North Carolina’s Triad is thriving as streams of learning converge
Individual initiative across the area. Collective efforts in a neighborhood of focus. Cross-pollination of ideas among Baha’is and friends in six counties.
That confluence of learning from community-building efforts in the foothills cities of Winston-Salem, High Point and Greensboro, North Carolina, is propelling Baha’i-initiated efforts in the Triad cluster of communities toward a development milestone that only about three dozen metro areas in the country have attained.
To sustain that momentum, the Triad’s goal for the current three-month cycle of planning and action “was to try to triple the people we serve” with core activities, says Nancy Murphy. “And I’m thinking that’s going pretty well.”
Even from her perspective as secretary of the Area Teaching Committee (ATC), which oversees community building in the area, “Sometimes I sit back and think, ‘Oh, my gosh. Nothing is happening,’” says Murphy.
“And that’s where I have to look in the mirror and go, ‘Nothing is happening here, but there’s all kinds of things happening within the cluster.’”
In fact, she adds, a full picture emerges for her when people gather from across those counties four times a year to reflect on that activity.
A basis in prayer and study
Devotional gatherings have been the bedrock of the Triad’s progress, says Murphy, and the aim now is not just for those gatherings to multiply as participants start their own devotionals.
It’s also to systematically invite those attendees to engage in study circles that build the capacity for community building or to enroll their kids in children’s classes or junior youth groups. And she says tutors (facilitators) of study circles need to do the same.
“We have some tutors and some devotional hosts who are beginning to do that,” says Murphy. “I wouldn’t say they’re really adept at it yet but it’s beginning to happen. We are about a third of the way there.”
The effort to meet and invite residents of Greensboro’s Friendly West neighborhood is progressing along a similar arc of learning. It began in November 2018 when “tens of teachers, many from around the state, knocked on most of the doors of two apartment complexes over two weekends,” recalls Frank Kelleher.
The greatest interest found in that “diverse and receptive population,” Kelleher says, was concentrated in an apartment complex where a Baha’i family was already living and hosting a junior youth group.
By summer 2019 a children’s class and a monthly devotional gathering were added, thanks to the development of an efficient system for tracking outreach to neighbors and more effective follow-up with interested residents.
“One of the lessons we have learned is that there is an important difference between ‘very friendly’ and ‘interested,’” says Kelleher. “We formed a team from a committed nucleus of teachers in the spring of 2019. We met as needed to assess the current reality, reflect on guidance and make plans.”
Now, he says, “We find our biggest challenge is turning interest into action, a concept that will remain our learning focus for future months.”
An exchange of learning
What’s being learned in Friendly West, and through devotional gatherings across the Triad cluster, is fueling efforts to aid Baha’is and friends in surrounding counties as well.
Baha’is and friends in those clusters often travel to participate in Triad core activities, says Murphy, and teams from the Triad regularly visit the developing areas.
The process is mutually beneficial, she says, pointing to the energy these collaborations bring.
“The last time someone from Davidson County came in” to help with outreach in Friendly West, “she was just delightful and I think it was very helpful for some of our outreach team to become more relaxed,” reflects Murphy.
“So, yeah, there’s a lot of shared learning that goes on. Most definitely.”
Three of those outlying clusters — Chatham-Randolph, Alamance and Davidson County — are poised to make a leap in their community-building efforts, says Murphy.
The others have only a handful of Baha’is among them and will require a greater effort for core activities to take off, she says.
Assistance from the Triangle (Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill) cluster to the Triad’s east will probably be needed as well. Just another collaboration.