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(US, Northeast, July 2008 )
The following is a list of possible avenues of service (though by no means exhaustive) that we ALL can consider carrying out in our lives (or better: make habits of). In this way we will fulfill directly the purpose of our creation, according to Bahá’u’lláh, “to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”:
- Setting up time to speak with friends and give them parts or all of Anna’s Presentation
- Reaching out to neighbors and inviting them to dinner and discussion about the Faith with prayers
- Starting a neighborhood children’s class
- Sharing and discussing a prayer with a friend or co-worker
- Hanging out in coffee shops and starting conversations with people about the Faith and religion
The means to carry out each of these vital services have (potentially) been given us through group study of the Ruhi institute books, notably Books one, two, three and six. In applying the knowledge gained through such studies, assistance is meant to be at hand for the participants in the form of a tutor who has completed the prescribed practices (as in the avenues above) himself, and who should be ready to support and walk together with us in taking our initial steps along these paths. Ultimately, through persistent and courages practice, we should become able to sustain these activities on our own initiative. The House of Justice wrote in 2005:
A discernible outcome of the emphasis on capacity building has been a steady increase in the exercise of individual initiative… Endeavours are pursued in a humble posture of learning within the framework defined by the Plan.
(Universal House of Justice, 27 December 2005, my emphasis)
And in this year’s Ridvan message we read:
In previous messages we have referred to the impetus that the institute process imparts to the exercise of initiative by the individual believer. The friends in every continent are engaged in study of the Writings for the explicit purpose of learning to apply the teachings to the growth of the Faith. Remarkable numbers are now shouldering responsibility for the spiritual vitality of their communities; energetically, they are carrying out those acts of service befitting a healthy pattern of growth. As they have persevered in the field of service to the Cause, maintaining a humble posture of learning, their courage and wisdom, zeal and acuity, fervour and circumspection, determination and trust in God have combined all the more to reinforce one another.
(Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2008, my emphasis)
“A humble posture of learning” is one of the recurring themes in the House’s messages of late. Can you name others?
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Resting places of The Purest Branch (Mirzá Mihdí) and Navváb, the wife of Bahá’u’lláh, in the Monument Gardens on Mount Carmel
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In truth, the hearts of men are edified through the power of the tongue, even as houses and cities are built up by the hand and other means. We have assigned to every end a means for its accomplishment; avail yourselves thereof, and place your trust and confidence in God, the Omniscient, the All-Wise.
– Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, §160
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(Suggestions given by an Area Teaching Committee (ATC) in the Northeast for those not participating in the door-to-door teaching campaign of the Expansion Phase of their Intensive Program of Growth, adapted and expanded) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
“Anna’s presentation” is found in Ruhi Book 6, Teaching the Cause, and consists of a comprehensive hypothetical narrative of how a Bahá’í named Anna explains the fundamental verities of the Faith to her friend Emilia.
How people are applying it:
People are using Anna’s presentation as a good option to support direct person-to-person teaching of the Bahá’í Faith in many settings: for example, firesides, individual encounters or “coffee shop” meetings, collective teaching campaigns, home visits or Holy Day events.
Many have memorized the presentation. Others use an outline and make the presentation conversationally. Still others use flip books with pictures to help give the presentation structure.
If presented in one session it can last 30-45 minutes. Depending on the responsiveness of the listener and time available, though, people also present one or two sections at a time over several sessions.
* God, our relationship with Him and His Manifestations; Bahá’u’lláh as the Promised One of all ages
* Unity as the primary aim of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings; the essential oneness of humanity and need to eliminate prejudice
* Story of Bahá’u’lláh; His suffering and endurance in the face of persecution; His Revelation and its influence on people’s hearts and minds
* Story of the Báb; His station as the “Gate” leading to the Promised Day of God; establishment of the spiritual and administrative World Center
* Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh; life and station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; station of the Guardian; establishment of the Universal House of Justice
* Laws and commandments as a sign of God’s love; a few examples of spiritual and social laws (emphasis in Ruhi Book 6 is on obligatory prayer, prohibitions against backbiting and intoxicants, and importance of education)
* Religion building a World Order: roles and benefits for the individual believer; roles and benefits for the community; roles of the institutions and benefits for society
Practices and attitudes:
* Frequent quotation from writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
* Respect for the hearer’s faith background
* Logical progression of the above concepts with few details conveyed immediately, to avoid overwhelming the seeker or inviting argument on specific points before the seeker understands the “big picture”; the underlying expectation is that the hearer will follow up afterward if interested
* Asking the hearer what he or she feels at certain intervals, and asking permission to continue
* Listening and being sensitive to the hearer’s state of receptivity
* Expressing the hope that the hearer will join the Bahá’í community
* Inviting the hearer at appropriate points to participate in core activities
* Finishing the presentation with a shared prayer and a gift of a small prayer book
Anna’s presentation in various formats:
Microsoft PowerPoint: ̀(with text and photos)
Microsoft Word: (text-only, no photos)
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‘Abdu’l-Bahá turned to the Blessed Beauty and prayed: ‘O Blessed Beauty, confirm me!’
“…in the city of Baghdad, I talked with a learned man, Mulla Hassan, some of whose relatives were believers. No matter how hard they tried to give him the Message, he would not accept it. Once, they brought him to my house when I was just getting up from my sleep and combing my hair. They said, ‘We have brought so-and-so here and we beg you to come and speak with him; perhaps, he will become a believer.’ I said, ‘Very well,’ and then I turned to the Blessed Beauty and prayed: ‘O Blessed Beauty, confirm me!’ Afterwards, I talked to him, and in the same hour he became a believer. He became exceedingly good and was so enkindled that, although he was of high rank, he used to go into the kitchen and cook things with his own hand to entertain the friends.”
(Talk by Abdu’l-Bahá in the Holy Land, translated by Dr. Zia Baghdadi: Star of the West, Vol. IX, No. 3, p. 36) (Found in Lights of Guidance, second part, ch. 4, no. 1981)
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(Excerpted and adapted from an article in The American Bahá’í online, 20 April 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.”
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What other occasions can we think of to use this presentation?
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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
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(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)