National Spiritual Assembly elected in prayerful atmosphere

April 28, 2019
National Spiritual Assembly elected in prayerful atmosphere

Members of the newly elected National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, presented April 27, 2019, to the 111th U.S. Bahá’í National Convention, from left: Kevin Trotter, Fariba Aghdasi, Robert C. Henderson, Rabi A. Musah, Kenneth E. Bowers, Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, Muin Afnani, Juana C. Conrad and David F. Young. Photo by Ken Krapf

Delegates to the 111th U.S. Baha’i National Convention, on April 27, 2019, elected the National Spiritual Assembly to oversee the affairs of the U.S. Baha’i community for the year ahead. The Assembly met the same day and elected its officers for the year.

The nine members of the new National Assembly, in order of delegate votes received, are:

Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary
David F. Young, Chair
Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, Vice Chair
Muin Afnani
Juana C. Conrad, Treasurer
Kevin Trotter
Robert C. Henderson
Fariba Aghdasi
Rabi A. Musah

More than 100 guests joined two members of the Continental Board of Counselors in witnessing delegates cast their ballots on Saturday morning, April 28, in Foundation Hall at the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. Only a handful of the 171 delegates cast absentee ballots.

As he called the session to order, Convention chair David F. Young briefed the delegates on procedures for carrying out the vote. He conveyed a long-standing instruction that applies to the election of any Baha’i institution: to approach decisions on voting “in a prayerful attitude, seeking divine guidance and confirmation.”

As the Convention secretary, Muin Afnani, read further instructions on filling out ballots, he noted that as this was a national election without nominations, sometimes more than a full name is needed. Among other things, he encouraged delegates to include further identifying information if they voted for someone with a common name “such as Smith or Jones or Rouhani,” drawing an appreciative chuckle.

Each valid ballot would contain nine names. Any adult Baha’i in good standing living in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia was eligible to serve, except for the Counselors.

The chief teller and four assistants then reported to the front of the hall to begin their duties. Once the tellers took their seats, only the sound of the ventilation system could be heard as the delegates present filled out their ballots. Many spent several minutes in contemplation before their final decisions.

When the chair determined all ballots had been completed, delegates arose, roughly in alphabetical order, and lined up along the right edge of Foundation Hall. As the secretary called each one’s name, the delegate walked to a clear plastic box at the front of the hall and dropped in a sealed ballot envelope.

Many beamed in joy or satisfaction. Many were brisk and intent, or perhaps experiencing more complex emotions. A few kissed their envelopes. One held his ballot over his heart before submitting it — significantly, as he had received that heart in a transplant years earlier.

“All 171 delegates have voted,” the secretary announced, and the audience arose in warm applause.

With that completed, the tellers brought the ballot box to a secure location for counting. Results were reported that afternoon.

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