Friends’ Queries started early in the history of Quakers, and the primary focus of monthly Meeting for Business was once to to examine and respond to them corporately. Today Queries are sometimes used to prod us into a reexamination of our faith and how we practice it daily. Queries can be used as daily devotional readings.
All vocal ministry comes from a divine source, and we cannot judge who will benefit nor how this will happen. Thus Friends do not rise and respond to spoken ministry in a Meeting for Worship. Friends may be inspired to follow a direction initiated in the meeting by a previous message, but this is never directed as a response to the previous speaker or to contradict or object to the message.
At the time when Quakerism began in the seventeenth century, the expression “plain speech” had a particular meaning for Friends. The plural form of the second person in English (you) was used to address someone of distinction or higher social status. The singular form (thee) was used to address one’s peers.
Friends worship in silence; it is not necessary to speak in Meeting for Worship. If we are led to speak, it is our custom not to speak more than once during an hour-long Meeting. Business Meeting is also a form of Meeting for Worship. If you have already spoken to a particular item of business, please give those who have not done so a chance to speak.
When reaching decisions in a Meeting for Business, Friends shun consensus (a secular decision, usually comprising the common acceptable part of the opinions brought by those present). Rather, Friends seek the unity which is the result of spiritual discernment of God’s leading for the group, often an unexpected decision transcending the opinions brought by those present.
Perhaps because unprogrammed Friends have neither ministers nor formal worship services, people who are new to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) sometimes have the impression that our worship has no structure at all. This impression is incorrect. We Friends see ourselves as led by the Spirit, and we have quite a few customs, rules, and procedures that are important to us because they