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(US – South, August 2011)
One of various informed perspectives on the process of stimulating growth in clusters at early stages of their development.
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What, first and foremost, would you like to tell the Baha’is in these clusters?
Aniela Costello, cluster development coordinator, South Central States:
It’s really important for this Council to say, “Yes, there are hurt feelings out there. Yes, you felt left out. We hear you.” We hear from many of the emerging clusters, “Where were you?” But there are pockets within our advanced clusters, too, that felt left out, didn’t know where they belonged. And so now with this magnificent letter [of Dec. 28] we can go back and grab all hands. Study the paragraph on beginning steps that can be taken. If a cluster can read its reality that way and apply the learning and really give the friends wide latitude, accompany them to find their way — not our way, their way — then you have something that is sustainable, dynamic, organic, idiosyncratic, alive to the vision. It’s been my experience that the Baha’is are clamoring to find their place in the Plan. And when you have that kind of enthusiasm, you can build this ark that we’re building. How does one raise up the neighborhoods? In the last Plan we were so mechanical. But we learned so much. We raised up confident teachers who can have a meaningful and distinctive conversation unlike any other conversation these dear souls are having. And now we have this freedom because we learned how to ride a bike and now we can take [the training wheels] off. We can take this learning not just to the rest of the cluster and quickly raise up confident teachers, because they don’t have to make the same mistakes we made, but now to the emerging clusters we can take them. Only now with the freedom, these believers are able to use their own sensibilities.
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Finding joy in the learning process: reflection meeting in Kigali
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In reiterating here much of what we have stated on previous occasions, we hope to have impressed upon you how readily the movement of a population, inspired by the purpose and principles of the Cause, can be nurtured, when not made the object of extraneous complications. We have no illusion that the path traced out so summarily above is devoid of difficulty. Progress is achieved through the dialectic of crisis and victory, and setbacks are inevitable. A drop in participation, a disruption in the cycles of activity, a momentary breach in the bonds of unity—these are among the myriad challenges that may have to be met. Not infrequently the rise in human resources, or the ability to mobilize them, will fall short of the demands of rapid expansion. Yet the imposition of formulas on the process will not result in a pattern of growth characterized by the desired equilibrium. Temporary imbalances in the progress of different activities are intrinsic to the process, and they can be adjusted over time, if dealt with patiently. Scaling back one activity that is flourishing, on the basis of theoretical conceptions of how balanced growth can be achieved, often proves counterproductive. While the friends in a cluster might well benefit from the experience of those who have already established the necessary pattern of action, it is only through continued action, reflection and consultation on their part that they will learn to read their own reality, see their own possibilities, make use of their own resources, and respond to the exigencies of large-scale expansion and consolidation to come.
– The Universal House of Justice, 28 December 2010 message, § 10
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