Questions & Counsel – New Zealand

This version is the result of careful consideration by Friends in various Meetings of Aotearoa/ New Zealand from 1988 to 1991, working from the most recent Advices and Queries and the British draft “Questions and Counsel” of 1987.

Section A: God and Ourselves

A1. Listen, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts, and respond to them; they are the leadings of God. In each of us there is a light to show us our condition and to renew us.

A2. Do you cherish that of God within you, so that love may grow in you and guide your life? Can you bring the whole of your life before God, responding to the healing power of love and accepting the forgiveness and joy it brings?

A3. The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity, and has always found inspiration in the life and teachings of Jesus. How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage? Are you following Jesus’ example of love in action? Are you learning from his life of sacrifice the reality and cost of obedience to God? How does his closeness to God challenge and inspire you in the way you live?

A4. Do you always use the guidance of the Spirit when seeking the truth?

A5. Let others know what is valuable to you; let your life speak.

A6. Do we try to live truly as a society of friends in community with one another through communion with God?

A7. What are the means of spiritual growth in your life? Do you make time for regular meditation, prayer, and reflection? What inspiration are you finding from the Bible, other Christian writings, and literature of other religions? What insights are you gaining from the religious experiences of Friends, and people of other denominations and faiths?

A8. Are you open to new light from whatever source it may come? There is inspiration from people we meet, from our work, from the natural world, and from human achievement.

Section B: Reaching towards God

B1. Our Meetings for Worship are the central activity of the Religious Society of Friends. Worship is our response to an awareness of God’s presence. How can you best prepare yourself, heart and mind and body?

B2. We can worship at any time, in any place. To find a wider vision and a deeper experience we all need times of solitary quietness; and we also need times for joining together in silent worship.

B3. Go regularly to Meeting for Worship, including those times when you feel angry or tired, or spiritually low. Bring your joys and your hurts, your hopes and your fears, and your awareness of the needs of other people. As you do so, you may find that you see and feel things differently.

B4. Be aware of each person in the Meeting. Enjoy and affirm friends of all ages. Seek to move into a gathered silence in which you are open to one another.

B5. Do you respond to the children’s special needs during Meeting for Worship? When they are involved in separate activites, do you uphold them and those who are with them

B6. All of us are at times preoccupied and distracted in Meeting. Accept these wanderings; then release them so that you can move towards the still centre of your own being and find the unity of the Meeting.

B7. Remember that ministry – in silence, speech and other forms – is the responsibility of everyone; and that all present contribute to the depth of Meeting for Worship.

B8. If you are prompted to speak, do not be prevented by a sense of your own unworthiness, or a fear of not finding the right words. Pray that the Spirit may guide you and that your ministry may rise from deep experience. Wait patiently to know that the sense, the occasion and the timing are right. When you are sure, have confidence that the words will be given to you. Faithfulness and sincerity in speaking may open the way to ministry from others.

B9. Are you apt to speak too often, too predictably or too soon after someone else has spoken? Be sure to take time to reach for the deep meaning in the spoken ministry of others. Receive it in a tender and understanding spirit, and avoid hurtful criticism. What may seem of little value to one hearer may for another be a direct word of God. Do you accept that in worship God may ask hard questions of you, and challenge you to difficult decisions?

B10. Do not feel that your ministry must conform to that of others. You may be moved to sing, to dance, or to express something new or different. Are you prepared for worship to bring exhilaration, grieving, passion or mystery? Are you able to worship even in times of dryness?

B11. Prayer springs from a deep place in the heart. The spirit of prayer will be active in the truly gathered Meeting. Vocal prayer, though it may be expressed in imperfect words, can draw those present into communion with God and with one another.

B12. Bring everything that concerns you into the light, so that you feel a weakening of what is unworthy in you, and a strengthening of what is good. Accept and support each other in love. Let the Meeting nourish your whole life.

Section C: Seeking God’s Will in Decision-Making

C1. Our Meetings for Business are an integral part of our Quaker life. Do you take your right share in them? If you cannot go, do you uphold the meeting and its decisions?

C2. We do not seek a majority decision, or even consensus. We seek to discern the will of God. Conduct your business meetings in the spirit of worship. Listen, in the expectation that the right way will become clear. The way that opens may not be the one that seemed obvious to anyone at the start of the meeting.

C3. Do you come to meetings with a willingness to listen to other people whose opinions differ from yours? Can you allow your insights and personal wishes to take their places alongside those of others, and if necessary be set aside? Use as few words as possible, but as many as you need.

C4. Do you apply the principles of Quaker decision-making in your home, in your work, and in other areas of your life?

Section D: Ourselves and One Another

D1. Be faithful to your experience of the Spirit, in whatever way it has come to you. Carry it into your daily life. Do what love requires of you, which may not be the same as great busyness.

D2. In the local meeting, how can we build a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and newcomers are welcomed?

D3. As a family of Friends we need sensitivity to each other and our various cultural roots. Do we have an understanding of ourselves as people of Aotearoa/New Zealand and the South Pacific? What joys and what responsibilities does this bring?

D4. A caring meeting can bring healing at times of difficulty or despair. Are you available to help others, even at some cost to yourself? And are you willing to be helped, both practically and spiritually?

D5. Cherish your friendships so that you grow in understanding and mutual respect. When we love, we risk both hurt and overwhelming joy. When we experience great happiness or great pain, the doors of our spirit are open wide.

D6. Are you patient and considerate, even towards people you don’t like? Do you avoid and discourage hurtful criticism and gossip?

D7. Each individual’s journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone. Some will share it in loving relationships. Some will make the commitment of marriage. Some will form loving relationships of other kinds. Ponder your own choices, and try to understand the choices of others. Are you inclined to make hasty judgements about other people’s relationships? Support others as they reach and test their decisions.

D8. Every relationship brings responsibility: be careful not to exploit or belittle other people. Be sensitive to their needs; enter imaginatively into their experience. Remember the value of prayer, perseverance and a sense of humour. Beware of harbouring grudges; think it possible you may be mistaken.

D9. Do you refrain from verbal and psychological violence? And when people attack you with angry words, do you listen for the underlying hurt? Take thought for the words you use, and the tones of voice in which you utter them. Corruption and destructiveness can grow from very small seeds; and so can courage and loving kindness.

D10. Love brings both fulfilment and tension, and requires long-term commitment. Do you acknowledge and explore your differences creatively?

D11. Sometimes, despite strong commitment, a relationship comes apart. If this happens to you, seek help in understanding each other’s point of view, and in finding the right way forward. Where there are children involved, remember their needs and vulnerability, and care for them.

D12. Be selective in the life-style you choose. Take care of your body and your own well-being. Consider the harm you may cause yourself or others with unhealthy substances or selfish practices. Be aware that the mass media and other social pressures can dull your vision. And value beauty in all its forms.

D13. Aim to live simply, sharing what you have.

D14. How can you make your home a place of friendship, refreshment and laughter, a peaceable place where the Spirit becomes more real to all who are there? Do you recognise the needs of each member of your family and household, including your own?

D15. Certain times of life bring energy and activity; other times bring a need for rest and renewal. How far is it possible for you to respond to the rhythms of your life, accepting or declining commitments without an undue sense of pride or guilt?

D16. Nurture the children who are in trust to you from God. As they develop in body, mind and spirit, their needs will change. They may be led along paths you had not anticipated. Are you aware of the example you set for your children?

D17. We each have different gifts and different needs. Discover, acknowledge and respond to your own, and those of other people. Free yourself from limiting ideas, for example about gender roles. When choices arise – in work, leisure, interests, relationships or education – seek paths by which you may develop your abilities and contribute to the community. Look for the leadings of God in all circumstances, even if you seem to have no choice. Live adventurously.

D18. Approach old age with acceptance and anticipation. It can be a time for growing, as much as any other time of life. Try to discern the right moment to relinquish long-term responsibilities, and look for new opportunities for involvement.

D19. Are you able to contemplate your own death, and the death of those closest to you? In bereavement, allow yourself the full measure of grieving, whatever intense feelings you may be experiencing. Allow others to mourn: let your caring embrace them. Through our acceptance of the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully.

Section E: Reaching Beyond Ourselves

E1. Do not be content to accept society as it is. Seek to discover the causes of social unrest, injustice and fear, especially those which stem from our colonial history, and its impact upon the way of life of the Maori. Remember our obligation to honour the Treaty of Waitangi; and work to ensure that the sharing of power and resources in our society is a genuine partnership. Try to discern the new growing points in society. Work for a social order which will allow each person to develop fully and all to co-operate.

E2. Remember your responsibility as citizens of Aotearoa/ New Zealand for the government of our country and for its relations with other countries, particularly our neighbours in the South Pacific. How can we help our nation to promote international peace, justice and care for the earth?

E3. The planet and its life systems need our respect and care. The earth’s diverse riches are not ours to exploit but require our stewardship. Many people belong to this earth, and many species share it. Work to preserve its beauty and resources for all of these and their future. Seek reverence for life and a sense of the splendour of God’s continuing creation. How can you promote a social order which can be sustained in harmony with the rest of the created world?

E4. Do you strive to understand the challenge and choices offered by modern communications and technology? Do you seek to ensure that these serve to enhance the life of every person, in accordance with God’s love?

E5. Obey the laws of the state, except when they conflict with your inner conviction. Work to amend laws which you consider unjust. If you feel called to civil disobedience, seek the guidance and support of your meeting.

E6. We have a testimony to honesty and plain speaking. Be utterly scrupulous both in personal relationships and in dealings with business firms and government departments. Taking oaths sets a double standard of truth: ask to affirm instead.

E7. Are you careful that your use of financial resources is in accordance with our values of honesty, peace, simplicity, and concern for other people?

E8. We have a testimony to living “in the virtue of that life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars”. Consider how your way of life relies on and benefits from violence. What are you doing to build a more peaceable world?

E9. Seek to recognise in yourself the emotions that lie at the root of conflict. In industrial strife, racial enmity and international tension, work to foster understanding between individuals, groups and nations. Stand firm against people who commit or prepare to commit violence. And seek that of God in those who oppose you.

E10. We are convinced of the equal value of every individual in the sight of God. Do you appreciate the infinite diversity of human personality and experience? How can you help to do away with social practices based on prejudice or fear, and systems which involve oppression of particular groups because of their gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or other characteristic?

E11. We all need a sense of achievement and self-worth. Do you value every individual irrespective of their job or the pay they receive, if any? Are you striving to change society’s attitudes to work and remuneration?

E12. We are challenged to practise ecumenism locally, regionally and globally: to work and worship together, enter into fellowship with one another, and co-operate for peace, justice and care of the earth. Are you open to these opportunities – with Quakers of very diverse traditions world-wide; with Christians of other denominations; and with people of other faiths and philosophies?