Open house helps Eliot get to know Green Acre better

The Peace Flag unfurls in the breeze at the Community Open House April 29–30 at Green Acre Bahá’í School in Eliot, Maine. Photo courtesy of Green Acre Bahá’í School

Office of Education and Schools 

In an informal and moving ceremony, dozens of guests from Eliot, Maine, joined Bahá’ís as the Peace Flag was hoisted over Green Acre Bahá’í School the morning of April 29. It was the start of a weekend Community Open House that strengthened the school’s identity as part of the local community and stimulated a current of meaningful conversations.

The two-day event sprang from Green Acre’s desire to share its mission and purpose as a center of learning throughout the surrounding Seacoast area. With an eye toward developing a new pattern of engagement, this was part of a full-year effort to accelerate the process of inviting residents from the wider community, in preparation for bicentenary celebrations of the Births of Bahá’u’lláh and of the Báb.

Over the weekend of April 29–30, the Open House brought in more than 200 people, including about 50 from the larger community. Activities, workshops and information tables were focused on family, history and community, with an emphasis on the arts.

Setting the tone early Saturday was the raising of the simple white and green Peace Flag, a tradition unique to Eliot since 1894. The flag was conceived by Sarah Farmer — who founded Green Acre and began shaping its ideals years before embracing the Bahá’í Faith — as an emblem that would reach out to everyone and convey the message of peace brought by the world’s prophets.

Some guests were visibly moved as they were led in song while the flag was drawn up the flagpole at the grassy center of the school’s grounds. The moment was “so moving I nearly cried,” a volunteer from the nearby William Fogg Library said afterward. “In these troubled times, raising the Peace Flag was so powerful.”

That day’s offerings included a historical presentation on the remarkable roles that Farmer and Green Acre played in events surrounding the 1905 signing of the treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War; a presentation on the town of Eliot itself; and a general tour of the campus. Following throughout the day were a variety of art activities for children and information tables on local endeavors including the Fogg Library, the Eliot Historical Society, the Eliot Garden Club, End 68 Hours of Hunger and Table of Plenty. Saturday evening saw a concert featuring two Bahá’í artists and the New Hope Baptist Church choir. Sunday morning focused on the Eliot community children’s classes.

The uplifting environment encouraged distinctive and meaningful conversations with community members, who expressed delight at the beauty of the Green Acre grounds, at the diversity of those attending, and at how moving they found the message of the Faith. The weekend generated the opportunity to form friendships, build relationships and invite more people to join in contributing to the betterment of the local community. Spencer Johnson, recently enrolled as a Bahá’í, said, “It was the best day of my life.”

Green Acre has begun building on what has been learned from this event to plan a series of programs this year, including an Arts Day.

The Open House “was a wonderful moment to see how relationships with individuals and organizations in the community are developing and to see how we can work together to make the community stronger,” says Robert Sapiro, the school’s administrator. “This was an important step in developing our capacity to invite friends from the wider community to Green Acre and engage in meaningful conversation in preparation for the bicentenaries.”

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