Saturday, March 26, 2011

A landscape of enduring fellowship

Building a new civilization is not easy. All the three protagonists - individuals, communities and institutions - should experience transformation. Such a transformation is not merely cosmetic changes. It requires fundamental change in the way we think and act. And there is a sense of balance such that it is not possible for one element to go forward for a long time, if the other elements are not keeping pace. But progress in one element cannot also be forced. That is why it takes infinite wisdom and patience to nurture this process of individual and collective transformation.

The Universal House of Justice in the 9th paragraph of its letter of 28 December 2010 refers to this process of transformation in these terms. "It signals the maturation of an ever-expanding, self-sustaining system for the spiritual edification of a population." Once again this sentence describes the dynamics of the training institute. But as we have moved from initiating a program of growth to increasing its intensity, we have moved from one milestone to the next.

You recall that the first milestone marked the initial flow of human resources to the field of action. In other words if you consider one particular neighborhood, and consider that one person, acting as a homefront pioneer, has moved into this neighborhood, then he or she started a first study circle. The participants of that first study circle learned about the power of prayer and about the life of the spirit and began to visit some of their friends and studied a prayer with them. This initial flow of human resources indigenous to that neighborhood into the field of action marked the first milestone. But still there were no tutors indigenous to the neighborhood. This meant that continued action really depended on that first pioneer, and the system, while beautiful in itself, had not yet acquired the capacity to grow.

Now some weeks or months later the number of activities have increased, more of the friends had gone through more of the books, and a few of the friends resident in that same neighborhood have completed the first 6 books, and getting experience on all the skills. Now a few of them study Book 7 with their tutor and learn how to accompany others in their acts of service. The emergence of tutors indigenous to the neighborhood marks the second milestone in the development of that neighborhood. From then on the system for the spiritual edification of a people has become self-sustaining and ever-expanding.

If we consider the level of the cluster, we can say that many of those clusters that have already launched their intensive programs of growth have already passed the first milestone, and a few among them have also passed the second milestone since we can see this element of self-sustaining and ever-expanding system. But now if you consider one particular neighborhood, the criteria becomes much harder to meet. How many neighborhoods have their own human resources - the first milestone - and how many have their own indigenous tutors that are currently expanding the system - the second milestone?

The study of this paragraph suggests the following questions:

1.     The first milestone in the development of a cluster is the “initial flow of human resources into the field of systematic action”. What is the next milestone? 

2.     What does "launching of an intensive programme of growth” represent?
3.     We sometimes hear that an A cluster is operating more like a B or even a C cluster. What is meant by this statement? Are these categories fixed or flexible? How best can we see the development of a cluster in terms of a continuum?

4.     What is meant by “an ever-expanding, self-sustaining system for the spiritual edification of a population”?

5.     What example might exist in nature that includes an organic system from which we can learn about the characteristics of systems? How might such an analysis be helpful to our understanding of the dynamics of our system of growth? 

Working side by side and learning from intense action creates a sense of fellowship, and as this is multiplied and expanded to all those who wish to serve humanity selflessly at least a few hours each week, we will get a landscape of enduring fellowship. 

Abdu'l-Baha wrote in the Tablets of Divine Plan: "O ye friends! Fellowship, fellowship! Love, love! Unity, unity!—so that the power of the Bahá’í Cause may appear and become manifest in the world of existence. My thoughts are turned towards you, and my heart leaps within me at your mention. Could ye know how my soul glows with your love, so great a happiness would flood your hearts as to cause you to become enamored with each other."

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