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Am reposting this eloquent and enlightening report from Kevin, from his wonderful blog Revelations.
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This past week, Counselor Dan Scott from Toronto, Canada visited the Bay Area in Northern California. He shared with us many of his ideas about the work we are doing. It was truly inspiring to hear how the teachings of Baha’u’llah are being put into practice at the neighborhood level.
He talked about:
- The need for each neighborhood to have a team of friends living there and a group of visitors who come on a regular basis.
- The importance of working with junior youth in a neighborhood first then building down to children, so that you don’t lose the junior youth once they become youth. Junior youth in three years can become human resources in their communities with an immense capacity to serve.
- The need for all activities to be coherently introduced in the neighborhood in order to develop a pattern of life.
- The importance of knowing how to really train people using Book 1: it is a conversation with a group of people not a workbook.
- How community meetings open to all neighborhood contacts at the level of the neighborhood are providing a venue for reflection among the participants of process.
- The importance of sacrifice, dedication and a commitment to work in a neighborhood for a number of years in order to really be able to transform the community and see results.
- Neighborhoods that don’t have transient resident are preferred: how else can you implement a program that last’s 3 years?
- The Institute Process is 1 process that allows a whole population, from its smallest babe to the oldest adult to move towards a civilization that is fundamentally spiritual.
- How do we plan to build something new if we spend our energies in studying and working in institutions from the disintegrating world?
At the end of the Thursday gathering, he also shared this excerpt from talk from Universal House of Justice member, Dr. Farzam Arbab, which I find to be incredibly true.
There is such a thing as “the good life,” built around the concept of comfort. Any lifestyle chosen by a Bahá’í, of course, will only include behavior that is in accordance with the teachings. But even so, when comfort is the motivating force, one’s lifestyle begins to show great deficiencies that lead to stagnation. When life is not purposeful enough, when it is too centered on the idea of fun and entertainment, when it places too much value on enjoyment, it becomes unproductive. An intensive growth program in an area is not possible if those who take part in it are not engaged intensely in service. We are all familiar with these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
….look at me, follow me, be as I am; take no thought for yourselves or your lives, whether ye eat or whether ye sleep, whether ye are comfortable, whether ye are well or ill, whether ye are with friends or foes, whether ye receive praise or blame; for all of these things ye must care not at all. Look at me and be as I am; ye must die to yourselves and to the world, so shall ye be born again and enter the kingdom of heaven. Behold the candle, how it gives light. It weeps its life away drop by drop in order to give forth its flame of light.
And in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, He calls upon us:
….rest ye not, seek ye no composure, attach not yourselves to the luxuries of this ephemeral world, free yourselves from every attachment, and strive with heart and soul to become fully established in the Kingdom of God. Gain ye the heavenly treasures. Day by day become ye more illumined. Draw ye nearer and nearer unto the threshold of oneness….
How do we do this? How do we change ourselves and our communties? How do we build something that’s new? How do we increase our capacity? How do we walk with others? There are many questions. The only way to find the answers is initiate a process of learning that generates knowledge. This every person, every neighborhood, every community and every cluster has to go through individually. There are no shortcuts to this knowledge.
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Baha’i youth from Canada, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Togo, and the United States celebrating teaching victories (Ghana, 2004)
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In every cluster with an intensive programme of growth in operation, efforts need to be made to systematize further the provision of spiritual education to increasing numbers of children, from families of many backgrounds—a requisite of the community-building process gathering momentum in neighbourhoods and villages. This will be a demanding task, one that calls for patience and cooperation on the part of parents and institutions alike. The Ruhi Institute has already been requested to expedite plans to complete its courses for training children’s class teachers at different levels including the corresponding lessons, starting with youngsters aged 5 or 6 and proceeding to those aged 10 or 11… As these additional courses and lessons become available, institutes in every country will be able to prepare the teachers and the coordinators required to put in place, grade by grade, the core of a programme for the spiritual education of children, around which secondary elements can be organized….
As the Teaching Centre now turns its attention with equal vigour to questions related to the efficacy of activities at the cluster level, it will no doubt give special consideration to the implementation of Bahá’í children’s classes. … The rapid spread of the programme for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth is yet another expression of cultural advance in the Bahá’í community….
There is every indication that the programme engages their expanding consciousness in an exploration of reality that helps them to analyse the constructive and destructive forces operating in society and to recognize the influence these forces exert on their thoughts and actions, sharpening their spiritual perception, enhancing their powers of expression and reinforcing moral structures that will serve them throughout their lives.
(The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2010 Message, par. 14-16)
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Pre-youth Bahá’í study circle in Canada
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(Source: http://pxl9.com/k/blog/the-need-for-building-something-thats-new/) (Photos Copyright Bahá’í International Community. View here and here.)