Baha’i Club is embraced as part of retirement community’s life
When Baha’is took part in the dedication of a Peace Pole for the UN International Day of Peace at a park in Laguna Woods, California, it was part of a steady stream of relationship building over the past decade.
And since that Sept. 21 ceremony, the Baha’i Club of Laguna Woods Village, a large-scale retirement complex that comprises virtually all the city’s 16,000 population, has kept in touch with dozens of residents and several organizations, facilitating prayer gatherings and conversations on social justice, peace and race.
Restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Baha’i Club this year to temporarily halt its monthly dinners, which for several years had brought 60 to 80 residents together for programs on social and spiritual principles emphasized in the Baha’i teachings.
So the club, like most Baha’i communities, is using internet conferences to carry out regular devotional gatherings and discussions, many in collaboration with the nearby San Clemente Baha’i community.
In addition, members are hosting outdoor devotionals and keeping up personal conversations, as “many of the residents are not computer-literate or Zoom-friendly,” says Judy Cobb, one of several co-organizers of club activities.
“I think it fair to say,” she adds, “that the lasting conversations taking place are the result of the cumulative efforts over the years.”
Participants praise those events for demonstrating unifying principles in word and deed. “All kinds of people mixing together like brothers and sisters. No racism,” says Sarah Mawlud, originally from Iraq. “All people welcome,” says Xuelian Wu, originally from China, who adds that the gatherings respect the equality of women and men.
Joyce Alderson, a Christian, says she has enjoyed the friendship, food and acceptance. A Jewish participant comments, “I was attracted to the genuine love offered by everyone at all times. I’ve come to believe that the foundation of spiritual teachings are the same.” Says a Muslim participant: “Ever since I started coming to the Baha’i Club, I realized that there is more to the world. I’ve learned to calm myself down by reading daily Baha’i prayers.”
Baha’i clubs — supervised by the Local Spiritual Assemblies that oversee Baha’i activities in their localities — aren’t common in the United States outside college campuses. But when the Baha’i Club was created 10 years ago at Laguna Woods Village, it gave the Baha’i Faith a local presence it might not otherwise have, especially without a physical house of worship.
Club status allows the Baha’i community to use the complex’s facilities for discussion gatherings on a wide range of spiritual and social topics. It publishes event notices, articles and uplifting quotations online and in the biweekly Globe paper. It offers Baha’i-themed video programs to the Village’s community TV station.
So it was natural for Concerned Citizens, a social justice-minded group based at the Village, to invite the Baha’i Club to be represented at the Peace Pole dedication program. The Peace Pole Project is a movement to install white poles bearing the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in many places worldwide as a symbol of humanity’s hopes and dreams.
Laguna Woods’ new pole displays that sentiment in languages used by Village residents — Chinese, English, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian and Spanish — as well as in Braille.
The event provided an opportunity to present a DVD on a Baha’i vision of world peace to Mayor Noel Hatch, who had presented a proclamation for the International Day of Peace; to the Rev. Adelia Sandoval, a spiritual leader in the Acjachemen Nation, who offered a blessing on behalf of the area’s indigenous people as well as a prayer she had heard at an earlier event at the San Clemente Baha’i Center; and to representatives of Concerned Citizens and the African American Heritage Club.
Follow-up conversations got started right away. Baha’is met with the mayor afterward to answer questions about the Baha’i Faith. A task force including Cobb, Diane Young and Gladys Schatan is following up with Concerned Citizens to explore further collaborations. Programs and video broadcasts are offered at a steady pace.
“The intention is to intensify our affiliation with other diverse clubs in order to expand conversations pertaining to the critical issues of the day and offering the healing message of Baha’u’llah,” Cobb says.