There are several reasons to rejoice at this report from Chester County, TN (C). First, it is an example of a collective, direct teaching effort in a C-stage cluster—and a very enthusiastic one at that! Second, it shows the continuing influence and transforming effect of the series of Regional Bahá’í Conferences held last December. Third, it shows a beautiful partnership between an A-stage cluster and its C-stage neighbor that is empowering in BOTH directions. The friends from the C-stage cluster support a new A-stage cluster during its newly-launched intensive program of growth, they gain experience and confidence by assisting with the teaching there. Then they go back to their own cluster and begin teaching there! (And they are supported by their friends from the A cluster.) Finally (what number are we on now?) the friends do not rest on their laurels after their initial heartening results (reaching the minimum number of Bahá’ís necessary to form a Local Spiritual Assembly), but keep on teaching!
How the First Spiritual Assembly was formed in Chester County, Tennessee
After returning home aflame from the Regional Bahá’í Conference called by the Universal House of Justice held in Atlanta in December, the believers in Henderson and Chester County, Tennessee set out with a gusto to fulfill our pledges to the Memphis IPG. (Our community is small, but we had pledged to assist with this nearby A-stage cluster.) We committed to travel teach, to help enliven their reflection meetings and celebrations with music, and to be prayer partners for their neighborhood teaching teams. . . .
The result: Immediately we made stronger friendships and became more confirmed by the Holy Spirit that we were being assisted and supported, and we saw declarations of new believers in Memphis. To our joy, the Memphis teaching teams were inspired to travel teach to our community and accompany us in our efforts to visit homes and share the Message using Anna’s conversation. On December 29th we our first new Bahá’í, a youth of 19, enrolled.
We increased our travel teaching trips to Memphis to once a week through March and April, and continued direct teaching in our home community on weekends. On April 12th with the enrollment of a mother and her daughter we suddenly realized we now had grown from 4 adult Bahá’ís and 1 youth to 9 adults—enough to form a Local Spiritual Assembly. Breathlessly, we contacted our Auxiliary Board member with the news. She coordinated with us and her Assistant so we could make a joint declaration on April 20th. [In a community where there are exactly 9 adult Bahá’ís, a Local Spiritual Assembly is formed by “joint declaration”; if there are more than 9 adult Bahá’ís, an election is carried out to choose the members of the Local Assembly.] Past experiences inspired us to begin beating the bushes and find a 10th Bahá’í so we could possibly have an election.
We committed to direct teaching every day for 5 days until the deadline. We made a list of 9 people and sent their names to the Universal House of Justice for prayers. The names were of people who had either been through Anna’s Presentation and had actually said they believed but hadn’t enrolled yet, or had otherwise asked for return visits. Saturday, we went to the home of one of these individuals and met her husband instead. He told us that she wasn’t there and that he was too busy to visit with us, but we could come back another day.
Monday April 20th arrived, and we had had no luck catching up with the people on our list, though we have tried many times in the last 5 days. It was 1:00 pm and our friends were saying, “Well you have done your best; maybe you need to prepare for the joint declaration.”
“No,” we thought, we still have some folks to contact. We stepped out of our apartment and suddenly there were all 9 of the people on our list standing around their apartments in every direction we looked! We didn’t know which way to go first! We prayed, then my mom said, “Let’s go see __ (our very first contact when we returned from the conference in December). We marched over singing under our breath, “We are the people of Baha… firmly we walk the path of God!”
Then we say the man we met on Saturday, standing in his doorway with the door open. He was dressed up, and his house was spotless. It was obvious that he wanted us to come to see him. He shouted, “Good! You are here. I can talk to you today. Come in and sit down.” I then knew we were on our way!
Two hours later, he declared his belief in Bahá’u’lláh. We told him about the election that would be held at 7 pm. He said, “Okay. I will give you my ballot now, because I won’t be available this evening.” By 4:00, off we went to make ballots and to deliver them to everyone in time for the meeting. That night we had 5 people attend the election and had collected 3 additional absentee ballots.
Although we didn’t have this man’s name on the list we had sent to the House of Justice, God had prevailed. We ended up having 9 adults who voted, and now we have our new Local Spiritual Assembly for Chester County.