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(United Kingdom, 27 May)

“…by sticking to the path of learning that has been set,
by remaining obedient to the Will of the Universal House of Justice…
answers [to the many and varied challenges ahead] will come.”

This report is from the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom after their spirited national Convention:

Some 270 friends, including 84 delegates, attended National Convention from 24-26 May. Inspired by the Ridvan and 13 May messages of the Universal House of Justice…the delegates consulted on the exciting possibilities that now lie ahead for accelerating the teaching work and the progress of clusters.

Drawing on the learning about the intensive programmes of growth so beautifully and vividly captured in [the publication] “Attaining the Dynamics of Growth: Glimpses from five continents”, prepared by the International Teaching Centre [which can now be downloaded from the US website or purchased], delegates came forward to share their experiences and offer reflections on themes at the heart of the Five Year Plan — expansion, consolidation, reflection, planning and administration, and the acceleration of learning. The consultations were mature, focused and greatly enriched by the delegates’ own experiences of the teaching work, particularly in the field of direct, collective teaching…

…a most moving devotional for the believers in the Cradle of the Faith [was held], whose example of courage, fortitude and selfless obedience to the Universal House of Justice stirred Convention to its very depths…

Excellent children’s and junior youth and youth programmes ran concurrently with the main Convention programme, and Convention received a most impressive and spirited presentation from the youth in attendance…

The near future will, of course, bring its many and varied challenges and these will need to be addressed with faith, consecration and courage. Many of these dominated the proceedings at Convention:

What do we have to do to raise the number of effective teachers and teaching teams?

How do we involve more believers in the teaching work? How do we create a sense of movement and purpose in those less developed “B” and “C” clusters?

How can we transform a much higher proportion of our existing trained resources into active, audacious and tenacious teachers of the Cause?

How can we accelerate the learning about growth and transfer the relevant learning to clusters at a formative stage of development?

How do we work with receptive populations?

It is clear that it may take some time before we have the answers to these and other questions. What is equally clear, however, is that by sticking to the path of learning that has been set, by remaining obedient to the Will of the Universal House of Justice, those answers will come.

— National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom

‘Abdu’l-Bahá toured Europe for three months in 1911 and visited a second time in 1913. He is shown here at Clifton Guest House, Bristol, United Kingdom, in September 1911.

* * * * * *
We are striving with heart and soul, resting neither day nor night, seeking not a moment’s ease, to make this world of man the mirror of the unity of God. Then how much more must the beloved of the Lord reflect that unity? And this cherished hope, this yearning wish of ours will be visibly fulfilled only on the day when the true friends of God arise to carry out the Teachings of the Abhá Beauty—may my life be a ransom for His lovers!

One amongst His Teachings is this, that love and good faith must so dominate the human heart that men will regard the stranger as a familiar friend, the malefactor as one of their own, the alien even as a loved one, the enemy as a companion dear and close. Who killeth them, him will they call a bestower of life; who turneth away from them, him will they regard as turning towards them; who denieth their message, him will they consider as one acknowledging its truth. The meaning is that they must treat all humankind even as they treat their sympathizers, their fellow-believers, their loved ones and familiar friends.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá SWA 84
* * * * * *

(From “UK BAHA’I NEWS EMAIL SERVICE”)
(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

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New believer: “I tell them who Baha’u’llah is”

(US, DC, 17 May)

Here is a prime example of the practice and outcome of consolidation reported about a new believer that truly speaks for itself:

C__ embraced the Faith during the expansion phase, and at the same time enrolled her young son. Right away she was invited to begin to study. Within a week of accepting Baha’u’llah, she had been visited twice and was studying Book 1 (Reflections on the Life of the Spirit), and has been doing so regularly since then. She is now in the middle of the second unit of the book, and understands that this is a sequence of courses, and she is excited about moving through the sequence and carrying out the practices.
When she completed the first unit, the tutors (who also were the teachers who presented Anna’s presentation to her during the expansion) gave her a gift of the Hidden Words. She was thrilled with the book, holding it carefully in her hands, saying how it is “so beautiful on the cover and what’s inside”. She understood that the practice of the first unit was to read from this book or from some of the Baha’i writings every morning and evening. And when she came the next week to study again (and join her tutors for dinner at their home), she had obviously gone beyond her personal reading and had begun to share the Writings with others.’

Over dinner, we asked her if she might want to share some thoughts with the cluster about her experience over the past weeks. She talked about how during the last week “friends have asked about Baha’u’llah, and I tell them who Baha’u’llah is. I have shared prayers with friends and co-workers. One friend commented how nice the Hidden Words are. One of my friends had a difficult day and had a problem, a test, with another coworker and I shared with her ‘when a thought of war comes, replace it with a stronger thought of peace’ and my friend really liked that.”
She also talked about how she is using the Baha’i Writings now rather than making up her own prayers. She said, “I’ve always been in the habit of saying my own prayers, short prayers that I make up, now I am beginning to develop the habit of saying these prayers from Baha’u’llah.”

She has begun to teach the Faith – arising immediately to share with others the Message she has embraced. She told us, “I’ve told several peple about the Bahai Faith and people seemed interested.” Also she said that some family members have asked, “Who is Baha’u’ll’ah, who is this person?”, showing a little bit of reluctance about the “new religion” she had accepted and begun to promote. She said that when they spoke to her like that, she told them that, “The Baha’i Faith is about love, it’s about unity, it’s about the oneness of all religions.” And with this response “…they calm down, they even begin to get interested.” She has a plan to share Anna’s presentation with one person who has expressed interest, and, together with her tutors, is thinking about other people she can present the Faith to during the next few weeks.

Approach and entrance to the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh

* * * * * *
The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light. One heart may possess the capacity of the polished mirror; another be covered and obscured by the dust and dross of this world… Therefore our duty lies in seeking to polish the mirrors of our hearts in order that we shall become reflectors of that light and recipients of the divine bounties which may be fully revealed through them.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá BWF 218
* * * * * *

(Report from the “A” stage Washington DC cluster) (http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/following-stories-from-atc-of.html)(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

The following is a digest of the 13 May letter of the House of Justice to the Baha’is of the World:

At midday on the second of May, the Tenth International Baha’i Convention drew to its close. Over the course of several days some one thousand delegates from over 150 countries had taken part in five consultative sessions that centred on the progress of the current global Plan. It was a source of inspiration and joy to note the wealth of experience that they brought to the discussions and the unity of thought that distinguished the comments put forward.

An historical analysis of efforts to establish intensive programmes of growth in different parts of the globe was presented to the delegates. What it demonstrates, above all, is how rapidly the process of learning that impels progress is accelerating worldwide.

At the Conference of Continental Boards of Counsellors [that immediately followed the International Baha’i Convention] observations made by these high-ranking officers of the Cause confirmed the efficacy of the strategies being put in place for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith.

The House of Justice ends their letter thus:

As we enter the third year of the Five Year Plan, we are delighted to announce that the number of intensive programmes of growth in operation has surpassed the 600 mark. However impressive this accomplishment, it pales before what remains to be achieved. We urge you, one and all,

to maintain your focus,

to strengthen your resolve and

to arise with even greater determination to carry forward the teaching work.

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

* * * * * * * *

As to the words—“Immediately after the oppression of those days”—they refer to the time when men shall become oppressed and afflicted, the time when the lingering traces of the Sun of Truth and the fruit of the Tree of knowledge and wisdom will have vanished from the midst of men, when the reins of mankind will have fallen into the grasp of the foolish and ignorant, when the portals of divine unity and understanding—the essential and highest purpose in creation—will have been closed, when certain knowledge will have given way to idle fancy, and corruption will have usurped the station of righteousness…
What “oppression” is greater than that which hath been recounted? What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?

Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Íqán p. 29,31

* * * * * * * *

(Excerpted from letter of Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, 13 May 2008.)

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(US, TX and TN, 14 May)

“Anna’s Presentation” is an introductory explanation of the Bahá’í Faith that clearly and directly presents some of its main verities. Throughout the country, the believers have found it an effective tool when engaging in door-to-door teaching. However, in many places, the friends are also finding Anna’s Presentation useful in other venues, such as proclamation events, firesides, Holy Day celebrations.

For example, the following is a report from the San Antonio cluster (TX):

“At the 12th Day of Ridvan celebration given at the Bahá’í Center, a beautiful and inviting atmosphere was present. A seeker at the Holy Day festivities declared after listening to Anna’s presentation. Other people who attended also inquired about the Faith and requested to know more.”

Further, a friend in the Knoxville cluster (TN) shares:

“We are using Anna’s presentation in our fireside and trying to encourage more friends to incorporate it in small or large firesides.”

* * * *

What other occasions can we think of to use this presentation?

* * * * * * * *

When delivering the glad tidings, speak out and say: the Promised One
of all the world’s peoples hath now been made manifest. For each and
every people, and every religion, await a Promised One, and Bahá’u’lláh
is that One Who is awaited by all; and therefore the Cause of
Bahá’u’lláh will bring about the oneness of mankind, and the tabernacle
of unity will be upraised on the heights of the world, and the banners
of the universality of all humankind will be unfurled on the peaks of
the earth. When thou dost loose thy tongue to deliver this great good
news, this will become the means of teaching the people.

– Abdu’l-Baha, SWAB 101

* * * * * * * *

The International Teaching Centre Building at night.

(http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/over-past-few-months-we-have-been.html)

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(US, IL, 14 May)

Persistent efforts have lead to learning in this IL “A” stage cluster, which just completed the expansion phase of the second cycle of its intensive program of growth:

Even in places where people said they were not interested in learning about the Faith, they were happy to pray with the Bahá’ís, and some individuals specifically requested prayers for friends and family members.

One person was surprised and happy when the Bahá’ís offered to organize a devotional gathering in her home… The friends have seen the benefits of leaving people [of different faiths] with the understanding that we are all co-workers.

Another way in which the friends demonstrated openness was to make it clear that the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are for everyone, not just the members of the Bahá’í community. Thus, they are saying, “Bahá’u’lláh teaches this” rather than saying “We Bahá’ís do this and this.”

Another believer noted that opening by saying, “Hi, my name is ___ and we are in your neighborhood,” that it would create a personal connection.

 	The Bahá'� House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.A.

* * * * * * * *

Blessed is he who hath enjoyed intimate communion with Thee, and rid himself of all attachment to anyone save Thee.

—Bahá’u’lláh, BP 52

* * * * * * * *

(Report from the Evanston and Skokie, IL cluster, excerpted)(http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/persistent-efforts-have-lead-to.html) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(US, NYC, 16 April)

Reported from the first weekend of New York City cluster’s expansion phase:

…perhaps the greatest “success” was the incredible spirit of unity and love that was cultivated among the friends who participated in the teaching efforts… Over 500 doors were knocked on, and, over the course of only three days, 20 souls entered the Cause of God. And this is only the beginning!

Before going out to teach, the teams prayed fervently that Bahá’u’lláh would guide them to souls who were ready to receive the message.

Of a certainty, guidance was given: While sharing the Faith with a young man in a Washington Heights park, the teacher discovered that she had taught the faith to the man’s father in Ecuador several decades ago! Another teaching team approached a security guard of a high-rise building, requesting permission to enter.

It turned out that the security guard had been a Bahá’í in the Dominican Republic in the 1980’s, but after migrating to the States, had lost touch with the community, and had no idea that there were Bahá’ís in New York City, let alone in his very neighborhood.

On Saturday a team visited a Jamaican family in Brooklyn. The mother was interested but asked if they’d come back Sunday. On Sunday the mother wasn’t home but the team gave the presentation to the father and his 8 year old son. Both enrolled. Last night, the team returned and the mother and two daughters enrolled. Now we have a whole family that has stepped into the Cause. They are so happy and excited. The two older children sat and listened to the entire presentation and asked if they could be Baha’is. The son had a friend visiting who kept asking if he was ready to play a video game but the son said “Not right now. I’m learning about God.”

(From a report shared by the Regional Bahá’í Council of the Northeastern States after NYC’s launch of Cycle 12 of their Intensive Program of Growth. Used with the Council’s permission.)

* * * * * * * *

O Lord! Grant Thine infinite bestowals, and let the light of Thy guidance shine.

—‘Abdu’l-Bahá, BP 100

* * * * * * * *

In this year’s Ridván message the House of Justice directs our attention to “the qualities that [must] distinguish our service to the peoples of the world,” qualities that will determine the success of our teaching efforts:

So free must be your thoughts and actions of any trace of prejudice—racial, religious, economic, national, tribal, class, or cultural—that even the stranger sees in you a loving friend.

So high must be your standard of excellence and so pure and chaste your lives that the moral influence you exert penetrates the consciousness of the wider community.

Only if you demonstrate the rectitude of conduct to which the writings of the Faith call every soul will you be able to struggle against the myriad forms of corruption, overt and subtle, eating at the vitals of society.

Only if you perceive honour and nobility in every human being—this independent of wealth or poverty—will you be able to champion the cause of justice.

Finally, the House assures us: “As you press ahead, be confident that the Concourse on High is marshalling its forces and stands ready to come to your aid. Our continued prayers will surround you.”

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel. This building houses the international governing council of the worldwide Bahá’� community.

Is there any more “time to lose”?

* * * * * * * *
Lord!
Feeble are we, strengthen us to diffuse the fragrances of Thy Holiness;
poor, enrich us from the treasures of Thy Divine Unity;
naked, clothe us with the robe of Thy bounty;
sinful, forgive us our sins by Thy grace, Thy favor and Thy pardon.
Thou art, verily, the Aider, the Helper, the Gracious, the Mighty, the Powerful.
The glory of glories rest upon them that are fast and firm.

—‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (BP, 202)

* * * * * * * *

(Ridván 2008 message)

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

One delegate to the Bahá’í International Convention, Daniel Woodard (25), an engineering student from Caracas, noted that not only is the Bahá’í community diverse, but it truly encompasses the whole world. He was even more heartened by the unified spirit, as Bahá’ís and others work together to create a better world:

Nuriyeh McLaren and Daniel Woodard, two confident young delegates from Venezuela

“Despite the fact that there are now many of us, and we are so diverse, nobody is being left behind,” he said of the people he saw. “We are so intertwined that as we move forward, if someone falters or has difficulties, they will be sustained and helped by the others.”

MAY IT BE SHOWN TO THE WORLD!:)

Among the thousand delegates from 150 countries were Keyhan Ighanian and Thor Henning Lerstad, both from Norway.

Among the thousand delegates from 150 countries at the International Bahá’í Convention were (first photo) Nuriyeh McLaren and Daniel Woodard, delegates from Venezuela, and (second photo) Keyhan Ighanian and Thor Henning Lerstad, both from Norway.

The faces of the Bahá’í world: http://news.bahai.org/multimedia/slideshow.php?storyid=631 News story: http://news.bahai.org/story/631

* * * * * * * *

Disunity is a danger that the nations and peoples of the earth can no longer endure; the consequences are too terrible to contemplate, too obvious to require any demonstration… In observing that “mankind is groaning, is dying to be led to unity, and to terminate its age-long martyrdom”, Shoghi Effendi further commented that: “Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.”

Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, Section IV

* * * * * * * *

(Photographs are copyright of the Bahá’í World News Service)

Isn’t this a good introduction and/or invitation to a study circle!

Faith & Action: Study Circles


It was a rather striking introductory statement: This series of courses provides a means for promoting the well-being of humanity. How’s that for a grand purpose? Intriguing. When was the last time you took a course which trained you for such a lofty and noble goal?

But, here it was. A unique curriculum, the Ruhi Institute, initially developed in Columbia and currently being offered in cities, towns and villages world-wide. From pasturelands in Mongolia to penthouses in Montreal, across the velds of South Africa to the mountains of Europe, and in every province of Canada and every state of America, small groups of people are joining together in Ruhi study circles, learning about themselves in a manner that connects their hearts to every other beating human heart on the planet.

Interior of the room of Bahá’u’lláh at Mazra‘ih.Okay, so what exactly would promote the well-being of humanity and how could one person’s participation make any sort of meaningful mark? The answer is clearly indicated in the title of the first course, “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.” Examining the very essence of our humanness, we are compelled to explore the spiritual aspect of our beings and discover the existence of our true selves, our souls. That thoughtful investigation allows each participant to understand their common bonds with all people. It also reveals our intimate relationship with our Creator…

But, here it was. A unique curriculum, the Ruhi Institute, initially developed in Columbia and currently being offered in cities, towns and villages world-wide. From pasturelands in Mongolia to penthouses in Montreal, across the velds of South Africa to the mountains of Europe, and in every province of Canada and every state of America, small groups of people are joining together in Ruhi study circles, learning about themselves in a manner that connects their hearts to every other beating human heart on the planet.

Okay, so what exactly would promote the well-being of humanity and how could one person’s participation make any sort of meaningful mark? The answer is clearly indicated in the title of the first course, “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.” Examining the very essence of our humanness, we are compelled to explore the spiritual aspect of our beings and discover the existence of our true selves, our souls. That thoughtful investigation allows each participant to understand their common bonds with all people. It also reveals our intimate relationship with our Creator…

In a way, one just needs to experience a Ruhi course in order to understand what is meant by quotation-based study. It’s the kind of thing that fairly defies explanations. Don’t assume that this method precludes the free and vigorous expression of emotion nor stifles vibrant individuality. There’s plenty of room for enthusiasm, excitement and exploration…

Establishing the study circle, the group may choose to meet weekly over the stretch of several months, or conduct a more intensive pace, covering the materials in the timeframe of a single week-end. Groups are facilitated by experienced Ruhi tutors who guide the process, not as authority figures, but as collaborators with everyone else. Participants engage in a focused study, using a compilation of quotations in each book. Egos are checked at the door… Simply a respectful environment of encouragement and sharing.

Book One, “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit”, explores themes regarding the nature of the human soul, the purpose of our lives, our ability to commune with God through prayer, developing divine virtues, and life after death. The practices encouraged are cultivating the habit of reading the holy Writings daily and visiting others to share and study prayers together. What other kind of activity promotes, so directly and so meaningfully, the true well-being of humanity?…

This is not a simple project rooted in philanthropy, of short term, material solutions. It’s a grassroots, interactive process grounded in spiritual as well as practical activity.

By JOYCE FULLER KLEIKAMP, Baha’i Community of Pinal County

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19673495&BRD=1817&PAG=461&dept_id=222077&rfi=6

Everyone playing their part

(US, OR, 6 May)

The friends in this “A” stage cluster have been busy and systematic during the first expansion phase of their intensive program of growth, which was launched just before Ridvan 2008. A variety of approaches were used, with each facet supporting the others. Here are some excerpts:

Informational tables were set up at the local Bahá’í Center and at two colleges. The use of Anna’s Presentation at the booth at the Bahá’í Center provided an easy format to present the Faith.

The friends gathered at the Bahá’í Center each day in the morning, noon and evening to offer prayers for the teaching efforts. These were attended by between five to fifteen believers each time.

Children’s classes and one junior youth group were conducted and were attended by members of the wider community.

Exploratory teaching was carried out in a few neighborhoods in the cluster. Several positive opportunities emerged, including requests for subsequent visits, which are being followed up. At one apartment complex, a relatively large percentage of those visited expressed an interest in learning about the Faith.

(Report from the Area Teaching Committee of Eugene, OR)

http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/friends-in-eugene-or-have-been-busy-and.html

* * * * * * * *

Unremitting faith, prayer, the promptings of the soul, Divine assistance — these are among the essentials of progress in any Bahá’í undertaking. But also of vital importance to bringing about entry by troops is a realistic approach, systematic action. There are no shortcuts. Systematization ensures consistency of lines of action based on well-conceived plans. In a general sense, it implies an orderliness of approach in all that pertains to Bahá’í service, whether in teaching or administration, in individual or collective endeavour. While allowing for individual initiative and spontaneity, it suggests the need to be clear-headed, methodical, efficient, constant, balanced and harmonious. Systematization is a necessary mode of functioning animated by the urgency to act.

Our lot, dear brothers and sisters, is to be consciously involved in a vast historic process the like of which has not ever before been experienced by any people…Does not every one of us…have a divine obligation to fulfil, a sacred duty to perform towards every other one who is not yet aware of the call of God’s latest Manifestation? Time does not stop, does not wait. With every passing hour a fresh affliction strikes at a distracted humanity. Dare we linger?

…one thing above all else is necessary: to act, to act now, and to continue to act.

Our heartfelt plea at the Holy Threshold on behalf of us all is that we may be divinely aided and richly confirmed in whatever we do towards meeting the urgent aim of the Divine Plan at so fate-laden a moment in human history.

Universal House of Justice, Ridván 155/1998 message

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