At national gathering, Councils reflect on progress and responsibilities

Members of the 12 current Regional Councils meet together with the National Assembly for the first time in January 2017 in San Diego, California. Photo by Bob James

The gathering in San Diego, California, of members of the 12 Regional Bahá’í Councils with three Counselors and eight National Spiritual Assembly members was an opportunity to re-examine efforts to carry out the Divine Plan during the current Five Year Plan and to reflect on the nature of various dimensions of the Councils’ responsibilities.

The two and a half days, Jan. 27–29, focused on a number of themes and concepts, including operating in a learning mode and thinking in terms of process.

During the first breakout sessions of the meeting, Regional Council members had the opportunity to consider the topic of operating in a mode of learning, a theme woven throughout many messages of the Universal House of Justice and a key element of the framework of the Plan.  

After deepening on guidance, they turned to Section 4 of Unit 1 of Ruhi Book 10, Building Vibrant Communities: Accompanying One Another on the Path of Service, to review ideas related to a disposition centered on learning. They then carried out a number of exercises connected to these ideas focused specifically on service on Regional Councils.  

Further, questions from Section 22 of that same unit were used to examine certain habits, such as looking for shortcuts and formulas or reaching quick conclusions from what those engaged in the framework for action consider successes and failures, and then consideration was given to what they might look like in the context of the work of Regional Councils.  

To close these sessions, a final component considered the way language is used among people involved in community building, particularly the terms of “learning” and “accompany.”

With these concepts in mind, then, Regional Councils finished the day by looking at the learning process in more concrete ways, thinking specifically about the movement of clusters along a continuum of growth from one milestone to the next.  

Using Section 15 of Unit 1 of Book 10 as a basis for reflection, participants thought about what particular clusters “know” and how other clusters might benefit from that knowledge.

They considered the question of how a region can use its most advanced clusters to strengthen the learning process. Several case studies were provided, illustrating how advanced clusters serving as reservoirs are sharing with other clusters what they know with regard to the training institute.

Yet another concrete aspect explored was the inter-institutional meeting, where all institutions in a region come together periodically. Looking at a few brief examples, the participants discussed how such meetings can be utilized to advance the regional learning process and ensure detailed planning.

The second day again began with more conceptual elements. Council members explored the theme of thinking in terms of process, which is another dimension of the expansion and consolidation work that assists in the effectiveness of our efforts.  

The notion of process helps us to think about a series of changes — usually continuous change — in the state of a system. Participants thought about changes in various systems, beginning with very practical examples such as a pot of water coming to boil and then increasing in complexity up to the development of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program in a region.

Other discussion questions related to the process of capacity building in individuals and participation in nurturing the program of growth in one’s cluster as well as reflections on an organic process of developing institutional capacity for learning and growth.

The morning’s sessions set the stage for the afternoon, which focused on the organic emergence and development of Area Teaching Committees as well as the strengthening of the teaching work.  

With regard to the former, Council members drew on relevant guidance and considered two contexts in which Area Teaching Committees may emerge: clusters where new programs of growth were established in the last Five Year Plan and clusters that launched intensive programs of growth in previous plans but do not currently have fully functioning Committees. They had time to consider the process by which Area Teaching Committees develop in each context.  

In the next session, participants again studied guidance and used a brief visualization exercise as well as a case study to think about how more and more friends can become involved in the multifaceted work of teaching the Cause of God.

The final morning, Council members had the chance to consider how unity of thought and unity of action amongst groups of friends is continually achieved and strengthened.

Time was given throughout the meeting for the participants to write their personal reflections, allowing ample space to begin to digest the concepts they had discussed in small groups throughout the weekend.

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