Oregon teaching team evolves with growth of neighborhood activities
Starting with a simple Sunday prayer gathering in a Corvallis home 22 years ago, Baha’is in two Oregon counties developed spiritual and educational activities for all ages. From there they learned how to bring such community-building activities into even more neighborhoods.
And for the past seven years a teaching team has made regular efforts to keep up the vitality of several Baha’i-initiated activities in Benton and Linn counties, says Paula Siegel of Philomath. It’s a learning path much like many other U.S. Baha’is and their friends are walking.
But the Corvallis devotional gathering is still a significant part of the mix, and the teaching team meets weekly to “discuss and reflect on the program, consult on the needs of its participants, and share and support our individual teaching activities outside the weekly devotional gathering,” Siegel says.
Centering on sacred texts from all religions, the Sunday gathering in Corvallis was started in 1996 to bring people from across Benton and Linn counties to worship together. Before long, spiritual education classes for children, junior youths, youths and adults were also being held at the same place.
After a decade, however, local Baha’is rethought the gathering’s purpose in the light of guidance about community building from international and national Baha’i institutions.
They realized a lot of energy was going into the centralized gathering and that much of it would be better spent on the building of community in neighborhoods across the two-county area, Siegel says.
One Baha’i continued the Corvallis devotional gathering in her home. It became apparent, though, that a team effort would be needed to “support, strengthen and sustain” that activity and integrate it with others in the area.
Thus, in 2011 the team was born to assist several Baha’i-initiated community-building activities and nurture people’s interest in the teachings of Baha’u’llah.
That team, now numbering five Baha’is, reflects a call by the Universal House of Justice, the Faith’s global governing council, for the emergence of a “growing band of believers” who are “distinguished by their ability and their discipline to reflect on action and learn from experience.”
Team members have encouraged others to hold similar devotionals in their own homes, Siegel says. They also support each other’s initiatives while accompanying the 20 or so devotional participants on their spiritual journeys.
What the team did in a recent meeting offers a glimpse into its process and scope:
- Read and discussed a reference to devotional gatherings in a recent message from the Universal House of Justice.
- Consulted on a suggestion by two attendees that the Baha’i readings they heard on the harmony of science and religion be shared with area religious and scientific groups.
- Planned a fireside talk for the public, in hopes it will be the first of a series that engages artistic/musical members of the community.
- Discussed how to assist with the physical and spiritual needs of a friend of the Faith who has been unable to regularly attend the devotional.
- Shared such individual initiatives as a neighborhood devotional, conversations with co-workers, and a weekly discussion group.
It’s all part of learning “how to continue the conversation beyond Sundays,” sums up Siegel.