Celebrations are an invitation to engage

December 20, 2019
Celebrations are an invitation to engage

In localities everywhere, celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, wasn’t an event. 

It was part of a process of community building that is accelerating as it gives an ever-increasing number of Baha’is and friends an opportunity to build capacity and arise to express that capacity in service to society.

Home visits establish web of caring

The idea was born of discussion at Feast — where Baha’is gather every 19 days to worship, consult and socialize — in an area of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Baha’is there committed to visit 200 people in their homes between May and October, leading up to the bicentenary, and the concept spread to the rest of the city and beyond.  

Announcements were sent out to the entire Baha’i community and reports of home visits started coming in. Another community asked to join the effort and was told, “Of course!”  

“It was so exciting to see the variety of home visits,” one participant reflects. “We have friends checking on their friends, friends creating better relationships with their neighbors, visits to those in the hospital, visits to those who are in nursing homes/assisted living facilities, developing children’s class ideas, being of service by taking our elderly members on errands, etc.”

Organizers reported at the bicentenary that the goal had been met the weekend before. But Minneapolis Baha’is aren’t stopping there. A new goal of 200 home visits has been set, with a May target date. Incentives have been added to see how many new people can be visited and how many new people will participate in visiting others. 

Bond with Arabic speakers cemented

Friendships are built and strengthened during a Nov. 1 bicentenary celebration for Arabic speakers in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Kambiz Rafraf

Baha’is in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, who have been cultivating relationships with Arabic speakers reached out to those new friends and invited them to a bicentenary celebration. More than 60 attended.

The 20-some area Baha’is who speak Arabic formed a committee to plan the occasion. They assembled a list of people they’ve been reaching out to the past five years. The event was also promoted on social media.

“The program was rich in content, as well as cultural music,” reports a participant. “The film Dawn of the Light was shown, followed by many conversations about the Baha’i Faith.” A festive dinner capped the evening.

A celebration of community building

This children’s class and two junior youth groups were integral to the success of a bicentenary celebration that attracted 54 people in Farmville, Virginia. Photo courtesy of Farzaneh Rasooly

In Farmville, Virginia, a town of fewer than 7,000 people between Richmond and Lynchburg, a bicentenary celebration attracted 54 people, only a third of whom were enrolled Baha’is.

At least one person in each family present is engaged in Baha’i-initiated activities aimed at building community. The program was full of songs and prayers recited by children, junior youths and parents. 

A member of the Board of Supervisors for Prince Edward County attended. And the manager of the neighborhood community center spoke of the changes she has seen in people of all ages since the message of Baha’u’llah came to Farmville two years ago and community-building activities started. 

A family of five declared their faith in Baha’u’llah that evening after the message of the Universal House of Justice for the bicentenary was read and the video Dawn of the Light was shown. The entire family is involved in study circles, junior youth groups, children’s classes and devotional gatherings. 

Teachings are music to director’s ears

A celebration in Los Angeles, California, also moved a participant to embrace the Faith of Baha’u’llah. 

The man, who directs an orchestra that has performed numerous times at the Baha’i Center, has considered himself a Baha’i for more than a year — ever since hearing a talk on historical prophecies about the present age. 

After the orchestra’s performance at the bicentenary, he made it official by signing a declaration card. Since then, the 20-member orchestra has performed at a Baha’i devotional gathering.

Participants learn about Faith in style

A hairstylist in Redmond, Washington, has long regaled customers who wish to hear it with Baha’i teachings and inspirational stories of faith in action.

Twenty-eight of those clients were sent special invitations to a bicentenary celebration there and attendees arrived to find the shop set up with gifts of chocolate boxes decorated with Baha’i writings and small cypress trees they could take home to plant. 

The one planned day of celebration turned into three, with 52 total participants.

Shrine and gardens are centerpiece

Cognizant of the large local Jewish population, many of whom are curious about the Baha’i terraces in Haifa, Israel, the Baha’is of Westlake Village, California, specially invited neighbors and acquaintances to a bicentenary celebration that attracted a total of 100.

The gathering featured a number of exhibits and displays, including a large poster of the Shrine of the Bab on Mt. Carmel in Haifa and the surrounding terraced gardens. A video explained the significance of the Shrine, the gardens and adjacent buildings at the Baha’i World Center. 

Other displays explained Baha’i teachings, the core activities of community building and the Baha’i Houses of Worship worldwide.

Actor Rainn Wilson talked about the teachings of the Bab and Baha’u’llah. The event culminated with reading of a letter from the Universal House of Justice, the global Baha’i governing council, that invites the larger community to join with Baha’is “to enable humanity to advance to the highest levels of unity.”

At a follow-up conversation on Nov. 21, 12 people had an opportunity to learn more about the Faith and how they can engage in community building. 

Spirit extends to follow-up gatherings

Some 33 people of varied ages joined a celebration organized by participants in a weekly children’s devotional in Decatur, Georgia. Prayers, songs and conversations about the bicentenary came first, then everyone walked through gates to better understand the significance of the station of the Báb. After play, coloring and snacks, each child went home with a photograph of the Shrine of the Báb, homemade green play dough and a green balloon. Photo courtesy of Linda Ahdieh Grant

The weekend after the bicentenary, Baha’is and friends who are engaged in community building in Decatur, Georgia, hosted a follow-up gathering to ensure that all their contacts could join in the celebration.

“Several participants were from our local ‘Meaningful conversations’ efforts, and then also neighbors and children and parents from our new children’s class came,” says an organizer. 

After the film Dawn of the Light was shown, the significance of its message for humanity and of the Universal House of Justice’s letter for the bicentenary were discussed.

Going forward, plans include showing the films Light to the World and A Widening Embrace.

A marker along path of building community

In Palm Beach County, Florida, a large number of bicentenary participants had already joined in Baha’i community-building activities to make their neighborhoods better places to live.

“The bicentenary gave all an opportunity to celebrate the teachings that have put them on this path of service and draw inspiration for even greater efforts in the months and years to come,” one Baha’i says.  

Relationships with many of these friends, neighbors and co-workers began with visits to their homes to introduce children’s classes and junior youth groups, or to invite them — regardless of their faith — to meet regularly for prayers. 

Some have been trained to initiate and sustain such activities. A number have invited their own friends and family members to join in.

 


Seven teams of youth and junior youth participated in a game called "The Quest of Mulla Husayn" on Oct. 26. They searched around downtown Decatur, Georgia, for clues, listened to and shared stories, and learned about the spirit of the quest of Mulla Husayn to find the Promised One. Photo courtesy of Linda Ahdieh Grant
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Conversations abound at a Nov. 2 celebration at the Dallas Bahá’í Center, attended by about 140 people, many of whom are interfaith contacts of the Baha'is. Photo courtesy of Kambiz Rafraf
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