Thursday, June 18, 2009

Accumulating Experience

In rereading the May 17, 2009 letter from the Universal House of Justice regarding the 19-Day Feast, I am fascinated how much it says about our community, even beyond the celebration of Feast. We are growing... both in size and capacity.

The May 17 letter notes a growing dynamism as one of the salient features of our worldwide community. The dictionary defines dynamism as great energy, force, or power. Our Baha'i community has great energy, it has force, and it has power! The individual, the community, and the institutions are all coming together to demonstrate this power to ourselves as well as the greater community.

One of the outcomes of our dynamic, powerful community is that individuals will want to attend Baha'i Feast. It is natural that our community of interest will be drawn to our gatherings as people flee from the pain and sorrow of the world. The Baha'is have something to offer and people will reach for it as moths to a flame.

Of course, this means that we will occasionally find that seekers will show up at Feast wishing to attend even when they have not been invited. Beautifully, the Universal House of Justice has helped us understand how we are to deal with these situations. As Baha'is are to have an outward-looking vision, we would naturally not wish to be rude. Therefore, the new guidance indicates that we can hold feast almost as usual keeping in mind the need for confidentiality and restraint.

Note: We should guard against taking this new guidance to mean we can invite seekers to our Feasts. However much we may wish to share our Faith enthusiastically with interested individuals, it would be a mistake to forget that Feast was an institution created for the Baha'is themselves and respecting this directive is important. Nonetheless, should someone show up at Feast who is not a Baha'i, we are free to include them in Feast and adhere to the standard format (with discretion given to the Local Spiritual Assemblies to decide how much to include).

Part of what I love about being a Baha'i is the on-going, ever-dynamic understanding of the Faith that grows along with the community. The Universal House of Justice states, The continued expansion of the Bahá’í community in the years to come will surely give rise to a range of challenges that will affect how the devotional, administrative, and social aspects of the Nineteen Day Feast are conducted in diverse localities.

Further, Responsibility for addressing these challenges will fall, in the first instance, on Local Spiritual Assemblies. Theirs is the duty to remain alert to conditions in their communities, to consult with the friends, to respond thoughtfully to a multiplicity of needs and circumstances, and to remain flexible without compromising fundamental principles.

Remaining flexible without compromising fundamental principles is a hallmark of our Faith. This is the accumulating experience that allows us to grow and change and yet never waver in our principles. This is our energy, our force, and our power... This is what makes us dynamic... This is what makes us Baha'is.

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