During a long Quaker business meeting, Laura Boles stood up and said, “I don’t want to hide behind Quaker process… I want to do something and I want to do something now.” And so she did.
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I’m really big on Quakers announcing themselves to the world and owning the glory that is Quakers and all of the greatness that we have and labeling that and not just being like “Oh, I’m a humble person in the world. I’m at my 20th protest, you know, this week but I’m just going to wear black and sit in the corner and just, you know, have my little sign.” I want people to say, “I am a Quaker and I believe this is right, and I am here at this protest as a Quaker.”
The Power of Being Quaker in Public
My name is Laura Boles. I live in Mill Valley, California, and my meeting is Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkley. I had really a vision in my meeting. It was pretty powerful. I just felt like… I was listening to business meeting droning on about something or other and I just kind of lost it and just stood up and was like, “I — I don’t want to hide behind Quaker process. I don’t want to hide behind endless committee meetings talking on and on. I don’t want to hide behind consensus. I want to do something and I want to do something now. I don’t want to wait, and we cannot wait.”
So, I started a group in my meeting called Quaker Action Worship Group, and I said, you know, we are going to concentrate on action. We are going to go out with Quaker banners, Quaker t-shirts. We have got to label ourselves Quaker and be present in the most vocal way, and it’s very un-Quaker. It’s not what Quakers like to do. They don’t want to be, you know, showboating or saying, you know, how we got the answer, but I am saying we got the answer and I want people to see what we’re all about and I want to offer us up to the world. We started just showing up at events and saying “We’re here, we’re standing up!”
The Value of Public Silent Worship
Any kind of march or public witness of any kind, we start with silent witness and that can be great and beautiful because you’re in the middle of this, you know, march or this rally. We’re this island of silence in all the– all the protestors, you know, everyone’s running around trying to find their friends or the police are usually everywhere and there’s, you know, helicopters and squad cars and firetrucks going, you know, and we’re there silently. For me, the power is bringing that silent, loving holding presence to a group of people who are angry and who are so disturbed and so frantic, and it can really bring another level.
Building Community with Quaker Tools
Quakers have a good reputation. We have good PR, we have good– we have good marketing value, you know? I think we have a reputation as a group with integrity. I think we have a reputation as people who say what they’re going to do and do it. So, I think we should use that reputation, we should use that power we have, I mean, and flex it.
For us, it’s a practice and a way of life, but I also look at it in a very utilitarian way also in that it’s a tool. What I mean when I’m saying it, what I mean is Quaker listening, and by that I mean listening for that of God within someone. When someone’s talking to me, I am listening actively for the light within them. The challenge is to see beyond and see in and pick out the parts that are of the light and fortify and concentrate those pieces, and that is just the time consuming and kind of rather disturbing, ya know, it’s just like, “oh God, I have to slog through another, you know, meeting and greet. More people, more people. But I think that’s what Quakers, the strength of them is and the power of them is, and I would like to see more of it in the world.
- How can we abide by Quaker process and still be present in times that require immediate action?
- Do you use “Quaker tools” to connect with others and organize for social change? If so, how? If not, why?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.