Reflections from Midwest Bahá’í Summer School 2023
This long-awaited gathering of hearts was held at the beloved Louhelen Bahá’í Center of Learning, in Davison, Michigan in July. It offered an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones over meals, during indoor and outdoor activities and walks around the scenic grounds.
Over 50 friends prepared for months to provide an enriching opportunity for the Midwest Bahá’í community to reunite, connect and kindle each other’s hearts. During the 3-day school, over 160 friends gathered. The Summer School’s overarching theme — Journey to Unity — included “stops” along the way to learn and reflect on aspects of the Nine Year Plan, the institute process and community building.The school borrowed the idea of a train carrying its passengers heading to its destination, Unity Station. Some creative activities included collaboration. For example, together each group dug through a trunk and filled a suitcase full of spiritual qualities for the train ride to Unity. The younger children crawled through the “tunnel of discovery” to mine for gems (virtues), with assistance from the junior youth. They passed many stops along the way including; (Juliet) Thompsonville, Templeton (Devotionals), Wisdomville (the Institute Process), Amity Town (an interactive game played during plenary with questions that informed and educated in a fun game-show atmosphere), Power Town (Junior Youth), Friendlyville (Home Visits), (Dizzy) Gillespie Town, Busy Town (Children), finally arriving at Unity Station. With each stop, passengers gained insights vital to the building of a vibrant community life including the power of art; devotional gatherings; training institute development, racial amity; Junior Youth empowerment programs, home visits, and Children’s education.
Throughout the weekend, the campus was humming with the joyful sounds of many Children, Junior Youth and entire families from across the region. Intergenerational activities were provided with a continual emphasis on the importance of making spaces and activities welcoming to children, “the most precious treasure a community can possess”.
In addition to an emphasis on unity, activities focused deeply on devotionals, home visits, and ways to extend inclusive, effective and sincere invitations to Study Circles. Many felt transformed and inspired, and returned to their home clusters with refreshed vision, new goals, enthusiasm to build a united and radiant community, plus many sweet memories.
Everyone loved the s’mores night by the campfire Saturday evening. It was a night of laughter, music, stories with fresh vegetables from the Louhelen organic gardens. One friend brought his telescope so many people had a chance to look at the amazing details on the surface of the moon in the dark blue sky.
The gathering was beautifully enhanced throughout with the presence of the arts. Music naturally emerged from the friends gathered. Group singing was encouraged, and there were skits by the Children and Junior Youth, plus poster creation and jewelry making (to give as gifts for others).
At school’s end one friend shared a sweet story of a young child meeting Abdu’l-Baha at the tender age of three. This child would grow to become Hand of the Cause of God, Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, and the beloved wife of Shoghi Effendi. The storyteller then displayed a sweater that once belonged to Amatu’l-Baha, laughing and saying, “It’s not magic, it’s just comforting, and brings us closer to the history of our Faith.”