do we confess our sins to one another? How do we support and hold each other accountable in our growth as disciples of Jesus?
4. Are our homes places of peace, joy and contentment, where the Kingdom of God is a lived reality? How do we care for married couples and single individuals in our fellowship? How do we provide our children with an example of Christ-like living? Do we take care to raise our children with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures and the testimony of Friends? How do we direct our children to seek the voice of Christ within them, so that they may have a living relationship with him?
5. How do we bear our testimony that God’s creation is good and should be honored? What steps are we taking to reduce our destructive impact on the creation? How are we careful to practice good stewardship of the material resources that God has blessed us with, remembering that all the earth is the Lord’s and that we are ultimately answerable to God for our actions?
6. Do we observe simplicity in all aspects of our life – in the way we live, the clothes we wear and the words we speak? Do we avoid taking on excessive work, allowing the Spirit to order our lives for God’s purposes? Are we submitted to Christ in all areas of our life, seeking to follow him in all things? Is our entire life of one piece, or do we compartmentalize?
7. How do we care for our brothers and sisters, bearing one anothers burdens? When those around us have material, emotional or spiritual needs, are we faithful in sharing freely with them, just as we have received freely from Christ? Do we counsel lovingly and prayerfully with members of the church whose actions give us cause for concern? Do we guard against materialism and addiction in our own lives as well as in the lives of our brothers and sisters?
8. Are we always honest and straightforward in our speech and actions? Do we obey Jesus’ command to let our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no, refusing to swear oaths? Do we avoid gambling and financial speculation?
9. How do we obey Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations? When others interact with us, are they brought into the presence of God? How do we partner with the Holy Spirit in welcoming people of all backgrounds to walk with us in the Way? How do we nurture new churches in different cultural, ethnic and class contexts from our own? Are we sensitive to how Christ Jesus is at work today in the hearts all people?
10. Do we stand firm in our testimony that God has poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh? Do we recognize the spiritual equality of all people? How do we wrestle with and seek to be healed of our sexism, racism, classism and homophobia? How do we empower youth? How are we fully inclusive of all people, regardless of physical or mental ability? How do we recognize and support the Spirit-led ministry of all?
11. Do we live in the life and power of Jesus Christ? How do we make Jesus our explicit center and accept him as leader of everything that we do as a community? Do we regularly read and meditate on the Christian Scriptures, both together and individually? How does our shared wrestling with the Scriptures shape our witness as a community that seeks to embody Christ in a suffering world?
12. Are our meetings for business held in a spirit of expectant waiting on God for guidance? Are we careful to seek after God’s will, going beyond a majority or even consensus? How have we felt ourselves drawn into unity in our business practice? Are there places where we still feel out of unity as a community?
Our practice as Friends has been described as a listening spirituality. We believe that God can and does give us clear direction in a very intimate way, but also find that we all need reminders from time to time of God’s wisdom that speaks across times, places and contexts. The Advices serve to help us keep a balanced perspective and clearly state our priorities as a community. By reading them aloud at our meetings and silently to ourselves, we will introduce new attenders to who we are as well as remind each other of the abundant Life available to us all.
1. Pay attention to the promptings of love and truth that you feel in your hearts; for these are the tender leadings of the Spirit of God. The Lord Jesus is indeed risen and present among us as our Truth, our Way, our Life. His redemptive love shows us our darkness and calls us to change our lives so that we may walk in the light with him. Know his love and mercy; he dwells within you insofar as you submit yourselves to the cleansing power of his Light. Open yourselves to the Holy Spirit, so that you can truly confess that Jesus is Lord.
2. Meet together regularly to wait upon the Lord in reverent stillness. Just as Christ is available to us in our hearts as individuals, he is present with us as we gather in his name. Our meetings for worship flow out of lives of ongoing prayer and faithfulness; worship must be grounded in the holiness of our daily lives. Gather together with hearts and minds prepared, and remember that your prayerful attention can make a real difference in the depth and power of the meeting for worship.
3. Our practice of waiting together in stillness is an outward sign of our communion with Christ. In your experience of inward communion with God, listen and pay attention to how the Spirit is speaking to the Church and what specific guidance the Holy Spirit has for you and the gathered meeting as a whole.
4. If you feel led by God to give a spoken message, sing, offer vocal prayer, or deliver God’s word in another way, be faithful. Test the spirits, and strive to discern when a message is from God and when it comes from another source. As we seek Christ’s presence and guidance together, pray to be brought into unity with our Heavenly Father and with one another. Be ready to receive the message of others in a tender spirit, trusting that God often prompts vocal ministry that stretches, challenges and humbles us.
5. Be punctual in your attendance of meetings for worship. Take time before the meeting for worship to prepare yourselves spiritually to enter into a space of prayer, praise and worship. Try not to rush to and from worship; leave ample time both before and afterward for fellowship and unhurried interaction. Let all your focus be on the gathered meeting, rather than on where you have just come from or where you will soon be going. Welcome with an open heart all who join us for worship, regardless of when they arrive.
6. Ministry delivered in your meetings for worship should come from an inward sense of inspiration and direction by God. While we may be led to prepare teaching, music, or prayer beforehand, we should always remain open to God’s leading in every moment. If you have prepared ministry and yet feel unclear about delivering it when the time comes, be open to changing plans. If you or another minister are given a word from the Lord that departs from what was expected, embrace this as a gift from God.
7. Be open to a variety of expressions in worship. Our worship is based in waiting on the Lord in stillness, but this prayerful listening leads to many responses, including: Prepared teaching; solo and congregational singing; instrumental music; and vocal prayer. As you are led by God, embrace these forms as ways of teaching, praising God and making petition on behalf of the body of Christ. Do not quench the Spirit.
Peace and Justice
8. Be faithful in our testimony against all war as inconsistent with the Spirit and teaching of Christ. Live in the life and power that take away the occasion of all war and strife. Seek to participate in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation between individuals, groups, and nations. Live lives of selfless love, regarding others as better than yourselves.
9. Care for the poor among you, treating everyone as you would treat the Lord Jesus himself. Examine yourselves and see where your lifestyle contains the seeds of war and oppression. Seek to lead lives that empower others to grow to their full potential in Christ – spiritually, socially and materially. Be ready to change your way of living and thinking so that you may respond to Jesus’ Good News of liberation for the poor and oppressed.
10. Allow the presence of the Holy Spirit to gather you together and bring you into unity. Be of one heart and mind as brothers and sisters in Christ, laying all things at Jesus’ feet. When quarrels and contention arise among you, seek together the Seed of God within. Trust in the power of Christ in you to bring reconciliation and to show the gathered community how it is to walk.
11. You are the temple of the living God. As the Holy Spirit dwells within you, allow its power to remake you in the image of Christ. Submit yourselves to the promptings and revelations of Christ’s Light, allowing it to reveal your inward darkness and transform your heart. Embrace being changed in mind, body and spirit as you seek to live as branches of the True Vine. While this transformation will often be difficult, even painful, our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally and will lead us into more abundant life as we trust in him.
12. Make your home an abiding place of joy and peace where the presence of God is known and felt. Seek to know inward rest, even during the busyness of the day. Set aside time in your daily routine for prayer, reflection and meditation on the Scriptures.
Marriage and Family
13. When considering marriage, remember that fulfillment as a couple depends on deep understanding and love. Pray together and separately, asking God’s guidance for your relationship. Make it your highest desire to discern the will of God for your lives, even if it contradicts strong emotions and desires. Encourage those contemplating marriage to be joined in common discipleship to Jesus Christ.
14. Hold firm to our testimony that it is God who marries a couple, not human authorities. Regard marriage as, first and foremost, the spiritual union of two people who have been called together by God. Jesus Christ is our only, eternal high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), trust in his authority to join two people in the sacred bond of marriage, regardless of human legal standards. Friends have often married one another despite lack of legal recognition for their unions.
15. In our society where divorce is increasingly accepted as normal, remember Jesus’ teaching that marriage should be a lifelong commitment. Be careful not to separate that which God has joined together (Mark 10:9). Let us embrace our responsibility as the Church to uphold and nurture the marriages in our midst. While discouraging and counseling against divorce, seek to be free from any spirit of judgment against those whose marriage ends in divorce. Each of us stands or falls before the Master, and we trust that in Christ we can all be raised up, regardless of our past failings (Romans 14:4).
16. Singleness can be a spiritual gift, one that may be preferable to marriage in some cases (1 Corinthians 7:25-40). Give thanks for the wholeness and single-minded devotion that God has granted to our brothers and sisters who have been called to remain single. Create a family of faith that supports single Friends, whether they are called to a life of celibacy or look forward to marriage.
17. Take care that children and youth in our midst are nurtured and included as their spiritual, emotional and intellectual maturity allows. At all stages of development, seek to empower youth to discover the inward witness of Christ within themselves and to grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures and of our tradition as Friends. Encourage the emerging spiritual gifts of youth, providing them with mentoring relationships and inviting them into leadership positions. Include children and youth in all aspects of the church’s life. Encourage parents to allow their children to remain for the entire meeting for worship when possible.
18. We urge our households to set aside time daily for worship and Scripture reading as a family. Waiting worship is a practice that must be cultivated in both adults and children, and one which will lead to greater harmony within the family as all members are brought into humble submission to the Inward Teacher. This practice is especially important for young children, bringing them into the experience of gathered worship and preparing them for the larger meeting.
Stewardship, Simplicity, and Integrity
19. Seek to be aware of the impact that your lifestyle has on the Creation. The earth belongs to God, not to us; we are merely tenants in the land (Leviticus 25:23). Show respect for God’s creation – the land, the sea, the air, and all the living creatures with whom we share this planet.
20. In the way that you live, in your dress, and in your possessions, choose what is simple, useful and good. Be ready to let go of anything that gets in the way of the mission that God has for you. Examine your possessions, profession, leisure and relationships, and consider what influences in your life might be holding you back from greater commitment to God and deeper discipleship to Jesus. Even those things which are themselves good and healthful will do us harm if we put them ahead of God.
21. Avoid over-burdening yourselves with work, whether paid or unpaid. While a life filled with the Lord’s work is a blessing to oneself and others, rushed busyness is a burden to the soul and destroys community.
22. Care for one another, bearing each other’s burdens just as Jesus has done. Give generously; share freely, just as we have freely received from God. Care for the material, emotional and spiritual needs of those around you. When the actions of a brother or sister give you cause for concern, lovingly and prayerfully counsel them, so that both you and they are strengthened to persevere in the Truth. Openly share how God is moving in your lives with each other.
23. Take seriously the damage done by the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Be watchful over what you consume, and consider whether the life of Christ in you is strengthened or undermined by the substances that you put into your body. Avoid consuming alcohol when it might present a stumbling block to the recovery of another.
24. Be straightforward and sincere in your actions and speech. Encourage your families to do likewise. Remember the Lord’s command to let our “yes” be yes, and our “no” be no. Regard the taking of oaths as contrary to the teachings of Christ, as they set up a double standard of truthfulness. We are called to lives of unselfconscious honesty.
25. We urge Friends to examine the role that money plays in our lives. Greed and fear of not having enough do not come from God. Avoid and discourage any kind of betting or gambling, as well as commercial speculation of a gambling character. Embrace a lifestyle of radical generosity, trusting in Jesus’ promise to provide for our daily needs as we seek God’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34).
26. Make it your aim to promote the cause of truth and righteousness, and to spread the Kingdom of God at home and abroad. Be ready to take your part fearlessly in declaring Christ’s message and in witnessing to his power. Remember Jesus’ command to carry the gospel message to all people, making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Let your life so shine before others that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
27. Be sensitive to the ways in which God is already moving in the hearts of everyone we encounter. Look for ways to partner with the action of the Holy Spirit, welcoming people of all social and cultural backgrounds into Jesus’ Way. With God’s guidance, let it be your aim to nurture new Meetings across cultural, ethnic and class boundaries. Let no human distinction be a barrier to the love of Christ in you. Be ready to be challenged and changed by the presence of God in others.
28. Be open to the Seed of God within all people, no matter how different they might be from you. Trust that God is present and speaking in every human heart, even those that are twisted by evil. Jesus never gives up. Let your life speak to the presence of God in others. Even the hardest of hearts can be pierced by the love of Christ. Let your words and example be an occasion for Christ’s coming.
29. Stand firm in our testimony that God has poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. Honor the spiritual equality of all people, rejoicing that there is neither Greek nor Jew; gay nor straight; male nor female; but that all are one in Christ Jesus. Wrestle with and seek to be healed of the sins of sexism, racism, classism and homophobia. Seek to empower youth, and to be fully inclusive of all people, regardless of physical or mental ability. Recognize and support the Spirit-led ministry of all.
30. Read and meditate on the Christian Scriptures on a regular basis, both together and individually. Let your engagement with the Scriptures shape your common witness as a community that seeks to embody Christ in a suffering world.
31. The Christian Scriptures are the source of our common story as Friends of Jesus. In the Old Testament, we learn of God’s loving intention for Creation, of humanity’s decision to rebel against God, and of God’s numerous attempts to bring humanity back into right relationship. In the New Testament, we learn of how God’s plan for the redemption of the human race came to fruition in the incarnation of the Word in human flesh. The Word of God, Jesus, lived among us – was truly one of us. In his life and teachings, we find a clear example for how to live in love and righteousness; in his self-sacrificial death at the hands of the religious and imperial authorities, we see the depths of human evil and the heights of God’s love for us; and in his resurrection, we are witnesses to God’s triumph over sin and death, over every obstacle that would come between us and our loving Creator. As we seek to make this story our own, we are drawn ever deeper into the love and authority of our Savior, Jesus.
Meetings for Business
32. Hold your meetings for business in a spirit of expectant waiting on God for guidance. Remember that in our discernment as a community, we wait to be drawn into unity by the Holy Spirit. Be careful to seek after God’s will, not a majority or even consensus. Be aware of the ways in which you as a Meeting have not yet been brought into unity, and seek to be healed of your divisions. Lay down your own wills and be of one heart and mind in Christ.