Beyond the Baha'i community the content of this document is of great value for every practitioner of community development. I hope to write something about each paragraph in this magnificent document.
There are 44 paragraphs arranged in 3 sections: The first section describes the plan itself in 30 paragraphs. Section 2 talks about the 3 spiritual prerequisites of rectitude of conduct, a chaste and holy life, and freedom from prejudice. Section 3 calls for new habits of thought, new modes of thinking and doing.
The first paragraph of this document contains this sentence: "Over the coming days you are asked to formulate a clear conception of how the Counsellors and their auxiliaries will assist the community in building on its extraordinary achievements -- extending to other spheres of operation the mode of learning which has so undeniably come to characterize its teaching endeavours, gaining the capacity needed to employ with a high degree of coherence the instruments and methods which it has so painstakingly developed, and increasing well beyond all previous numbers the ranks of those who, alive to the vision of the Faith, are labouring so assiduously in pursuit of its God-given mission.”
Consider these 3 questions which are suggested by the above paragraph:
1. What are the characteristics of “the mode of learning which has so undeniably come to characterize [our] endeavours?”
2. What are “the instruments and methods which [we have] so painstakingly developed?”
3. What may be some of the “other spheres of operation” which require the same “instruments and methods?”
A mode of learning is when we acknowledge that we do not have a blue print for building spiritual communities. What we have are a few principles and a conceptual framework. As we act we try to apply these principles. We work in our neighborhoods. And we observe, then analyze the results. We develop perception and spiritual insight. Then collectively we improve on our lines of action, until every day we can make our neighborhoods a little more united, a little more peaceful, a little more spiritual.
Acknowledging that community building is an organic process the instruments and methods will have to be appropriate to the task at hand. One "method" for example, is study that is wedded to action. So we do not study and wait many years until we are somehow "certified" for some function. But rather as we study, we also concurrently act. Since the subject matter of our study is community building, knowledge about it is best acquired by a combination of doing and thinking.
Another example of an "instrument" is the function of a "coordinator." Once in a neighborhood the number of those serving the community increases, it is helpful for one of them to act as a coordinator. This will only work if the coordinator does not think of himself or herself as some sort of an expert. If the coordinator thinks of herself as a manager, or above others in heirarchy, or consider others as somehow inferior to herself she will be unable to fulfill her duties and the process will suffer a setback. So we have the concept of accompaniment as a principle, and the actions of those who humbly and truly accompany others as an instrument.
Finally these methods and principles that we have learned so far can be applied not only to bring to the attention of the people of the world the teachings, the message, and the writings of Baha'u'llah, but also these same principles - that of humility, of working on equal footing, of believing in the high potential of others, of walking with others in a path of service, of being joyous at the accomplishment of others instead of our own - these same principles apply to social action, to defense of human rights of others, to confronting discrimination, and a whole host of other aspects of social development. Baha'u'llah wrote:
"Thou must show forth that which will ensure the peace and the well-being of the miserable and the downtrodden. Gird up the loins of thine endeavour, that perchance thou mayest release the captive from his chains, and enable him to attain unto true liberty. Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. The thick clouds of tyranny have darkened the face of the earth, and enveloped its peoples. Through the movement of Our Pen of glory We have, at the bidding of the omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All created things proclaim the evidences of this world-wide regeneration. This is the most great, the most joyful tidings imparted by the Pen of this Wronged One to mankind."