Emerald Coast (Pensacola), FL (A) is one of several clusters that has recently launched an intensive program of growth. It has brought them to new levels of capacity. We are delighted to share some of the reports from the cluster’s recently-started newsletter. In fact, the newsletter itself is part of the news! One of the local friends explains:
We had consulted about the efficacy of cluster-level newsletters. Here is an example of a believer who had felt lost in the new paradigm. After an interview process in which the core team ascertained the resources in their cluster (everyone can be viewed as a resource, by the way), they found this soul who couldn't participate in the teaching work due to health issues, yet she was a great writer. And so this newsletter was born. Look at what her fruits yield every DAY during the expansion phase. She serves in close collaboration with the area teaching committee secretary, freeing his attentions to the field work. Everyone has a "part to play." We all know that accompaniment is aiding the friends to widen their vision and walk into a path of service within the structure of the Five Year Plan. . . .
One of the articles in the newsletter discusses the most recent reflection meeting, and the new level of coordination and systematization of everyone’s efforts:
This was our first cluster reflection meeting as an “A” Cluster. The tone of the meeting was quite different than previous meetings as the entire discussion centered on increasing the core activities and the community of interest.
As a new A cluster, we are still “getting our sea-legs.” A big challenge is getting the teaching teams established and maintaining communication with them. We have been operating so long as individuals who teach when an opportunity arises and don't report anything except enrollments. The core group is establishing a statistics officer in each county in the cluster to maintain more frequent contact with the teaching teams in their area and keep accurate records. This will remind the friends of the importance of teaching teams and effective communication
Another intriguing element at the reflection meeting was a “demonstration children’s class”, where all the participants could watch an actual class being conducted.
Each portion of a children’s class (prayer & memorization, song, story, coloring, and game) was presented by one or more of the friends in a class setting. Including the initial gathering, setting the children down (with need of reverence), sharing of prayers, how to help the children memorize short quotes and prayers, the process of teaching patience and sharing when passing out colors, instilling the theme for that day with the picture to color, and the game (always a hit). Each of the exemplars were exceptional, assuring each of the viewers that they could follow their example with ease.
Particularly inspiring is an article encouraging the friends to describe the core activities consistent with the language used by the Universal House of Justice about their purpose and nature:
How to describe the core activities
Memorize: We are building a spiritual community and we need you!
The Bahá'í Faith is a world religion whose purpose is to unite all races and peoples into One Universal Cause, One Common Faith.
We’ve been asked to memorize and use these descriptions of core activities when inviting seekers:
Children’s Classes: “Aware of the aspirations of the children of the world and their need for spiritual education, we’re working to involve more and more children in children’s classes to serve as centers of attraction for them and to strengthen the roots of Faith in society.”
Study Circles: “Interactive classes where youth and adults discuss the meaning and implication of passages from the Creative Word in an atmosphere that is serious and uplifting.”
Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program: “A program that assists junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and to become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization.”
Devotional Gatherings: “Responding to the inmost longing of every heart to commune with its Maker, we carry out acts of collective worship in diverse settings, uniting with others in prayer, awakening spiritual susceptibilities, and shaping a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character.”