Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Promoting the best interests of a community

The Bahá’í community has been pursuing a deliberate and conscious path towards creating a model for a future civilization. Often, if such a model exists, it can inspire people that it is possible to arrest the decay in their own society and build a better community. Towards this goal the world was divided to some 16000 or so clusters. The criteria for such clustering had nothing to do with the Bahá’í community itself, and everything to do with demographics of the people living in these clusters. The focus of attention then turned to strengthening these clusters, creating agencies that would serve the cluster, and setting in place a dynamic that will propel that cluster on a new path for progress. In many ways the interests of the localities were widened to focus on the interests of the clusters.

Naturally many of the friends who were busy with service on Local Spiritual Assemblies were eager to learn about the dynamics of growth unfolding in their clusters. They began to study the courses of the institute, and participate in core activities. The individuals would engage in service, and institutions would support them. At that time it was less clear as what an Assembly may do to bolster the process of growth, beyond acknowledgement and encouragement of the individual and collective efforts.  By now some 15 years has elapsed in carrying out this program. As the processes of growth mature in cluster after cluster, the contribution that Assemblies can make is becoming clearer. The Universal House of Justice in its 28 December 2010 letter, paragraph 22, enumerates and explains a number of these duties and functions that a village Local Spiritual Assembly can perform. 

Naturally one of these duties is to consult on specific issues related to the global Plan. But the Assemblies can do this only if the individual members of the Assembly have gained first hand experience in implementing the provisions of the Plan. Since we have said that we should look at the development of the Assemblies as a process of capacity building, it is easy to see then how the training institute that builds the capacity of the individuals in the teaching work also contributes to the development of Assemblies.

Beyond those activities directly related to growth there are of course several other duties of Assemblies. Since there are no formal programs for raising capacity in these areas, the Assemblies will do well to apply some of the operating principles of the training institutes in an effort to learn from action in the field.

In study of this paragraph, the following questions come to mind:

1 – What are some of the dimensions of capacity building for Spiritual Assemblies?

2 – What injunction does Abdu’l-Baha lay down for the continued development of Spiritual Assembly?

3 – If you serve on an Assembly what portion of your consultations fulfill the above hopes of Abdu’l-Baha, and what portion is taken by other necessary administrative work?

4 – How can a village Assembly practically provide “relief of the poor” given its limited resources? How might this be different that charity that is merely focused on the material dimension of life?

5 – How can an Assembly help “the feeble throughout all classes” in a village? Are there any useful ways in which this service may be integrated into “home visits”?

6 – An Assembly naturally wants to show “kindness to all peoples” in the village. How might those who are neither Baha’is nor participate in core activities feel the warmth of such kindness?

7 – There are certain aspects of protection work that are needed in a community. In particular those who serve in the teaching field or facilitate core activities are mere mortals and are not expected to be always perfect or stainless. What can the Assemblies do to practically contribute to this protection work?

8 – What is the relationship between the soul of Abdu’l-Baha in the spiritual worlds of God and the Spiritual Assemblies on this earthly plane?

Baha’u’llah wrote: “The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God’s holy Will is to establish the unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife.” [Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 129]

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