Of all the exciting news in this wonderful report from Waukesha, WI (A), perhaps the most exciting is the sense that the cluster is growing steadily stronger with each cycle of its intensive program of growth. The cluster has community members united and eager to serve. It has an abundance of core activities. And the friends are building their capacity to welcome in new believers, who in turn re-invigorate the community life.
Let us begin with an excerpt of a report of how the intensive program of growth is progressing. Particularly noteworthy is the spirit of unity, focused consultation on how to improve the expansion and consolidation phases, and the enthusiasm of the friends to get increasingly involved.
We hosted a mini-reflection meeting mid-cycle for many reasons: to keep the level of participation high, to get feedback and to let the friends share in the excitement of the recently concluded expansion phase and give the friends an opportunity to help with the consolidation phase. 12 people attended the meeting and several others wanted to, but were either ill or working that day. . . .
The spirit was warm and enthusiastic. The consultation was constructive and resulted in recommendations for the core team. The community asked the core team to delegate and direct the community members to do the follow-up work—people are eager for more assignments! They suggested we consider having a meeting with the community immediately after the next expansion phase so that everyone can reflect and get involved in the consolidation work sooner. It really was a wonderful meeting of hearts and spirits, and a confirmation that the community is growing stronger with each cycle.
We will make certain we keep the friends well informed and personally call the friends and invite them to help in both the expansion and consolidation phase.
All of this joyful activity has led to new enrolments. A friend shares this movingl story of a recent declaration:
One dear soul, who recently declared, has been in Book 1, 2 and 4. He met recently with his tutors since he had some burning questions that he didn’t want to ask during a study circle. His questions were answered by reading excerpts of Bahá’u’lláh’s and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Writings. His spiritual state was indescribable as he declared his belief in Bahá’u’lláh. Tears of joy filled our eyes as he read the prayer on his registration card: “I bear witness, O my God, that Thou has created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. . . .” After he declared he said he couldn’t wait to announce to his study circle the wonderful news. He said each soul in his study circle played a huge role in his decision to join. He loves them all and is eternally grateful to them.
This wonderful story is a confirmation of how important everyone is in the process of consolidation and confirmation. The study circle serves as a womb. Each person in the circle is as an artery providing life-giving care.
Experiences such as this have led to several insights about core activities and consolidation:
From the feedback we are getting it is clear study circles are having a profound effect on old and new believers. Believers who have been Bahá’ís for a long time are saying they are learning a lot and, for the first time in many years, are bonding with their fellow Bahá’ís. They said, in the past, they hardly ever interacted with their fellow believers. New Believers say they love the structure Ruhi courses give to learning.
Our entire community is excited over the new faces that we see at Feasts, devotional gatherings and children’s classes; these new faces inspire and re-ignite the flame of Faith in our older members since they can relate to how wonderful they felt when they declared.
Consolidation is a continual effort. We have found that it is more effective if the original teacher of the new believer gradually widens the circle of Bahá’ís that the individual knows. If it is done little by little it is more meaningful for the new believer.
Neighborhood children’s classes continue to be an amazing draw for parents and children. We continually hear that parents of young children want classes for them.
So we will continue to look for more people willing to host devotional meetings, children’s classes and study circles.