“Responding to the inmost longing of every heart to commune with its Maker,” said the Universal House of Justice in its 2008 Ridvan Message, in a passage describing the activities of the Bahá’ís around the world, “they 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.”
A believer from the South Central region who has been holding a regular devotional gathering explains how her choice of language has shifted in more recent attempts to describe these gatherings to friends and neighbors. This shift in language, she explains in the below note to some collaborators, is due to experience that has been gained in communities that are reporting increases in the core activities.
Now: I'm inviting everyone to a get-together; and each time has a theme. (Before: I was calling it a 'devotional'.)
Now: The purpose is to strengthen the neighborhood by focusing on friendship and unity; we have opportunities at the get-together to talk about common spiritual interests, like 'gratitude' or 'being fearless' or ‘friendship'. Also, we read from uplifting poems, quotations, and have music. (Before: to pray together; it kinda of felt like 'church'.)
Now: The vision is that additional folks in our neighborhood will arise to offer a weekly or monthly devotional. They may just do it, or they may like to have training how. The course called Reflections on the Life of the Spirit provides the training. I'd like to start one in Oct. or Nov. on a Friday if there is interest. I probably will not announce this at the get-togethers, but will talk with guests one-on-one. (Before: I'll provide everything: refreshments, music, quotes, home. Even though I wanted folks to play music, bring quotes, etc., it was still mostly ME being in the center. I believe it's important that no one person is in the center, that the spirit is in the center, and our love for each other.)
Now: Focus on additional activities and service projects to bring neighbors together for the good of our families, each other, the neighborhood, and the environment. Like the Junior Youth empowerment program. I'm going to see if there is interest in being of service with: Creek clean-up, erosion prevention of the creek, water catchment for the neighbors who live here, plus input and ideas and involvement from everyone will be welcome. (Before: monthly devotional only, a stand-alone activity.)
Thank you for collaborating and accompanying me. I look forward to continuing to learn, incorporating the learning, and seeing you very soon.