Monday, November 2, 2009

Empowering new protagonists through devotional gatherings

These two reports of devotional gatherings in Phoenix, AZ (A) are nothing short of stunning. As you read, you will see the beautiful coherence between all the core activities. You will see descriptions of gatherings that superlatively implement the ideal of unity in diversity. You will see teaching teams lovingingly accompanying the hosts, who are both doing this for the first time. And you will see that these gatherings are being organized and hosted by members of the community of interest. Now, what do we mean by “community of interest”? It is someone who is not a declared Bahá’í but is participating in the core activities, such as attending a study circle. What is truly exciting about these two stories is that the member of the community of interest is not just a participant—she is the principal protagonist of the core activity that she hosts!

So, first is the story of a seeker who has already been actively teaching a children’s class. She prepared a devotional in which the students each recited prayers. And more!

Dearest Friends,

Friday night was yet another bounty the Blessed Beauty bestowed upon us. Those of us who were able to witness this were humbled. I am so moved and exhausted it is hard to explain. My words could never be enough. . . .

As you all know, __ is a mother from the community of interest who began to teach a children’s class towards the end of the last IPG cycle. The children’s class teachers that had been accompanying her in this service consulted with her about plans for the next expansion phase. They shared the vision of building a spiritual community. She was very open, and said that there are already potluck gatherings on her block, so she decided to now organize a devotional gathering too!

Last Saturday, she hosted a devotional gathering for the first time. She prepared each student in her children’s class to recite a quote, as well as sing 2 songs. The children, ranging in age from 4 to 6 read prayers with her assistance. She also read a Bahá’í prayer.

3 mothers and 1 grandmother, as well as a local believer attended. They were impressed by the children and their ability to recite the verses of God.

The second is another devotional conducted by a member of the community of interest. In this case, a teaching team is accompanying participants in Book 1 study circles to host devotionals, and doing this as their focus for their cluster’s latest expansion phase.

Last night our team carried out its third devotional during this expansion phase. This was part of our team’s plan to accompany the seekers in our Book 1 study circle to co-host a devotional. One of the participants had attended her first devotional gathering during the last cycle. Her heart is aglow with the love of God.

The evening began with a tasty feast! Attending were 21 people from different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities and religions, including people from Pakistan, Morocco, Panama, Cuba, Iran and Hawaii. The host opened with the following words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:

If a small number of people gather lovingly together, with absolute purity and sanctity, with their hearts free of the world, experiencing the emotions of the Kingdom and the powerful magnetic forces of the Divine, and being at one in their happy fellowship, that gathering will exert its influence over all the earth. The nature of that band of people, the words they speak, the deeds they do, will unleash the bestowals of Heaven, and provide a foretaste of eternal bliss. The hosts of the Company on high will defend them, and the angels of the Abha Paradise, in continuous succession, will come down to their aid.

Everyone contributed to the devotions. The youth from Pakistan and Morocco chanted prayers in Arabic from the Qur’an and played an Islamic song by Michael Jackson. The evening also included a beautiful Buddhist parable and an indigenous prayer for unity. The friends joined together in song and closed with a rap praising the All-Glorious. The evening closed with new bonds of friendship.

Last night was another example of the transformative power of the Institute process!



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