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(US – DC, 2009)

Some interesting points from Ann Boyles’ presentation, “To build in the world of things a safe home for the children of men,” given at the 2009 Conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies (ABS). Read the full notes (PDF-file) here (audio file available here).

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A couple of examples of recent evolution in our discourse… (cultural ways of talking and thinking about things) [in the context of the change in culture that the Baha’i world is presently undergoing:]

◆ who we are and how we talk about ourselves, both within the Bahá’í community and in the wider community; Bahá’ís participating in the framework for action will often describe themselves in terms of service (e.g. a teacher of a class for the spiritual education of children)—expressed in a language of humility while at the same time conveying confidence in the framework for action and safeguarding the majesty of Bahá’u’lláh. We talk about ourselves as part of the community in a neighbourhood, not as outsiders—as people who are also affected by the environment but who have transcended it to some extent.

Discoursing

◆ how we speak about the Bahá’í Faith, emphasizing that this is “the changeless faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”—focusing on the oneness of religion, which suggests indivisibility, in contrast to the unity of religions, which suggests multiplicity. Avoiding the tendency to see ourselves as just another religion among many

◆ how we speak about the core activities: as a paradigm of empowerment, which belongs to the entire community, in which we can partner in developing skills that will lead to the betterment of the world

◆ how we talk about teaching (avoiding the creation of 2 languages, one for seekers and the other for the community)

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PROMOTING INDIVIDUAL INITIATIVE

An accent on teaching in clusters at a formative stage can consist not only of direct, individual teaching but also of small, collective efforts, which experience shows can propel the process of growth and advance the cluster in an accelerated manner. Granted, the friends may need to be cautioned not to outstrip their human resources, but the development of a culture of teaching, supported by ongoing training, will be the surest path to a successful intensive program of growth. Moreover, when the believers taste the sweetness of the teaching experience, it sustains their enthusiasm. … the friends are often not easily mobilized once they have completed institute courses because there are no demands placed upon them as would be the case if there were an influx of new believers. When there is growth, the believers arise to serve and mobilization is realized.

– Letter from the International Teaching Centre, September 30, 2007. Click here to view.

In their presentation of the message of Bahá’u’lláh and the exposition of its verities, they have taken to heart the words of Shoghi Effendi that they must neither “hesitate” nor “falter”, neither “overstress” nor “whittle down” the truth which they champion. Neither are they “fanatical” nor “excessively liberal”. Through their constancy in teaching, they have increased their ability to determine whether the receptivity of their listener requires them to be “wary” or “bold”, to “act swiftly” or to “mark time”, to be “direct” or “indirect” in the methods they employ. ….

– The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2008 message

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(Photo © Jeff Greenberg/age fotostock/Imagestate, accessed here)

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