Training institute gathering looks at nurturing community life

Regional, subregional and cluster institute coordinators discuss the dynamics of growth in neighborhoods during the national Regional Training Institute Gathering, Oct. 27–30. Photo by James Humphrey

The Bahá’ís of the world have a mighty task: “the intensive effort to establish a pattern of community life that can embrace thousands upon thousands” in many clusters of communities.

What could that pattern of community life look like? What is the role of the training institute in establishing it? And how can the institute — by encouraging the multiplication of study circles, junior youth groups and children’s classes — hone its effectiveness as an engine of growth for the Bahá’í community?

Reflection and consultation on various facets of those questions occupied more than 130 people at the national Regional Training Institute Gathering, Oct. 27–30 at the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. They focused on their mission to help nurture in their regions and localities “the seeds of the world’s spiritual revival and ultimate redemption,” in the words of Shoghi Effendi.

Gaining a wider perspective on progress and learning “gives you purpose,” said Erica Reyes, a regional institute coordinator in Arizona. And when it comes time to go back home, accompany others and read reality on the local level, she indicated, the capacities emphasized at this national gathering help “enhance the quality of our learning process and refine those abilities to articulate our questions.”

With the accompaniment of several members of the Continental Board of Counselors and the National Spiritual Assembly, the gathering brought in dozens of people with coordinating roles at regional, subregional and cluster levels, as well as some assistants and other collaborators. They strove together for a firmer grasp on how they can help Bahá’ís and their collaborators widen the reach of the three imperative educational activities: study circles, junior youth groups and children’s classes.

Provided with guidance and questions for reflection, they discussed the implications of working not just with individual clusters, but with groups of clusters; examined patterns and insights that could strengthen seminars and field visits; explored at length the actions and qualities that could enhance their accompaniment of others; and discussed experiences with respect to growth in neighborhoods.

Then, with members of Regional Bahá’í Councils and the boards of regional training institutes joining in, participants considered strategies for helping clusters support one another in groups; processes of learning in the area of human resource development; and the continued development of all three imperative activities.

Jacque Jenkins, an assistant to the regional coordinator serving Kentucky, said the conference immediately influenced plans to continue a training process for junior youth group animators from a Louisville high school. “All of the learnings from this weekend will foster this process,” she noted. “Even during the conference, Jessica [the regional coordinator] and I were constantly sharing that we needed to modify and/or add to our already planned agenda” for the training.

Daniel Platner, a regional coordinator in California, said the gathering helped him identify some questions to stimulate learning among tutors, touching on friendship with youths and their families, how to gauge strengths, successes and challenges, and how to develop networks of mutual support. Still, he said, “The evening where we shared stories of transformation was really wonderful. It’s nice to step away from planning, reflecting and strategizing for a minute and remember — really remember — that these numbers represent souls, and each soul has a story. I’m very grateful for the opportunity. It was really heartwarming and inspiring.”

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