Fort Wayne Baha’is gamely go about producing unity

February 5, 2020
Fort Wayne Baha’is gamely go about producing unity

Unific (yoo-nif-ik), adj.: tending to produce unity.

Unific: a monthly afternoon of games, snacks and unifying fellowship held at a public library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and sponsored by the local Baha’i community.

Since September 2018, this “dose of unity,” in the words of Fort Wayne Baha’i Carol Butler, has been bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together “for the sole purpose of having fun — no other agenda.”

Butler says Unific was conceived by Butler and Marsha Smiley as they lamented over lunch how many people know each other only from time spent at the Nineteen Day Feast and other Baha’i events. 

“We realize as African Americans that if we continue to live an American life, even as Baha’is, that life is mostly segregated,” she reflects. “We wanted to address that issue head on by inviting our friends who present in many shades of the rainbow.”

At the first get-together, “Thirty people showed up and we played a game called Bunco, a dice game modified to accommodate the large crowd,” recalls Butler.

“The game was a big hit. The best thing we saw from the Bunco games was that a 60- or 70-year-old might have a partner age 10 or 15 … and they were genuinely having fun!”

Later sponsorship was assumed by the Spiritual Assembly, the local Baha’i governing council. That allows Unific to be held in the library — a boon for inviting more of the public. 

“One woman, Lena Green, comes every time, right after Sunday church services,” says Butler. “A male friend, Shirona Gunawardhana, who moved here from Sri Lanka, makes a point to invite new friends. A Bingo-style game was created using names of attendees’ native countries.”

The monthly Unific get-togethers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, bring together people of all ages and backgrounds. Photo by Tom Butler

People come and go and different games are added. Games attendees are enjoying now are Tenzi and Clack! “We always make a point to start with an ice breaker like personalized Bingo or Uno, and make sure the games can be played by everyone who comes,” says Butler.

Personalized Bingo? As described in an article in The Journal Gazette newspaper, a Unific at Christmastime featured Bingo using such words as bell, garland, wrapping paper, reindeer, elf, myrrh, partridge and North Pole instead of numbers.

“Parents are eager to have something positive and fun to do with their children on Sunday afternoons,” says Butler. “Unific fills the need.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Dean Hill, secretary of the Assembly. “Because the event is a non-religious, game-playing gathering held at a library, people are very relaxed and perhaps more open to attending. 

“However, a Baha’i spirit is present at Unific,” he says. “The host points out how people from different backgrounds and ages can gather together, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. These bonds can have far-reaching benefits.”

Hill says Unific attendees have come to Baha’i Holy Days and other events in recent months. “We’ve also had people come to other events then start attending Unific. So the connections go both directions.”

Green is a case in point. She attended the 200th anniversaries of the births of Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, and of the Bab, His herald, in 2017 and 2019 — as well as “everything she is invited to,” says Butler.

She recently told Butler, “Just thought I would let you know how I appreciate our ‘little get-togethers.’ Thank you for a grand time; this is how one ends a great weekend!”

Tending to produce unity? Indeed.


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