I call Prince Edward Island off the east coast of Canada home. Recently my community gathered on Zoom to study the 9 May 2020 message from the Universal House of Justice. The letter contains important guidance about navigating through this difficult time, but one particular point struck a chord with me, and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. The section I’m referring to is this:
…while certain possibilities have been temporarily closed, others have opened up, and new means have emerged for strengthening existing patterns of activity. Flexibility has proven to be an asset, but so has vigilance in ensuring that the primarily local character of community activities is not diluted; efforts to nurture flourishing communities within neighbourhoods and villages and across clusters must continue.
Like most of us, I have embraced a more insular lifestyle in the interest of protecting myself and the more vulnerable members of my community. As someone who lives alone, over the last few months I have joined a few online communities and participated in a number of virtual events. Some are local initiatives: holy day commemorations, Nineteen Day Feasts, devotional gatherings and opportunities to study messages like the May 9 message from the House of Justice; others have been regional—I even attended a Zoom wedding this spring! But many have been international in scope, and while they enrich my life significantly, they also require a considerable investment of time and energy, which begs the question: is my participation online diluting efforts to nurture a flourishing community at the local level? How can I find ways to take what I am learning virtually and use it to invigorate my role within my own community? In exploring these questions, another arose: what exactly am I learning? Perhaps identifying the skills I am developing in these online communities, and what I find so enriching about participating in them will help me to identify practical ways that I can better support local activities too. Continue reading
There are many topics worthy of focus in the 29 December 2015 message from the Universal House of Justice: it is packed full of wonderful insights and guidance that generations of people around the world will continue to learn about as they work together to build a new society. I chose to look at the analogy of farming as it relates to the community building process. At the very end of the message, the Universal House of Justice states: Continue reading
(Photo courtesy: Baha'i World Centre)
In the Baha’i Faith, education is extremely important, and the Baha’i Writings explore and honour the noble station of the teacher, particularly in relation to the education of children. It is in this exchange between the learner and the teacher that education takes on meaning. Continue reading
Reading to children in Tiriki West, Kenya (Photo courtesy Baha'i World Centre)
In 2010 the Universal House of Justice called the Baha’is of the world to reflect on the contributions that their growing vibrant communities make to the material and spiritual progress of society and one of these contributions is social action. If we imagine the Baha’i community as a fire, social action is one of its properties: released heat.
The Baha’i community is striving to translate Baha’u’llah’s teachings into reality in order to contribute to world unity and collective spiritual and material prosperity. Baha’u’llah said: Continue reading
Shadow puppet show in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)
This article is for those of you who either feel “terrified”, or maybe just simply “at a loss” when it comes to integrating the arts into your study circles. You know that we are urged by the Ruhi Institute to “include artistic endeavours in the activity of every study circle”, and that we should not think of these endeavours as “entertainment or as an extracurricular activity…but as an essential element enhancing the spiritual development of the participants”.
But how do we do this when we don’t feel necessarily musical, artistic, or dramatic? Continue reading
Meetup.com is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in over 196 countries. It’s typically used by people wanting to practise a new language, meet people in a new city, or dress up as wizards and play dungeons and dragons. So my friends and I thought, why don’t we start a devotional on Meetup.com for people who are interested in having soulful reflections?
We live in Melbourne, Australia, and one year on and we’ve had 105 people express their interest by joining the group. We’ve held 19 Meetups with an average of 11 people attending each time. The diversity of backgrounds and views has made it a fascinating way to meet people from our local area who are looking to have meaningful conversations.
Based on our experience and our learnings, here are five tips for starting a devotional of your own using Meetup.com: Continue reading
As Baha’is, we know that education is of three kinds: material, human and spiritual. As a mother, I have always found the first two kinds relatively easy to manage. When it comes to their spiritual education however, I tend to feel a little more uneasy, especially since Abdu’l-Baha refers to this kind of education as the “true” kind when he says:
Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists in acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education…
The pressure is mounted with the following quote:
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved – even though he be ignorant – is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the science and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light.
A few of the mothers in our community recently decided to start a children’s class specifically for those aged between zero and five. These preschool classes aim to encourage the development of morals and good conduct in our young ones, with each lesson based on a different virtue and featuring prayer, singing, stories and crafts.
Below are the 10 main steps we took when starting up the preschool classes: Continue reading
Members of a community in Brazil plant flowers. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)
Baha’is and their friends around the world are currently engaged in a process of community-building that primarily consists of four core activities: the education of children, the spiritual empowerment of junior youth, the strengthening of the devotional character of communities through prayer gatherings and collective worship, and engagement in the institute process which serves both to deepen our understanding of the Baha’i teachings and to develop our skills to carry out these various acts of service. These are obviously not the only arenas of service for Baha’is. For example, the Universal House of Justice has begun to increasingly emphasize the role Baha’is play in social action, or efforts to improve the social and material conditions of our communities, as well as public discourse, or the infusion of Baha’i ideals into spaces dedicated to discussing social issues such as the media, governments, and civil society organizations. Continue reading
One of the interesting features of the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP) is the fact that the arts are used to explore the various concepts presented in the series of books the particpants go through. While the use of the arts is something which happens organically and the participants themselves are encouraged to come up with artistic ways and ideas to explore these concepts, sometimes sharing ideas of activities can help to get things going.
So if you’ve got a junior youth group and are looking for some more ideas of activities to help you jump-start those creative engines, here are three ideas we’ve used with our junior youth groups which are a lot of fun and may help! Continue reading
Study circle participants in Biharsharif, India (Image courtesy Baha’i World Centre)
Several weeks ago we conducted a Baha’i Blog survey
, and many of the survey participants said that they liked the posts relating to the Institute Process
and wanted more.
Of the eight articles we publish every month, we always try to have at least one of them relate to the Institute Process in some way, and so here’s a roundup of 22 Baha’i Blog articles we’ve published over the last few years which relate in various ways to the Institute Process. Continue reading