The Advices and Queries are among the greatest treasures of the Quakers. Initially a way of enforcing good behaviour, one can trace their development over the 19th and 20th centuries to a summary of our wisdom about the Good Life. The person who introduced me to Quakers gave me a copy, and I keep a few in my flat, now, to give out. Meditating on these 42 paragraphs in turn brought me to my Quaker meeting. I particularly love paragraph 33:
Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society’s conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?
Shortly after transition, I visited the meeting in Chester, and this was read at the start of worship, as it is the custom to read one of these paragraphs in worship in many meetings. I broke down in tears, and was consoled. It is the mutual respect and cherishing in our life together at its best, and imbuing the whole document, which fits us to live up to paragraph 27:
Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak.
Paragraph 27 continues,
When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?
We are enjoined to make decisions together, each of us seeking not our own interest or our own way, but the good of all, and where relevant the good of the wider community.
Different Yearly Meetings have different versions of A&Q.