Study the Global Plan for the Betterment of the World: Part 5

The Regional Bahá’í Council invites community members of all Faiths to join in the study of the current global plan created by the Universal House of Justice.

« Part 4: Study paragraphs 8-10

Paragraphs #11-15 of the letter dated 30 December 2021, from the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors:

Learning from the most advanced clusters

[11] Six years ago we described for you the characteristics of a cluster where the friends have passed the third milestone along the continuum of growth. To have come this far implies intense activity occurring in specific neighbourhoods or villages, but also concerted effort being made by the generality of the believers living across the cluster—in other words, a rising spirit of universal participation in the work of community building. In practice, this means the mobilization of a sizeable number of Bahá’ís who are creatively and intelligently applying the Plan’s framework for action to the reality of their own circumstances wherever in the cluster they live. It entails families and individual believers working together and making a conscious decision to see themselves as belonging to an expanding nucleus. Such groups of friends set about widening the circle of participation in their activities by engaging with the networks to which they belong—networks created through a place of work or study, a local school, or a community hub of another kind—and by accompanying others who arise to serve alongside them. These efforts have tremendous merit. Even when a cluster contains a number of flourishing centres of intense activity, efforts being made across the rest of the cluster might still represent a large proportion of all the activity that is occurring. We also acknowledge, in this connection, the steps being taken in some clusters to systematically reach out to a specific population that has shown receptivity to the Faith but is dispersed throughout the cluster. This can be seen as a specialized form of the community-building work, and one which continues to show great promise. As participation in the work of the Plan in all its forms increases, many opportunities emerge for the friends to learn from each other’s experience and to kindle within one another the joy of teaching.

[12] Of course, the work undertaken in receptive neighbourhoods and villages has been a special focus of attention in recent years. As the inhabitants of such locations begin to participate in Bahá’í activities in large numbers, more consideration needs to be given to coordination in order to cope with the inherent complexity involved. Within each centre of intense activity, collaborative arrangements emerge among groups of families, who organize community-building activities among themselves with a view to widening the embrace of such activities to many nearby households; an informal network of friends provides encouragement and support to the endeavours under way. The character of daily life in such places is adapting to the rise of a culture in which worship and service are cherished activities involving many people at once. Uplifting, well-prepared community gatherings—extending in some cases to camps and festivals—occur with increasing frequency, and music and song feature prominently on such occasions. Indeed the arts as a whole, so integral a part of the development of a community from the start, stand out in such settings as an important means of generating joy, strengthening bonds of unity, disseminating knowledge, and consolidating understanding, as well as of acquainting those in the wider society with the principles of the Cause. And naturally, there remains a strong focus on being outward looking: finding ways to continually share the fruits of a thriving pattern of action with souls who are as yet unfamiliar with the Faith.

[13] Amid all this, we have observed a specific, heartening phenomenon, whose early glimpses we described in our message to your 2015 conference as representing a new frontier. Although learning how to embrace large numbers is a characteristic of any cluster where the third milestone has been passed, the focus of the friends necessarily begins to broaden as they approach a point where a significant proportion of the population of a particular area is taking part in community-building activities. This might be true for only a specific residential area in a cluster, or for several such areas, or for a single village; other parts of the cluster might not yet share the same reality. But in such locations, the thoughts of the friends labouring at the grassroots are increasingly occupied with the progress and well-being of everyone dwelling in the vicinity. Bahá’í institutions feel more keenly their responsibility for the spiritual education of an entire generation of children and junior youth, most or even all of whom might already be engaged in community activities. Local Spiritual Assemblies strengthen their relationships with authorities and local leaders, even entering into formal collaborations, and growing attention is given to the multiplying initiatives of social action arising from groups of junior youth, youth, women, families, or others who are responding to the needs around them. The sheer level and variety of activity requires Auxiliary Board members to appoint multiple assistants to serve a single village or neighbourhood; each assistant might follow one or more lines of action, offering counsel and support as necessary, and lending momentum to the processes in motion.

[14] In places where the activities of the Plan have reached such a degree of prevalence, the inhabitants now possess a substantially increased capacity to steer the course of their own development, and the institutions and agencies of the Faith there now have an expanded vision of their responsibilities. Of course, these responsibilities still include having robust systems in place to continually build capacity and support those taking initiative. But the advancement of the community depends, to a greater extent than before, on local institutions and agencies being conscious of the social forces at work in the environment and acting to preserve the integrity of the community’s many endeavours. Meanwhile, the relationship of the Bahá’í community to the surrounding society undergoes profound change. As represented by its formal structures of administration and informal collaborative arrangements, the Bahá’í community has become a highly visible protagonist in society in its own right, one that is ready to shoulder important responsibilities and intensify a broad, collective process of learning about spiritual and material progress. At the same time, as the wider society embraces many aspects of Bahá’í community life and imbibes its unifying spirit, the dynamics thus created allow divers groups to come together in a combined movement inspired by Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of the oneness of humanity. To date, the number of places where a Bahá’í pattern of community life has attained such prevalence is modest, yet it is growing. Here is witnessed a release of the society-building power of the Faith unlike anything that has been seen before.

[15] Naturally, prevalence of Bahá’í activity on this scale is not a prospect everywhere. It is necessary to appreciate the difference that is made by the conditions in a cluster or in parts of a cluster and by the characteristics of a people—that is, by the reality of circumstances. Accordingly, the ways in which the society-building power of the Faith will find expression in different settings will vary. But regardless of the extent to which Bahá’í community life embraces those who reside in a particular area—regardless, even, of the intensity of a programme of growth in a cluster or the level of activity in a neighbourhood or village—the challenge facing the friends serving at the grassroots is essentially the same in every place. They must be able to read their own reality and ask: what, in light of the possibilities and requirements at hand, would be fitting objectives to pursue in the coming cycle or series of cycles? You and your auxiliaries are ideally placed to put this question and to ensure that appropriate strategies are identified. Much can be learned from the experience of the friends in similar clusters, for a community that is a step further along the same path can provide valuable insights about the goal to strive for next. As the friends ponder what is before them, they will readily see that for every community there is a goal in reach, and for every goal a path to reach it. Looking ahead on this path, might we not perceive Bahá’u’lláh Himself, the reins of humanity’s affairs in one hand, His other beckoning all to hasten, hasten?

Discussion questions from the Regional Council

Paragraph 11
  1. Do you have a friend who can accompany you as you proceed through an ongoing  process of learning about what is most effective in the place where you are?
  2. What is your current understanding of the community building activities and the Plan’s framework for action. 
  3. What is one step that you can take to become part of an expanding nucleus or expand the nucleus you are in?
Paragraph 12
  1. What has been a special focus of attention in recent years?
  2. What collaborative arrangements have emerged among families or participants and how can you contribute to those efforts.
  3. How can artistic endeavors be used as a means to generate joy,  strengthen bonds of unity, disseminate knowledge, consolidate understanding, and teach the Faith?
  4. What does it mean in this paragraph to be outward looking?
Paragraph 13
  1. What is the specific, heartening phenomenon described in this paragraph?
  2. What is a characteristic of any cluster where the third milestone has been passed?
  3. Give examples of how the focus of the friends might broaden in clusters where the third milestone has been passed and they approach a point where a significant proportion of the population is taking part in community building activities.
  4. What opportunities do you have to learn about initiatives of social action arising from groups of junior youth, youth, women, families, or others who are responding to the needs around them?
Paragraph 14
  1. Where are the places where the pattern of community life is growing in your cluster? 
  2. What does it look like to bring more people into the cycle of activity? 
  3. In neighborhoods or clusters where a significant proportion of the population of a particular area is taking part in community-building activities, how does the vision of institutions and agencies expand?
    1. How does the relationship between the Baha’i community and the surrounding society change in such areas?
    2. What are some examples of the changes that might take place in such areas?
  4. What does the advancement of  the community depend on?
Paragraph 15
  1. Give examples of the differences in conditions in a cluster or in parts of a cluster and by the characteristics of a people—that is, by the reality of circumstances.
  2. What is the challenge facing the friends serving at the grassroots in every place?
  3. What questions can you ask to read the reality of the neighborhood or cluster where you live?
  4. Who can you reach out to identify questions to identify appropriate strategies?
  5. Identify someone you can contact in a cluster that is a step further along the continuum of growth to get valuable insights about the goal to strive for next.