Conferences across nation diffuse spirit and prompt action
How does a cluster of communities equip itself to release greater measures of the society-building power of the Faith of Baha’u’llah? How does this happen within a city, or maybe a single neighborhood? What degree of effort, what kind of local planning and consultation, what capacities need to be built to strengthen a framework of worship and service inspired by Baha’i teachings?
In thousands of locales, Baha’is and their fellow well-wishers of humanity are even now shaping the responses to those questions in a global mosaic of conversation: conferences large and small, filled with prayer, inspiration, local consultation, music and artistic expression.
Already underway in the United States is a series of hundreds of these conferences, generally planned for early this spring, around the beginning of a new nine-year development plan for the worldwide Baha’i community.
Participants are not only identifying the conditions and requirements of that development where they live, but also taking strides into action to become active protagonists in building a vibrant community life.
They are studying and consulting on such themes as the vision of Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith, for humanity; the distance traversed to this point; educational and training endeavors; and contributing to social transformation.
And while the vision and much of the content is consistent across the country, the 12 Regional Baha’i Councils in the United States have been laying groundwork for months so that the conferences are planned to best serve each area’s unique circumstances.
For instance, in the words of the Regional Baha’i Council of the Heartland States, “conferences may vary in size (number of participants), length, format, kind of venue, incorporation of the arts, etc., giving close consideration of the local realities, culture and nature of the population or neighborhood community being invited to each conference.”
Some conferences serve entire states and groupings of clusters, while others focus on a single cluster, or even a neighborhood where the pattern of community life is intensive.
There is flexibility in the type of gathering planned. “Depending on how the pandemic is going, we may have some in person, some online and some hybrid (a mix of both),” notes the secretary of the South Central Regional Council.
And circle includes not only Baha’is, but also many who are walking a path of service alongside them. The Northeastern States Council, for example, is placing a focus on “strengthening relationships and learning about the conversations that will assist the Baha’i community to effectively invite our fellows in the wider community to join with us at the conferences,” the Council’s secretary says.
The Baha’i world gained a broad outline of the upcoming Nine Year Plan’s features on Dec. 30, 2021, when the Universal House of Justice, the Faith’s global governing council, presented a major message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counselors, held at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel.
This followed a Sept. 15, 2021, letter from the House of Justice, stating that the conferences launching the Plan “aim at carrying to the friends in every land the spiritual energy released by the gatherings in the Holy Land, as the community prepares for a dynamic thrust forward.”
With guidance from continental and national Baha’i institutions, the Councils prepared general guidelines for the conferences’ materials and objectives.
In parallel, each region saw a flurry of gatherings reading the reality of many areas, involving planning groups from the regional to the neighborhood levels.
Then specifics for each conference, such as length, venue, and how to incorporate the arts, were placed in the hands of planning teams after the Councils determined how many conferences to hold and in what areas.
In striving for diversity and youth in choosing planning team members, the Northwestern States Council has drawn inspiration from the Baha’is of Washington, DC, and their recent reflections on race. “if you ask people from these populations to plan the program,” the Council secretary notes, “a program that will attract and serve everyone will be the outcome.”