In our Quaker Meeting, on the first Sunday of each month, the clerk reads the “Advice and Query” for the month to give us something to reflect on as a group. There is also extra time given to speaking about the queries after the regular time allotted to Meeting for Worship.
This is the Advice & Queries that were read in our Meeting today and in other Meetings throughout the region encompassed by the Pacific Yearly Meeting:
In daily relationships with others, both inside and outside the home, our lives as Friends speak immediately and lastingly. In these relationships, our faith may also be severely tested. We are called to respond to that of God in everyone: we are all children of God. Friends celebrate any union that is dedicated to mutual love and respect, regardless of the unique make-up of the family. We strive to create homes where the Spirit of the Divine resides at the center and where the individual genius of each member is respected and nurtured.
Human sexuality is a divine gift, forming part of the complex union of body, mind and spirit that is our humanity. In a loving adult relationship in a context of mutual responsibility, sexuality brings delight, fulfillment and celebration.
The presence of children carries a special blessing as well as responsibility. Children bring unique spiritual gifts — wonder, resiliency, playfulness and more. Recognize and honor the Divine Light within children and treat them with the dignity and respect that is due to all people. Listen to and learn from children; share with them those values and practices that are central to our own lives. Special care must be given to resolving problems between adults and children in a manner that gives equal weight to the feelings and needs of both children and adults. Tender parenting is one of the critically important peace vocations in our society.Make every effort to offer all parents the personal and institutional support that this challenging work requires.
Take a strong stand against any form of abuse, whether that abuse is minor or severe, and whether it is emotional, physical or sexual in nature. The terrible impact of abuse on the most vulnerable members of our families creates lifelong suffering for its victims and is a major source of violence in our society. Perpetrators are themselves usually victims of similar violence and should be approached with compassion as well as firmness.
Do I make my home a place of friendliness, joy, and peace, where residents and visitors feel God’s presence?
Are my sexual practices consistent with my spiritual beliefs and free of manipulation and exploitation?
What barriers keep me from responding openly and lovingly to each person?
Do we open our thoughts, beliefs, and deep understandings to our children and others who share our lives and our hospitality?
Do we provide our children and young adults with a framework for active, ongoing participation in the Meeting?
[Note: the latter two queries refer to the Meeting as a whole, whereas the others are meant to apply to each individual in the Meeting]
I find that these queries offer a contrast between my experience as a Quaker and my experience as a Latter-day Saint. As a Mormon you are annually (or every other year) asked a list of questions in a one-on-one interview between you and your (male) bishop where you discuss your sexuality and any occasion of abuse within your family. As a Quaker you are offered the queries as a guide for personal reflection and you may share your thoughts with the group as you feel led to do so. Much could be said about the differences between the two systems, but I feel hesitant to comment much more on that right now.
When I first heard this query (last month in October, I believe), my heart leapt when I heard the words “In a loving adult relationship in a context of mutual responsibility, sexuality brings delight, fulfillment and celebration.” Yes, my heart said. That is right. Delight. Fulfillment. Celebration. And I added in my mind: Joy.