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  • The Queries


    How has Truth been prospering with you?

    Where have you sensed growing Life and Holy Power?

    What sightings have you had of God’s Peaceable Reign?


    Have you been faithful?

    How have you been yielding to Gospel Order?

    What has been your experience of God recently?


    Where do you need to go? With whom?

    What is your next most faithful step?

    What would help you to stay on course?

  • Project Background

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    What Is Going On?

    A very simple thing: three sets of queries printed on nice feeling, heavyweight cards that you can carry with you and use in (1) your own private prayer, (2) paired sharing, or (3) group worship. They can also be given away to other folks as a physical memento of encouragement and accompaniment.


    Designing this little thing has felt like a kind of prayer. I'm a maker, so building it, small as it is, has felt like making a gift for people I love. If you're reading this, then that means you. You're someone who wants to deepen in faithfulness and lead a life that will leave faithfulness in its wake. I think that's awesome. You're great. Let's do this!

  • Why Does This Exist?


    This mini-project came into being as an experiment of sorts based on a situation I'd been wrestling with. What happens when a group of Friends wants to hold each other accountable and support each other's faithfulness but can't find the time — or doesn't have the means — for everyone to get together? How can a group of folks stay powerfully connected without everyone in the group all seeing each other regularly? Skype and Zoom work for some folks but not everyone feels like they can connect fully in that way. What other way might be useful?


    After sitting with these questions off-and-on for weeks, one day it occurred to me that there was something that could be tried.


    Rather than imagining what needs to happen is a shared event, what if instead — or in addition — there was a shared practice? These sets of queries were written with the idea that groups of people could share together when they gathered based on these queries and that the practice of this type of sharing might become an expected support/tool/spiritual technology.


    Once the idea had come to me I couldn't shake it. As soon as I first spoke the idea aloud I became deeply energized. From the time I first shared this idea until the cards were designed, ordered, all of this was written, and this page was put online it was just about 48 hours. It just tumbled out. And, while this is an experiment in process, so results are not yet in, the idea is something like this:


    Let's say ten people all go to the same retreat and feel particularly connected to one another and want to find ways to regularly provide support, encouragement, and accountability to one another. Well, that group of ten folks might have a hard time all getting together again, but... over the course of months, some smaller groups of people might be able to gather. And some people might be led — and able — to travel to seed some of these small group gatherings more than once. If so, awesome. In any event, if people knew that there was some shared practice, that might be a kind of encouragement for people to remain connected and practicing themselves, knowing that there will come a time when they can share that practice with others who are engaged in it as well.


    Oh, and it doesn't just have to be ten people or after a retreat. It could simply be that two people — or 60 — feel led to take up this practice with one another just because it seems right. That's rad too.

    What Does "Examen" Mean?


    The "Daily Examen" is a type of prayerful reflection that is taught in Ignatian spirituality to help us to finetune our sense of God’s presence and discern what path we are being invited into. The examen is an "examination of conscience" or of consciousness. It is meant to help us learn to see God in all things, allowing us to seek guidance in a regular and daily kind of way. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, detailed his sense of the examen in his work, The Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius thought the examen was a gift that came directly from God to help increase our capacity for discernment. He also believed that God wanted the examen to be shared widely.


    I've been significantly shaped by the Ignatian spirituality of the Sisters of Mercy in Rochester, NY and, well, all this seemed like it was the right way to name this thing. Take it or leave it I guess, but it seemed right to me.

    How Do You Do "A Friendly Examen" ?


    However you are led. Full stop.

    And... I've put a bit of thought into why the queries are the way they are. If you're interested, carry on.


    Quaker queries are traditionally written so that the answer is supposed to be clear:

    • Q. Do you live in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars?
    • A. Yes.

    Of course, in practice, the reality is that we hear the query and then grapple with it, allowing more to surface than just "Yes," "No," or "On my good days." Most of these queries have been written so that they can't be answered with a short answer and necessarily lead you into broader responses. That's intentional. The one that is left in a short form (Have you been faithful?) has been purposefully left that way since I have found that that query, in particular, is one with power that people are sometimes squeamish around. It can feel intense to sit with something so direct and blunt. That intensity can be good. In any event, even when responding to that one, it can be fruitful to allow for a longer response than just a brief answer.


    If you don't want to take the card out — or don't have one on you — this website (FriendlyExamen.org) should be up so you can see the sets of queries up top. If you want to recall them without any other media, as a way to help you remember them, you can think about them as the "Grow-Yield-Go" queries.

    • Grow: Where has there been new Life?
    • Yield: Where have you been listening and changing course as needed?
    • Go: Where do you head from here?

    That might not get you exactly to the nuances of having them word-by-word, but it will get you to the general vicinity and that is more important than having a card or not taking the time to pray because you haven't memorized something. If it helps, I've also given a slightly longer phrase to each set of queries that might serve to jog your memory also.

    • 1. Grow: "The Inbreaking Queries"
    • 2. Yield: "The Light Queries"
    • 3. Go: "The Swarthmore Queries"

    While these seem like they might be a set of sweet titles for a Young Adult fantasy series, really, they're just another way that I've tried to name these sets of words so that they might stick in your mind deeply enough to be of use. If the "titles" don't work for you, ignore them. Do what you can with what you got!


    One Way to Use the Friendly Examen Practice

    1. Settle into waiting worship.
    2. Read one set of queries.
    3. Sit in worship and pray that something emerges in response to the queries. 
    4. Don't feel like you have to "answer" the query. Allow whatever rises up to the be thing that you explore. Savor each individual query and let them each be what they need to be for that particular time. Treat them each as a small piece of poetry or art, meaning different things to you at different times. 
    5. Explore what emerges, allowing yourself to learn about yourself and God as you speak/write.
    6. Read the set of queries again and see if there is more there. Respond again if needed.
    7. Move on to the next person if in a group or the next set of queries if alone.
    8. When complete, allow some time for discussion afterward: how was the experience of sharing? Did anything emerge that you want to hold on to moving forward? Did something rise that seemed powerful and should be shared? You can be in conversation with yourself too.

    Other Ways

    1. Instead of going one set of queries at a time, read all three sets of queries at once and allow whoever is participating to see which individual queries seem to engage them the most, responding to that. If you do this, try to make sure everyone who is participating has a copy accessible — FriendlyExamen.og works just a well as a card copy —since it can be a little long and some people work better when they have written material in front of them instead of having to remember.
    2. Instead of responding in a spoken voice out of waiting worship, allow people some time to go off and see what responses might rise. People can be in worship even if they are not sitting quietly in a circle. Some might feel led to write and sing a snippet of music. Or to grab a phone and play a song that seems right to play. Or to dance, or make a collage, or begin the revolution. Whatever. Make room for people to allow what rises to come from a broader palette than just speaking while seated or standing.
    3. You tell me. No, really. Let me know if there are other things I should put here.


    Things to Consider in General

    • In terms of exactly how to do "The Friendly Examen Practice," the best test should be to see what seems right in the moment. This is less about one right way and more about having there be a thing that is slightly more programmed than full open worship, but that allows for the possibility of routine, continuity, connection, and story sharing.
    • Not everyone might know the same things about all the phrases, history, and connotations that are tucked inside the queries. Resist taking time from worship and connection to explain/teach about them. In terms of this practice, it is more important to connect and settle in prayer and seek guidance there than it is for information about Quaker stuff to get passed on. If it comes up later, awesome, maybe share this website. If not, no problem. I've tried to make it so that each of the sets of queries has enough in it that something should be stable enough for everyone to have something to hold onto.  If not, my apologies.
    • As above, do what seems right, but I'll mention that by design, my thought was that if you only have time for one set, choose the first, for two, the first and second. I've ordered them in a way which seemed to unfold well.  
    • Consider setting a regularity and length of time to which you want to commit. This is will be the duration of your experiment with this practice: by myself once a day for a week, whenever I see anyone of this group of nine people for more than 30 minutes, by myself as soon as I wake up and before I sleep on all three days this long weekend, etc. The details are less important than the setting of intention and follow-through.
    • The queries can also — and ought to be —  reflected upon in the negative as well. For example, when we hear "Where have you sensed growing Life and Holy Power? " it might also be useful to ask ourselves something like "Where have I struggled to sense growing Life and Holy Power?" Let each of the queries get turned around and see what they reveal, provoke, or inspire.
    • Even if alone, it can be helpful to speak your responses aloud or to write them down.
    • Be attentive for Openings when responding: if, during the course of responding to a query it feels as if something with power has emerged, note it somehow and remember to share it as feels feasible.
    • If you've set an intention and failed to live up to it and if it is right to do so, be easy/harsh/reflective with yourself.  As seems right, change either your patterns of behavior or your intentions.
    • Consider if there is someone you haven't worshipped with before that you might want to invite to pray this Friendly Examen with. If you do end up later worshipping with someone who hasn't done this practice before, consider leaving them a card as a visual reminder that (1) you care about them and their spiritual life and (2) you are available as someone to connect with as they seek support, encouragement, and accountability in their faithfulness.
    • If you feel like sharing the Friendly Examen with something, consider doing it in the context of actually sitting with them and doing the practice. Sending someone a card or a link to this website is likely going to matter far for if they've first sat in worship with you and listened for where God is calling them. There's a ton of juicy Quaker info on the web (and far better organized and more comprehensive than this), so this page is more of a footnote to the practice as it is actually being done by people than it is something to mass email out to folks. If it has legs, awesome! But I'd like to find those legs through widening circles of worship, sharing, and listening. 

    When Working in Pairs/Groups

    • Establish before you begin if the responses that emerge to the queries can be later shared with others.
    • Consider allowing your responses to shared: the benefits of others hearing about how God is at work, how you have struggled, and where you are feeling called may help to ignite and encourage others.
    • After you each finish sharing your own experiences, consider also sharing what you have heard from others at other times about how Truth is prospering, where work is to be done, and what support might be needed. We are members one of another.
    • Everyone should start by answering the queries for themselves first. Even if you're only going to be sitting with the first set of them, settle in and see what rises for you about you before you begin to talk about other things that you have heard. This will ground us and make sure we're not just reacting based on the momentum, movement, or frustration of others.

    Can I Get More Wallet Cards?


    Yup. Down at the bottom of this page is a place to order the ones on cardstock that will last for a while and are cut for carrying around in a wallet. If you don't care about the material they are printed on then you can just go get the pdf here and print them off as you like. I'm happy to put some in the mail to you though, if you like.

    Who Set This Up?


    Callid Keefe-Perry, with a vital shoutout to Kristina Keefe-Perry who helped to point out that this whole thing was a kind of examen and whose faithfulness and wisdom provided a backbone to the queries that emerged. She also helped to make sure that my mad ramblings here on this page were intelligible to someone other than me. She's great. Any errors or corrections are Callid's fault, though, not Kristina's. If you catch something here that is off, please let me know here.


    Callid is a member of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and worships at Fresh Pond Monthly Meeting in New England Yearly Meeting. He lives in Arlington, MA and has been traveling in the Ministry within and beyond Friends since 2008. He has been a teacher of Quakerism at Pendle Hill retreat center, is the Talbot School of Theology biographer of Parker Palmer, and a co-designer of Jewels of Quakerism, content for adult religious education in the Friends tradition. He also serves as the executive director of ARC: Arts | Religion | Culture and is the author of Way to Water: A Theopoetics Primer.

  • Info on The Queries

    Each of the sets of queries is an echo, or reflection, of aspects of Quaker tradition that I've tried to distill into a set of queries that hopefully has enough handholds so folks can (spiritually) grab onto something. None of this is needed to pray with the queries, but some people might want to know how I ended up with them. This is that.

    1. Grow: "The Inbreaking Queries"


    How has Truth been prospering with you?

    Where have you sensed growing Life and Holy Power?

    What sightings have you had of God’s Peaceable Reign?


    One of the earliest versions of the traveling ministry of the Religious Society of Friends saw much use of the query, “How is truth prospering among you?” The way I think about it, one of the original roles of the traveling ministry was to take truth that was prospering and carry it from meeting to meeting. Ministers are pollinators.


    What I like is that "How is truth prospering among you?” is a very different question than, “What truth is there?” or "What is true that you have learned?" The question, “How is truth prospering?” is not asking, “Do you have Truth or not?" To me, it conveys a sense of truth as an organic thing that can grow more powerfully and more beautifully, even in unideal circumstances. Dandelions can grow through the middle of driveways. What more the Truth?


    One version of truth prospering is that a person, in their context, has experienced something powerful and true, and as a result of experiencing that powerful and true event, which has borne fruit, they take that fruit, carry it elsewhere and say, “Here, here’s some Truth me and my people have found to be tasty and liberating. We hope you’ll plant it and taste for yourselves!” Another version feels a little riskier. It’s grafting. It’s saying, “Here. I think there’s Truth in this, even though I can’t tell you I’ve seen the fruit of it yet. But anyway, we carefully cut off a branch and have brought it here. I have faith that it will bear fruit. Would you take this scion and bring it to something strong in your orchard?”

    To mix metaphors, I think that this fruit-bearing is also what is sometimes called the "inbreaking of the kingdom of God." As an aside, the Greek "Basileia tou Theou (Βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ)" which is translated as "Kingdom of God," is just as correctly translated "Reign of God," which to my perspective has the added benefit of (1) leaving God's gender unassigned and (2) making the thing being talked about less of a thing (God's Realm-place) and more of a process/action (God's Authority-leadership). This reign grows wherever Life grows and Holy Power is followed into greater justice. I think often of Sandra Cronk's Pendle Hill pamphlet, Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community.


    Early Friends expected and experienced the inbreaking of God's new order in their lives.

    This new order had personal, communal, societal, and even cosmic dimensions.

    They discovered that all persons who turned to the Light found their lives transformed.

    The Light revealed the ways they had previously turned from God.

    It led them to Christ, their Inward Teacher and Guide.

    God's new order meant a reconciled and faithful personal relationship with God.

    It also meant being gathered into a community of God's people

    who lived the way of faithfulness together

    eschewing those conventions of the larger social order

    which were considered contrary to God's will.


    You might not know exactly what Cronk means by "the inbreaking of God's new order" or you might know and not really care for it. In any event, the invitation in this set of queries is to let yourself imagine that it is possible that good and right things occasionally happen and that you might be able to see them happen. Allow yourself to imagine broadly that what you have seen that is good is worth sharing. I remember Margaret Fell's words from her 1700 Epistle against Uniform.  


    Let us beware of this, of separating or looking upon ourselves to be more holy,

    than in deed and in truth we are. Away with these whimsical, narrow imaginations,

    and let the spirit of God which is given to us, lead us and guide us.


    We all benefit from taking cues more from the Spirit of God and less from the boundaries formed by our current "whimsical and narrow imaginations." Sharing what we think might be a sighting of God's Peaceable Reign can help us all to refine our sense of what is happening out there.


    2. Yield: "The Light Queries"


    Have you been faithful?

    How have you been yielding to Gospel Order?

    What has been your experience of God recently?


    Underneath this set is a reminder that "the light" as understood by earlier Friends helped us to get clear on what needed to be worked on and what was good and true. Less soothing and more searing. Margaret Fell has a pointed piece in her 1656 "An Epistle To Convinced Friends."


    Friends, deal plainly with yourselves, and let the eternal light search you,

    and try you, for the good of your souls; for this will deal plainly with you;

    it will rip you up, lay you open, and make all manifest that lodgeth in you;

    the secret subtilty of the enemy of your souls will be made manifest

    by the eternal searcher and tryer.


    Though I can be good at deluding myself and thinking I'm on track — ah that secret subtilty of the enemy of my soul! — my hope is that the light will help me to see how I've become clouded and need to change gears. To merge you often need to yield. Sin is real. Or, framed on a more positive note, the light can also affirm things I've been doing that seem to be on target. It helps us to sort out our interior landscape better.


    I also like how for Fell the light is the "eternal tryer." This reminds me that while "to try" means "to attempt to do," the word "trying" is "severely straining the powers of endurance." The light is always going to be right at hand to point out what more is possible and what joys I've yet to see. Like that old line, "Live up to the light thou hast, and more will be granted." It isn't just that we will feel bad for not doing more, but that when we say "Yes" to seeing what more is possible, there is always more good stuff where that came from.


    And again, from Cronk, there is a sense that trying to live so that Truth could prosper — so that more will be granted — eventually yields a pattern of life that itself supports more life. Spiraling life out into greater life.


    Friends believed that God would manifest this new order

    in the fabric of the social, political, and economic life of the whole society.

    Indeed, they felt that ultimately this new order would affect all of creation,

    restoring all things to their right relationship with God and with each other.

    Gospel order was the phrase early Friends most often used to describe

    the communal and societal dimensions of this new ordering.


    Lloyd Lee Wilson has it in a similar way in Quaker Vision of Gospel Order:


    Gospel order is the order established by God

    that exists in every part of creation,

    transcending the chaos that seems so often prevalent.

    It is the right relationship of every part of creation,

    however small, to every other part and to the Creator.

    Gospel order is the harmony and order

    which God established at the moment of creation,

    and which enables the individual aspects of creation to achieve

    that quality of being which God intended from the start,

    about which God could say that "it was very good."


    Others think about Gospel Order in a number of different ways, but at its core, I think about Gospel Order as a phrase that plays wonky with chronological time because it refers both to

    •  the ways things ought to be so that there is abundant, vibrant Truth and life and all of creation is oriented toward flourishing
    • all the moves between (1) here and now and (2) the time when the point above is made fully manifest.
    In my mind, the shape of the idea of Gospel Order is the same as the truth that "Christ has come and is coming." Sally Bruyneel Padgett has a nice little passage about this and Fell that I come back to often.
    In Margaret Fell's theology, the idea that those who are in the Light
    are the Body of Christ has both a literal and a metaphorical sense.
    As the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ is perfected in us,
    the prophetic promise of his coming in the flesh is fulfilled.
    In this sense we as a group (corpus) literally become the body of Christ incarnate,
    risen and rising. In this, Jesus Christ has come and is coming again in the flesh.
    At the same time, the concept of the true Church as a body with many parts
    serves as a guiding metaphor for a group of diverse persons
    who must work together through the leading of the Light.
    The Light leads us into service together, and in following that leading we become part of the hope we are headed toward. But... given that we do not always know the full outcome of our actions — I think about the parable of the sower a lot — it has been a practice among Friends not to ask "Have you been successful?" but, rather, "Have you been faithful?" Talking about faithfulness, though, means there are a host of other things to be talked about.


    Scripturally, Hebrews 11:1 is what I think of as the definition of "faith." It says in English something like "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." One of the dynamics that gets lost in this translation is a nuance on the word "assurance." That word in Greek, "hypostasis (Υποστασις)," was found pretty often on ye olde' business documents. It was on ancient papyrus receipts and was used to communicate the word for a promise that in the future there would be a transfer of the goods listed on the contract. Sometimes Bible scholars amusingly — to them at least — translate this line as "Faith is the title deed of things hoped for." For me, this helps to remind me that faith isn't the same thing as belief. That is, asking about faithfulness isn't asking about believing the right things, but about living as if goodness will ultimately prevail even if we haven't seen it yet. For me, faithfulness is the quality of acting with a trust that what I do matters even if I am not sure it does and will likely have no universally accepted concrete proof one way or the other.


    Sharing with others what my experience of trying to live with a faith that Gospel order is possible is how I find my way to talking about what my experience of God is.


    3. Go: "The Swarthmore Queries"


    Where do you need to go? With whom?

    What is your next most faithful step?

    What would help you to stay on course?


    George Fox had his first opening in 1643 at the age of 19. As part of it, he realized he had to "be as a stranger unto all." This set him off on a journey of travel, seeking, and preaching, not knowing where he was headed next or the people he would be with. In 1652 he ends up going to Westmoreland and arrives at Swarthmore Hall, which Margret Fell and her husband owned and periodically used to house passing religious leaders and thinkers. Fox is put up for the night in guest quarters but refuses to go to church with Fell and her daughters the next morning, entering only after the sermon was over and asking the presiding priest for liberty to speak himself to the gathered body. Fell recalls that moment.


    And so he (George Fox) went on and said, How that Christ was the Light of the world,

    and lighteth every man that cometh into the world; and that by this Light they might be gathered to God, etc.

    And I stood up in my pew and I wondered at his doctrine, for I had never heard such before.

    And then he went on, and opened the Scriptures, and said,

    "The Scriptures were the prophets' words and Christ's and the apostles' words,

    and what they spoke they enjoyed and possessed and they had it from the Lord."

    And then he said,

    "What had any to do with the scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth.

    You will say, Christ says this, and the apostles say this; but what can you say?

    Are you a child of Light and have you walked in the Light, and what you speak is it inwardly from God?"

    This opened me so that it cut me to the heart;

    and I saw clearly that we were all wrong. So

    I sat me down in my pew again and I cried bitterly.

    And I cried in my spirit to the Lord,

    "We are all thieves, we are all thieves, we have taken the Scriptures

    in words and know nothing of them in ourselves."


    Under Fell's guidance, within a year of that "we are thieves" moment, many traveling Friends were gathering at Swarthmore Hall for worship, rest, and planning for what came next. Fell began to raise money for Friends that were in prison and those who were setting off on long periods of travel in the ministry. Fell and Swarthmore Hall were at the geographical center of the first generation of Friends' ministry. In fact, in her book, Margaret Fell, Letters, and the Making of Quakerism, the historian Marjon Ames Zimmerman goes so far as to convincingly argue that it was actually Fell who was the main means by which The Religious Society of Friends stabilized as a movement and exists today. Fox was important to get things going, but it was Fell's administrative and logistical gifts that allowed the movement to become more than a flash in the pan.


    This set of queries helps us to ask God and ourselves where we might need to go in the furtherance of the Truth. We don't need to know where the last step of our journey will take us, just the next one. John Woolman said that his ministry was “like walking into a muddy ground with mist all around... able to see only one flagstone forward at a time.” Only when he took the next step “would the next step become clear.” Let's help each other to see if we can't figure out what good next steps might be. This might be metaphorical or actual. We might next need to step into months of prayer and pottery-making or maybe we need to head towards travel to Sheboygan.


    By Fox taking his leading seriously, he ended up speaking such that Margaret Fell heard him and was herself convinced of the truth of Fox's experiences. It can be important for us not only to feel that things are being opened to us, but also to ask if those openings might be for others as well. We won't know until we know. And we can help each other to know. Ask in your private prayer time what is being called from you next and know that if nothing rises that is ok. Ask this also when in prayer with others and see how it goes. Remember, this is all an experiment.


    Testing leadings with a meeting community is an important part of the Freinds' tradition, but there is also power in gathering for prayer and seeking guidance with others in ways that are less formal and more impromptu. Like Isaac Penington said, our way is supposed to include "praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand."