Strategies in motion to enlist help for emerging clusters

Junior youths and staff members of the Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City, Tennessee, paint pumpkins for Thanksgiving. Fredda and John Haines have served as homefront pioneers in the emerging Tri-Cities cluster since May 2014 and are co-animators of the junior youth group that began in September. Photo courtesy of John Haines

Bahá’ís in and around North Carolina’s Queen City were invited to a gala at the Charlotte Bahá’í Center the evening of Oct. 25.

A pioneering gala, to be exact. It was an opportunity to arise and volunteer to serve as a homefront pioneer or mobile tutor in an area of the state or Atlantic Region where the Faith has few or no adherents.

The Regional Bahá’í Council and Auxiliary Board members shared a vision of the opportunities available if Bahá’ís venture to those areas and begin forging bonds with residents through spiritual conversation and a set of activities that build capacity and community.

Those activities include study circles, devotional gatherings, children’s classes and junior youth groups.

A mobile tutor — one who travels to facilitate study circles — told of his experiences. And a family of homefront pioneers — those who move to an area to foster activities — appeared via YouTube video.

When all was said and only the echoes of songs sung remained, 15 people had pledged to take part in the outreach.

Corinne Perry, secretary of the Regional Council, says five such meetings have been held across the region in cities with large numbers of Ruhi Institute-trained Bahá’ís.

Many who have volunteered have had recent experience facilitating study circles, she says. But for any “willing soul who wishes to help out,” refreshers and orientations are available to help them prepare for their service.

“All are encouraged to come and learn about the opportunities to serve,” says Perry.

“We have a growing understanding of the value of universal participation, and so even if a soul cannot serve as a mobile tutor or homefront pioneer they are highly encouraged to say prayers and/or give to the Fund.”

As of early November, only 14 areas of the region had not been opened to the Faith; the latest to achieve a Bahá’í presence was Emporia in southeast Virginia.

In 37 more “goal clusters” of communities, work had begun. Newly situated homefront pioneers include 17 in seven parts of North Carolina, two in a Tennessee cluster, 13 pioneers in six areas of Virginia and four in three West Virginia clusters.

Perry also says the institutions of the Faith are learning more and more about how to provide effective support for those volunteers, whether it be gas money or spaces for reflection and planning.

Effort multiplied by 10 regions nationwide

Plans set in motion by the Northeast Regional Council give an idea just how detailed the strategy and its execution can be.

“All of our 30 homefront pioneers deployed since the [114 youth conferences held worldwide in 2013] are in clusters developing intensity or in the most advanced clusters,” says Council secretary Chet Makoski.

“This is where they want to be, where there are more resources to support them and where we are having the greatest success with multiplying junior youth groups and children's classes.”

The Northeast Council has divided the region into four zones and targeted one or more clusters in each zone for concerted efforts to achieve a program of growth at some level of intensity.

For each goal area, a team of people has been designated to visit and support outreach. The team coordinates the movement of others who wish to aid efforts in the cluster, and it collaborates with Bahá’ís and like-minded souls within the cluster to start and sustain activities.

An example is the Berkshire County cluster in western Massachusetts. A team of nine is coordinating visits by at least three mobile tutors and is working with individuals and families there.

It also is encouraging people in the community, including an “active seeker” of truth who has been attending Bahá’í activities and a college professor who has offered her services during winter break.

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