Baha’i institutions and agencies offer flow of encouragement
Updated frequently — latest: May 27, 2020
A letter of solidarity with St. Cloud, Minnesota, residents in a time of crisis was signed by 22 representatives of faith communities, including Bette Bartos and Ron Marotte on behalf of the Baha’i Faith.
Bartos and Marotte are members of the St. Cloud Spiritual Assembly, the local Baha’i governing council.
The letter, published May 23 on the website of The St. Cloud Times, acknowledged that all who live in central Minnesota — an emerging COVID-19 hotspot — face uncertainty and loss from the pandemic.
But it focused special concern on people “who are making great sacrifices for the lives of others.” Many are from marginalized populations such as immigrants and refugees, the signers noted.
“We urge all employers to continue to put in place safeguards to keep their employees’ and clients’ safety as top priority,” the letter reads. “We invite all members of our community to continue to seek ways to show support, offer help and share hope.”
Recognizing that children and junior youths are uniquely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Washington, DC, addressed a letter April 11 to young members of the Baha’i community there.
The local governing council of the Baha’i Faith noted the disruptions youngsters are facing in their lives and expressed its gratitude “for your patience during this time, for your willingness to help your parents, guardians, and family members at home, and for your diligence in continuing your school work remotely.”
The letter went on to say that stories of how young people in DC and beyond “are persevering through challenges and bringing joy to your families and communities during this time” have brought the Assembly “such happiness.”
The Assembly noted that there are no answers to many questions young people have about what is happening. But it concluded the letter by saying:
“We do know that showing qualities of joy, awe, patience, and calm all help us to stay strong together. We do know that helping others is the way given to us by Bahaʼu’llah to give us joy and to bring us all together. And we can tell you that we love you very much, and that we are always here for you and your families. We are so honored that you are part of this community.”
A videoconference on “Getting Through Difficult Times — A Baha’i Perspective” is to be offered 7 p.m. Friday, March 27. Facilitating will be Lea Iverson, in consultation with the U.S. Baha’i Office of Communications. The virtual gathering will include perspectives from Baha’i guidance and discussion.
To participate, click or tap here to register in advance. You will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
The challenge of conducting Baha’i-initiated core activities of community building during a pandemic was further brought home to Charlotte, North Carolina, Baha’is and friends when the county’s more than one million residents were placed under a “stay at home” order that was announced March 24 to take effect two days later.
The appointed Area Teaching Committee (ATC) that oversees community-building efforts had sent out an email just days before listing ways activities could be sustained and even expanded.
“As we are considering how to become channels for the promulgation of the spirit of the Faith by providing comfort and hope to our families, close friends, neighbors, and personal contacts, the Charlotte ATC invites every individual to participate in a collective teaching campaign to offer the encouragement and the support we are called upon to share during these trying times,” the email reads.
“Whether we are inclined to initiate a new family or small-group devotional gathering, or whether we prefer to use the free technological tools at our disposal, there are a number of ways we each can participate in this collective teaching effort.”
The committee urged daily recitation of an excerpt from a prayer revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’i Faith prophet-founder Baha’u’llah:
O Thou Provider! Assist Thou these noble friends to win Thy good pleasure, and make them well-wishers of stranger and friend alike. Bring them into the world that abideth forever; grant them a portion of heavenly grace; cause them to be true Bahá’ís, sincerely of God; save them from outward semblances, and establish them firmly in the truth. Make them signs and tokens of the Kingdom, luminous stars above the horizons of this nether life. Make them to be a comfort and a solace to humankind and servants to the peace of the world.
Also recommended were new or continued devotionals — with a goal of each household in the Baha’i community hosting one with family, within the neighborhood or beyond — as well as new study circles and fireside gatherings.
“During this historic period in which our meeting spaces, as well as our physical proximity, are being impacted by limitations, let us strive to strengthen our community ties through our unified participation in collective action,” reads the email.
Then the county edict hit. Stay tuned for news of how Charlotte-area Baha’is and others regroup and carry on.
Starting March 24, online study of the first eight courses in the Ruhi Institute curriculum is being made available to residents of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
These courses prepare people to offer Baha’i-initiated core activities of community building. In more normal times, in-person study circles or intensive training gatherings are the usual means for that study.
“While the last few weeks have given us many unexpected changes to our material reality, our spiritual reality and aims and endeavors remain the same: grow closer to
God and serve mankind,” reads an announcement from the training institute for the Heartland States region.
“There will be many ways to serve the community and grow closer to God in the coming weeks. One such avenue is to study the Ruhi books.”
The classes are to meet weekdays for at least two weeks through videoconferencing, with different courses offered at different times of the day.
The training institute says for now it will focus on groups of up to 12 who live in those three states.
Forty-five representatives of 12 clusters of Baha’i communities in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC, consulted via Zoom about conducting Baha’i-initiated core activities of community building during the coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting was called to “reflect on how the [Baha’is] were sustaining the core activities and continuing to expand them,” says Bez Mazloom of Edgewood, Maryland, who serves on the elected Regional Baha’i Council for the Atlantic States.
Baha’is and friends, he says, are using “all means open to them” in a time of social isolation to keep devotional gatherings, study circles “and even some children’s classes and junior youth groups” going online.