One of the main elements of our framework for action is learning. We have now developed a language that asks what we have learned about such and such a process. This injects a humble posture of learning in all our deliberations. And it directs our attention to social and human progress in terms of generation, acquisition, distribution and application of knowledge. And knowledge is the central process of social existence. It is in this light that we ask ourselves what are we learning about maturation of Local Spiritual Assemblies.
Two realities have existed about Local Assemblies. In some parts of the world the friends involved are quiet comfortable in forming these institutions, in following the various electoral procedures, in calling meetings and electing officers, in scheduling and adhering to fixed schedules of meetings, in writing minutes and keeping archives of correspondence, and generally in conducting all the procedural and administrative aspects of the work. Many may refer to Assemblies in these areas as being strong. But is there a one to one correspondence between spiritual strength and procedural matters? We can reflect to learn what are the characteristics of truly strong institutions.
In other parts of the world where such activities are less common in the greater society, and the populations function on an entirely different rhythm, the Assemblies have different characteristics that are more in tune with these cultures and their common practices. Such Assemblies can then be considered to be strong using entirely different criteria.
Of course all Assemblies can be said to be along a spectrum in terms of their ability to fulfill their destined functions. But whatever the level of strength may be this whole process can be seen as organic and continuously evolving. Paragraph 20 of the letter of the current Five Year Plan then begins to consider the evolution of a newly formed Assembly in a village in a rural cluster.
The study of this paragraph suggests the following questions:
1 - In a rural cluster made up of villages and perhaps one or two towns, the initial efforts of the friends are confined to a few localities. How can this pattern extended to new villages?
2 - In what ways are the steady development of Local Assemblies tied to the process of growth?
3 - How is capacity building related to the development of Local Spiritual Assemblies?
Baha'u'llah wrote: "Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education hath, however, deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess... The Great Being saith: Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom. If any man were to meditate on that which the Scriptures, sent down from the heaven of God’s holy Will, have revealed, he would readily recognize that their purpose is that all men shall be regarded as one soul, so that the seal bearing the words ‘The Kingdom shall be God’s’ may be stamped on every heart, and the light of Divine bounty, of grace, and mercy may envelop all mankind." [Baha'u'llah, Lawh-i-Maqsud]