A number of us have been devoting an hour before worship once each month to consider the draft queries circulated by the Faith and Practice Revision Committee. In part, this is a response to the Committee’s request (2008 Advance Reports): “…we strongly urge each Meeting to gather in small groups, or as a whole for small meetings, to reflect and discuss the Advices, Queries, and Voices.” But, our prime motivation is the richness of the sharing – the insights we receive about our own faith and about one another — prompted by the drafts (there are now 16 in all).
One faithful Friend passes out slips with the new queries (taken from BYM’s web site) and checks that we remain comfortable with the suggested worship sharing format. Each of us speaks (usually) once from the silence. Our convener reminds us as the time is dwindling to allow any who have not shared to speak. We try to allow ten to 15 minutes at the end of our hour to reflect on the process and consider suggestions or feedback for the Committee. At the end of our hour, our convener passes out copies of the Advices for us to consider individually over the week ahead. Reading the Advices at the start, we feel, would risk predetermining or restricting the direction of our reflections. A few days later, our convener circulates notes on our session that she sends on to the Committee for consideration when it returns to the revision process.
The draft queries used in this way succeed in leading us to deep reflection and understanding. Hence, while we earlier concluded that we prefer the 1968 text as guiding queries and remain confused about the charge under which Faith and Practice Revision Committee is operating (session Minutes and Manual of Procedure are unclear), we appreciate the value of the drafts that have emerged from the reflections and discernment of this group. For example, the proposed query on outreach led some of us to reflect on how we came to Friends, which in itself told us something about the types of outreach that work. Varying the focal word in each part of the queries on integrity — “truth,” “beliefs and values,” “harmony” – enriched and expanded our sharing.
And, our sharing has prompted suggestions. For example, small Meetings might benefit from considering, under the heading of vocal ministry, “How do we as a Meeting create fertile soil for vocal ministry, especially from those who find it difficult to speak?”