Monday, July 20, 2009

Accompanying Local Assemblies to respond to online declarations of Faith

As more and more individuals are taking the opportunity to declare online their belief in Bahá’u’lláh, more and more local communities are learning how to respond to this growing population of “online registrants”. We are delighted to share an email conversation between one of the Seeker Response System “regional specialists” (who are the first responders to online registrants”) and a secretary of a Local Spiritual Assembly. It clearly and cogently outlines the key elements of the enrollment process and the various roles of the friends at the national, regional and local levels. It is also a wonderful example of empowerment through accompaniment. We’ve left in some of the “technical jargon” in the messages, because it is very relevant to Local Spiritual Assemblies who may in the near future have a new believer who enters the Faith through this channel in their own localities.

1. Regional Specialist to LSA:

Dear __ and __,


My name is __ and I serve the Seeker Response System for this region. As you may be aware, the National Spiritual Assembly has recently re-instituted the ability to declare one's belief in Bahá’u’lláh via the internet. At this stage in the process, when we receive such submissions, I contact the individual in order to affirm their belief in Bahá’u’lláh's Station and ensure they understand they are joining the Cause. . . .

Mr. __, who lives in your community, recently submitted his declaration online and we spoke by phone today. He indeed understands he is joining the Faith and at this point, the Office of Membership & Records simply needs your Spiritual Assembly's electronic "countersignature" to finalize the enrollment. I will forward the file to your community's eMembership program where it will reside in the "Pending Members" queue, awaiting your follow-up. An automatic email will be sent notifying you of this. Please note that there is no need to enter in new information into eMembership (as a typical enrollment), as this will create a duplicate file.

In order to expedite the process, we ask that you complete this precious soul's enrollment process promptly and see to it that he is accompanied in the path of service to the Blessed Beauty. Should you need assistance or are unable to get to his file in eMembership, we'll be happy to finalize the enrollment for you at the National Teaching Office. Please let me know if you have any questions - we are here to assist and you may contact me by phone or email.

With warm Baha'i greetings,


2. LSA reply to Regional Specialist

Dear J,

Thank you so much for such wonderful news. I have looked at the Pending File in the Membership record. The question I have is whether the LSA needs to approve or can I go ahead as the Secretary and Enroll Mr. __?

M and I know __ personally and were in a deepening class together and our community has tried to be as warm and welcoming as possible so I can state that from my interactions and experiences with him, he does have a very deep and good understanding of the Faith and knows what it means to join. Of course I cannot tell you how excited I am. Thank you again for giving us such wonderful news.

I look forward to hearing back from you about what to do with regards to his enrollment.

Warm Regards,


3. Regional Specialist reply to LSA

Dear M,

Thank you for your quick response!

The way the online registration and handling process is designed - at this point - is that once the affirmation has taken place (which I do by phone and in the future may work through a designated believer in the cluster), you may then simply go ahead as Secretary and finalize the enrollment.

As you see his file in the Pending area, please use this. (Some friends have been confused and entered in a whole new file for the registrant, creating a duplicate entry.) The Assembly may of course reach out to __, welcoming him to the community. But there's no need to wait for extra visits or affirmations to be conducted. In other areas, there have been upwards of 1 new registrant a week for the past month. Hence, working through a quick enrollment process (over the course of 2 or 3 days) is crucial. Deepening, and particularly using Book 2 themes, will obviously be important, but we need not hinge the enrollment on these taking place prior to finalizing his status.

I hope this answers your questions as we learn about the process by working through it. Once you finalize __'s file, I will receive an auto email. Of course, if you have other questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes,


4. LSA to Regional Specialist

Dear J,

I went ahead and approved the pending enrollment. I hope it all went through. This is very exciting news for our community and I am so glad to be educated about this streamlined process. It is so much better.

Please confirm it is done and there is nothing more needed from my end.

Warmest Regards


5. Regional Specialist to LSA

Dear __ and __,

This truly has been exemplary of how the processing can go! And yes, once we understand just how it's designed to work, it is very simple. As our new believer stated, "I think the process is so genius and straight-forward!"

This time around, nothing is needed on your end, apart from accompanying him as you would any other new Baha'i according to the Framework. These new online registrants do come into the SRS database, and in time, you'll be able to see them alongside the seekers. For right now, we're ironing out the kinks and learning the processes at the regional level. As others come in around the cluster, I'll keep you in the loop and may give you some to affirm (as I did over the phone), while I handle the technical aspects.

In this case, __ was well known to you both and has himself done much deepening / study / participating. We will however get folks who have only briefly encountered Bahá’u’lláh's teachings, while never having met a Bahá’í. We handle them the same way: rapid affirmation on my part (or your part), rapid enrollment processing, and then systematic deepening and involvement in the core activities. For this, the ATC or your LSA could delegate a team to do the home visiting.

On a side note, because __ is from a sensitive country, his file is making a slight detour to the Office of Membership & Records for clearance. So there may be a slight delay before he shows up as a full status member. This is standard protocol and we all have done everything appropriately on our end. Where this is not the case, the full enrollment will be instant.

So, thank you dear friends, and hopefully we'll have another one soon!



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