Sunday, December 26, 2010

The value of a process

Many of us working to learn about creating spiritual communities in our neighborhoods have learned the value of thinking of our work as a process. We can think of this as something in contrast to events or activities. An event takes place at one moment in time. An activity often suggest something that lasts a little longer. But a process brings to mind something that lasts for a considerable amount of time. In this case certainly decades, and perhaps centuries. It is not only the destination, the final outcome, but also the course of the journey that is significant. As a process unfolds all those who are involved in it also experience transformation and upliftment.

More specifically, holding a block party to get to better know the people who live on our block can be considered as an event. If we do it every year, it will be an annual event. Holding a monthly devotional meeting in our home can be thought of as a regular activity. But when we see these as part of a process then it is natural to connect the block party to the devotional meeting and join these two to the many forms of conversations that we may have with our neighbors, both casual and extended. Then if we hold a class for the children in our neighborhood, it can be seen as a natural efflorescence of the same process.

Baha'is are a group of people who - consciously - are going about building the elements of the coming civilization. We also periodically reflect on our actions. We do that individually, in small teams, in larger groupings in clusters, regionally, nationally, continentally, and globally. Such a process of global reflection is currently underway in a very definite form.

As the Universal House of Justice wrote on October 20, 2008: "...[W]e turn our hearts in frequent prayer to Baha'u'llah and beseech Him to strengthen His followers through His unfailing grace.  In such moments, we implore Him to illumine their souls with the light of knowledge and faith. Let them not underestimate the power inherent in the system they are putting in place... Let them not deviate from the path of learning on which they are set, nor be distracted by the ephemeral pursuits of a bewildered society. Let them not fail to appreciate the value of the culture now taken root in the community that promotes the systematic study of the Creative Word in small groups in order to build capacity for service."

How will a new Five Year Plan be similar to or different from the current one? The answer to this question depends on how well we have progressed along the process of community building so far. If we made only tentative progress in some aspect of community building, then a call for action on that element will be repeated. If we made significant progress along some path, then new elements can be added.

Baha'u'llah wrote: "And yet, is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God’s universal Manifestations would be apparent" [Book of Certitude, p.241]

Friday, December 24, 2010


By now there is a rhythm that has been established in my life. Of course I am not alone. There is an increasing number of people - in the tens of thousands - who also are part of this. This pattern repeats itself once every 5 years. And in a sense today is the first day of a new cycle. This is the evening when 81 friends gather together in Haifa. First there will be a period of prayers and meditations. Three days to spend in pilgrimage at the sacred Threshold.  One sentiment that often comes to me when I am in this state has been described in these words of Bahá’u’lláh:

"O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and my doings, nay rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. By Thy Most Great Name, O Thou Lord of all nations! I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love."  [Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 318]

To pay homage, to put down your burden, to render thanks - it can not be rushed. What we anticipate is an exposition of a new phase in the Divine Plan. Such a thing can best be described in the language of community building.

This past April marked a significant milestone in the development of the Bahá’í world community. Since then there has been steady consolidation of that achievement. Now we stand at the threshold of a new phase. As we move forward and learn about building the communities that embody the essential elements of a New World Order we will also learn about the vision and the practical elements associated with this enterprise.

I hope to be able to reflect in this blog-space on this process of transformation as we live through it.