Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I received a wonderful letter today from my National Spiritual Assembly. I have to admit, though, I was a bit shocked to see it in the mailbox. It almost made me feel as if I were being called to the principal's office. (Doesn't that just say something about me and my personality?)

When I first noticed the return address I had to think about my recent activity and consider if I had done anything that would get me into trouble. Then I remembered that I wrote them a letter asking about an issue based on a recent article (and no, I don't feel like digging back right now to link it here). But then I realized that I sent them the question via e-mail, so knew it couldn't be a response to that.

Being the pro-active sort of person that I am, I decided to suspend speculation and just open it.

To my surprise, and delight, it was a letter to all the delegates for the upcoming National Convention (somehow, don't ask me how, I was elected as a delegate this year).

They have taken the wonderful initiative of sending out ballots well ahead of time. (I'll avoid mentioning that the suggested deadline for sending in mail-in ballots is two days from now, after all, it's the thought that counts and I'm sure if I were in charge of this, the deadline would have been 2 weeks before I got around to sending it out)

The reason that this was done was so that the delegates could be reminded to consider their votes in advance. As this is a subject that is very dear to my heart, I am elated to see this. While it may have been done in the past, or may even be done in other communities, this is the first I have heard of it.

And so I have carefully read the letter, and naturally have a few comments.

The first, interestingly enough, is about the very end of the letter. They say, and I hope I'm not violating any sort of copyright or privacy issues, the following:
As a delegate, you are called upon to fulfill the essential duty to "...exercise not only the vital and responsible right of electing the National Assembly, but... also fulfill the functions of an enlightened, consultative and co-operative body that will enrich the experience, enhance the prestige, support the authority, and assist the deliberations of the National Spiritual Assembly".
I must say that I am humbled by the thought of this.

But more than that, I am reminded that this also applies to the station of the Annual Meeting in my own hometown. As I often say, if it works on the macro-scale, I believe that it works on the micro-scale, too. We are all, in a sense, delegates when we attend our own Annual Meeting on that first day of Ridvan.

Too often, though, I have heard the friends talking about the Annual Meeting with new Baha'is, and they say that it is to get together and elect the local Spiritual Assembly. While that is true, it seems that we often forget the other part of it: to "fulfill the functions of an enlightened, consultative and co-operative body that will enrich the experience, enhance the prestige, support the authority, and assist the deliberations of the (local) Spiritual Assembly".

I may be out of line, but hey, this is only my own understanding, and it works for me.

In this letter, the National Spiritual Assembly refers to "the special responsibility you are being called to" and they encourage all the delegates to "prepare yourself for the sacred task..."

Isn't this how we should approach our Annual Meeting?

Now, I have to tell you, I'm something of a numbers guy. I look at trends and stastics and they seem to speak to me (no, not like the voices from the Concourse on High, sheesh). It seems to me very telling when I hear, year after year, in community after community, that something like 75% of the visible community (those members that we see at least once a year) cast a ballot, but only 10% attend the Annual Meeting. It seems to me that this shows we are very aware of the importance of casting our ballot, but may have a bit of work to do on understanding the other part of that "special responsibility", the other "function" of that "essential duty".

Maybe it comes down to that "congregational mindset" referred to by the Universal House of Justice. Too often I have heard people talk about letting the Assembly take care of things, but we just know that this is not what the Faith is about. The Guardian, himself, warned us that "Without (our) support, at once whole-hearted, continuous and generous, every measure adopted, and every plan formulated, by the body which acts as the national representative of the community to which (we) belong, is foredoomed to failure." And I think that support begins at the level of the Annual Meeting.

We have a very special duty, a sacred obligation, to partake in the consultation that arises at the Annual Meeting, to help it become more "enlightened". And the participation of each and every one of us will obviously "enrich the experience, enhance the prestige, support the authority, and assist the deliberations" of our Assembly. Even if we are not elected to that august body, we can still offer our views and insights. This can do nothing but help our institutions in their work.

Further to this, in the letter that I received, I was reminded "to vote for none but those whom prayer and reflection have inspired (me) to uphold." I am so happy that this quote is in there, for it is a solid reminder that all successful endeavours begin with prayer, and generally involve that inspiration.

Finally, they also offered 8 points to follow when filling out the ballot. While each of the points are straightforward and obvious, given a moment of thought, I am still glad that they are there. They have left nothing to chance. We are reminded to vote for only those Baha'is over 21, resident in the country, and not serving as a Counsellor. There are a few other simple guidelines, like being certain not to duplicate a name, and to write clearly and in block letters, but one point amused me.

Point number 4 says that we should do whatever we can to assist the tellers in recognizing who is being voted for, by not only writing down the full name, but "also any other identifying factor he or she may know". Now I understand what they mean, but somewhere in the depths of my twisted brain, probably arising from watching too many police dramas, I just imagine writing something like, "Jane Doe, resident of Small Town, has a little purple butterfly tatoo on her left shoulderblade, and likes pickled squid".

1 comment:

  1. Mead the last part of this made me laugh about the identifying factors! I too got my letter and noticed the same thing about the date, but that's okay as I am planning on attending the Convention for this main reason, but thanks for writing it out for me so I know what I'm doing!