Colorado Bahá’ís pick up helpers on the bicentenary path and beyond
With roles in planning celebrations, friends and neighbors find they want to keep being involved
No local Bahá’í institutions or agencies? No problem, say the few believers of Fremont and Pueblo counties in south-central Colorado.
With help from the Four Corners Regional Bahá’í Council and a regional development facilitator, and encouragement from Auxiliary Board members and their assistants, Bahá’ís in such communities as Cañon City, Florence and Pueblo planned and carried out an impressive and diverse array of initiatives leading to the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh in October 2017.
Along the way these well-attended events attracted a number of people who wanted to learn more about the Faith. Many, significantly, wanted not only to attend but to help plan the bicentenary celebrations. And since October, several have joined in community-building efforts.
Because of limited resources, the small cadre of Bahá’ís was “faced with daunting challenges” in planning and hosting the bicentenary celebration,” says Toni Goggans of Florence.
“Nevertheless, at a meeting with the regional development facilitator for Colorado in early June, the handful of Bahá’ís present vowed to heed the words of the Universal House of Justice that an opportunity like this would not come again,” recalls Goggans.
“We decided to host several events that had been on our minds leading up to the bicentenary celebration. Core activities and upcoming events, including the bicentenary, were to be promoted at each event.”
The imaginative lineup included:
- Screening Carole Lombard, a documentary on the famed actor’s film career and Bahá’í service.
- Holding the annual Unity Picnic sponsored by Bahá’ís in the cluster of communities.
- Presenting the film Red Tails, about the Tuskegee Airmen.
- Showing and discussing the film Light to the World, which was released for the bicentenary.
- Hosting a bicentenary Light of Unity Festival.
- Sharing the Bahá’í consultation model with members of a Buddhist temple.
Nine people who are not members of the Bahá’í Faith attended the Carole Lombard program — five as a result of advertising in a newspaper and on Facebook. The believers are following up with three people who showed particular interest, including a woman who said she had read up on the Faith online and decided “it’s what I believe.” Says Goggans, “She is interested in coming to devotional gatherings and we will invite her to coffee for discussion.”
The Unity Picnic in July attracted more than 50 people, about 30 of whom were guests. Many of those later participated in the bicentenary celebration and one volunteered at the picnic to distribute fliers in a neighborhood despite her limited vision.
In September, local Bahá’í Myron Wilson presented at the library a showing of Red Tails to an audience of 30, including seven believers. Wilson’s father was one of three Bahá’ís among the Tuskegee pilots. The film was followed by dialogue on racism in America.
Five adults and four children from the larger community attended the Oct. 21 screening of Light to the World. Two more people responded to the advertising by calling the 800-22UNITE seeker response line and have stayed in contact with the Bahá’ís.
The next day 69 people — only 11 of whom are members of the Bahá’í Faith — enjoyed the Light of Unity Festival. “Our goal was to provide a glimpse of what a unified community would be like, using the arts and involving those present in a variety of activities,” says Goggans.
Two families that were recent dinner guests of a Bahá’í couple were among those who came. And ongoing follow-up with attendees has led to two home visits, with more planned. Participation in devotional gatherings also has swelled to 12 — half joining in directly as a result of the bicentenary.
An ongoing relationship with members of the local Buddhist sangha sparked such interest in the bicentenary that three from that community joined the planning committee. Members also helped in getting musicians, poets, artists and a photographer for the celebration. And the Buddhists asked the Bahá’ís to describe for one of their committees the process of consultation believers use to reach decisions.
In looking back at past nine months, Goggans says the Bahá’ís have learned a great lesson. “We were wondering how as such a small Bahá’í community we could give honor to the bicentenary and proclaim Bahá’u’lláh’s mission. Increasing capacity can also happen by partnering with friends of the Faith in the larger community.”