Tustin Baha’is devise a way for busy parents to train for service

April 21, 2020
Tustin Baha’is devise a way for busy parents to train for service

EDITORS’ NOTE: Though this story reflects community life as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still being shared as an example of working creatively to apply the Baha’i teachings for people’s benefit.

So many families with young children. So little time. 

So difficult to get the parents in one room for a study circle to build their capacity for service to their community.

But Baha’is in Tustin, California, a city of 75,000 in central Orange County, met the challenge through consultation and ingenuity. 

And the fruits were plentiful from the resulting two-weekend intensive study session in January 2020. It produced, they say, “new levels of energy and spirituality” among Baha’is. 

“The synergy from such participatory community activities often fuels the desire and commitment to host other activities,” says Peter Bruss, who serves as chair of the elected local governing council, the Spiritual Assembly.

A children’s class in Tustin, California, attracts a number of youngsters and their parents. Photo courtesy of Peter Bruss

One new activity is a spiritual education class, hosted by a family that recently moved to the area, that serves children from Tustin and a neighboring community, says Ruhiyyih Maghzi, another Assembly member.

Baha’is in Tustin had long desired to study The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, Book 8 in the Ruhi Institute sequence of capacity-building courses. 

That course’s first unit focuses on provisions made by Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, to maintain the worldwide community’s unity, and on the spiritual station of His son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, whose will and testament set in motion the emergence of the Baha’i administrative structure for centuries to come. 

Coordinating the schedules of participants and ensuring the care of their children would be no easy task, however. So the Spiritual Assembly guided consultation at several regular community Feast gatherings. 

What emerged was a strategy that enabled 21 people to get together and study the book’s first unit “in an atmosphere of joy and devotion,” says Bruss.

Here’s how it worked:

Knowing their children are being taken care of, Baha’is and friends in Tustin, California, enjoy a study circle. Photo courtesy of Peter Bruss

The study group was split in two so that one parent from each family could delve into the material in the morning while the other tended to children. A community lunch at midday provided a chance for everyone to socialize together — then the parents would swap roles.  

For example, says Bruss, “If the father stayed home with the children in the morning, the mother attended the morning session. Then the father would bring the children … for the community lunch and social, after which the mother would take the children for the afternoon so the father could attend the afternoon session.” 

“This way, each parent could attend half a day on Saturday and Sunday over two weekends. The tutors ensured that the afternoon session would cover the exact same material as the morning session on a given day.”

So that the group could cover all 44 sections of that unit, adds Maghzi, it was essential that the timeline be “strictly held to for everyone’s benefit.” 

Even adults without kids “appreciated the intensive format but with only a half-day commitment each day,” she adds.

For all participants the results “proved to be very positive and uplifting,” says Bruss, adding, “One participant, with great excitement, even suggested that the community should next offer the full sequence of courses in this fashion” and not just the other units of Book 8. The Spiritual Assembly is looking into that possibility.

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