'Advices and Queries': from 1682 to the general election of 2015

By Jill Segger
February 15, 2015

“Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.” This is one of 42 challenges and questions posed to members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) by the rather quaintly named 'Advices and Queries'.

Though this means of examining the physical and spiritual wellbeing of individual Quakers and their Meetings was first formulated in 1682, a time of considerable persecution and difficulty for early Friends, they have evolved over generations to stand in our own time as a reminder of almost three and a half centuries of the Society's insights. They are – most importantly – described as being “for the comfort and discomfort of Friends”. We value them highly: they might be said to be the nearest to a catechism we will ever come, and we hold to a duty of reading one each month during our Meetings for Worship.

Though some of the 'A and Qs' are concerned with specifically Quaker systems of administration and method, a larger number are applicable far beyond the Society of Friends as challenges to action and stimuli to reflection. It is the one quoted at the beginning of this blog which has been the spur to some Quaker Meetings deciding to send a copy of this small book to every candidate standing in their areas. Ipswich and Diss Area Meeting, of which I am a member, covers nine constituencies and, allowing for late declarations of candidature, we are reckoning on sending out 90 to 100 copies.

The political, economic and social environment of 2015 is, in many ways, as divided, unjust and contentious as that of the early days of Quakerism. Many – understandably – have learned to despair of politics and politicians. We will therefore be asking the candidates to reflect particularly on those sections of Advices and Queries which deal with personal integrity, social justice, simplicity of life, the seeds of war and a proper humility regarding one's own opinions in relation to those of others.

None of us are so naïve as to believe that this will bring about an immediate conversion of manners and morals. But we do believe that even if one recipient – whether or not they go on to be elected – is moved to ponder upon the challenges laid before them in a register subtly different from that of everyday political discourse, the exercise will have been worthwhile.

* You can read Advices and Queries here: http://www.quaker.org.uk/advices

* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.