Monday, May 30, 2011

Local Spiritual Assemblies

One of the unique features of the Baha'i Faith is that the organizational structure of Baha'i communities, and a future Baha'i world society and civilization, has been explicitly established by the founder of the Faith, Baha'u'llah. There is a spiritual significance when one person in a town becomes Baha'i. Such a significance is most probably not visible by outward considerations, since after all this is only one person, and given the realities of life he or she may not be able to do very much. By the same token when first a Local Spiritual Assembly is formed in a town, this is of great significance in a spiritual sense, but again sociologically this may not be regarded important, since they are after all only nine people, and given the realities of life they may not be able to impact their society very much. However if we see both of these occurrences as milestones along a path, then a new vision will emerge.

We consider that all people are traveling on a path that takes them closer to their true destination. Man's destiny is to fulfill his purpose in life. Our purpose in life individually is to know our Creator and to worship him. Our collective purpose in life is to build an ever advancing civilization. Both of these purposes are better fulfilled when we recognize the Manifestation of God and cling to His vision. In this sense then we can say that all people are walking towards Baha'u'llah. This is true whether people are conscious of this or not. It is for this reason that both the declaration of the first believer and the formation of the first institution has a mystical significance.

But beyond such a spiritual significance, the societal task of nurturing both the individual and the institution to full maturity is a long road. Many Assemblies were formed, without functioning very much. As the friends in all clusters grow in their understanding of the fundamental verities, their appreciation for the importance of the Assembly will grow. Paragraph 19 of the letter of the 28 December 2010 of the Universal House of Justice then calls to attention the necessity that in this Five Year Plan these nascent institutions take clear and decided steps towards building greater capacity.

Because the vast majority of the clusters that have experienced large scale growth are among the rural parts of the world, attention is first paid to this category of local institutions. With the advent of institute process, the task of raising the capacity of these institutions has taken a clear goal and direction, and that is the extent to which these Assemblies can contribute to the dynamics of growth.

In studying this paragraph the following questions are suggested:

1 - The work of the Counselors is primarily concerned with raising the capacity of the National Spiritual Assemblies and Regional Baha'i Councils. How can Local Spiritual Assemblies benefit from this vision?

2 - Which type of clusters are experiencing large scale expansion and consloidation?

3 - What has been the story of Local Spiritual Assemblies in your region so far? What has been their strengths and weaknesses?

4 - How can the members of Local Spiritual Assemblies best learn about the dynamics of growth?

5 - Given the interaction between learning and action, if you have been elected to serve on a Local Spiritual Assembly, would this fact increase or reduce your responsibility to personally be involved in serving the core activities in your cluster?

Baha'u'llah wrote: "The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá... They should consider themselves as entering the Court of the presence of God, the Exalted, the Most High, and as beholding Him Who is the Unseen. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive." [Bah'u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, page 30]

1 comment:

  1. Below are some quotes I was reflecting on today when reading several of the recent Messages from the beloved Universal House of Justice. I also was reading this post on Assemblies and their energy in the cluster to help the community move forward. And different questions are arising due to growth. We use to spend lots of time discussing central Baha'i children classes versus neighborhood children classes. Through experience we realize that the Cause must grow and cannot be organized in a congregational way. This has resulted in Assemblies to help the friends realize the magnitude of possibilities. Through the institute process, friends were able to build capacity for effective service through 3 months cycles of activities. The members of the Assembly in a cluster who have gone through the sequence of courses can assist the friends in scaling the heights of service. This Assembly understands then the dynamics of growth and can collaborate closely with the cluster agencies in moving along this continuum.

    Scaling the heights of service - Focus neighborhood:

    "It is a bounty accorded to the followers of the Ancient Beauty that this longing, which wells up inexorably from the human spirit in every land, is able to find such eloquent expression in the work the Baha'i community is carrying out to build capacity for effective action amongst the diverse populations of the planet. Can any privilege compare with this?" (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2011)

    Lighting it up:

    "Though the goal is far from being fulfilled, the light already blazes intensely in many a region. In some countries it shines in every cluster... In diverse nations it achieves a steady glow across whole neighbourhoods and villages, as candle after candle in heart after heart is lighted by the Hand of Providence; it illuminates thoughtful conversation at every level of human interaction; it casts its beam upon a myriad initiatives taken to promote the well-being of a people. And in every instance it radiates from a faithful believer, a vibrant community, a loving Spiritual Assembly-each a beacon of light against the gloom." (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2011)

    The Beloved Master's example:

    "The words uttered by Abdu'l-Baha during His travels, and the deeds He undertook with such consummate wisdom and love, offer an abundance of inspiration and manifold insights from which the body of the believers can today draw, whether in their efforts to embrace receptive souls, to raise capacity for service, to build local communities, to strengthen institutions, or to exploit opportunities emerging to engage in social action and contribute to public discourse." (Universal House of Justice, 29 August 2010)

    The work ahead of us:
    "We should, therefore, reflect not only upon what the Master achieved and set in motion but also on the work that remains undone to which He has summoned us." (Universal House of Justice, 29 August 2010)