Wednesday, December 29, 2010

28 December 2010 - Take 2

As with every major message from the World Centre, there is a model of behaviour that I think we can all try to model. The first thing that they do, and this message is no different, is that they reflect back to us what we have already accomplished. Quite often they point out to us some salient things of which we ourselves are often unaware.

Once they do this, once they make sure that we are all on the same page, recognizing where we have come from, they give us guidance about where we need to go and what we need to do to get there.

This letter, as we would expect, follows the same format.

So what have we done recently?

To start, they begin by reminding us that it was 15 years ago at a previous conference for the Continental Boards of Counsellors that they first intimated the course we were to take as a global community for the next 25 years, until the centenary of the Master's passing.

They then ask the Counsellors to carefully consider how they "and their auxiliaries will assist the community in building on its extraordinary achievements". Now let's face it, I'm not a Counsellor nor an Auxiliary Board member nor even an assistant to one of the members of the Auxiliary Board. It would be very easy for me to say that this doesn't apply to me. My life could be so much simpler if I said that. But I can't.

This message, although not addressed to all of us, was sent to all of us. Why? Two reasons that I can think of. First, to be completely transparent in the affairs of the Faith. Even little old me, off in the far corners of Canada, has some idea of what is happening in the World Centre right now, as I type. And second, so that we all can study this guidance "with such diligence" and "strive to put into practice the guidance received". (See? I told you that paragraph 37 would guide my own study of this message.)

There is something else, though, that really stands out for me. They point out that we are building on achievements that we have already accomplished. We're not just starting from scratch. We have done a lot, even though it may not necessarily seem so from our own local perspective.

Just in case we are not certain about these achievements, they then go on to explicitly tell us what those were, and how to further them.

The first of these is how the mode of learning that has so often been stressed now needs to move beyond the teaching work and into other spheres of activity. In other words, we have made wonderful strides in our ability to learn about learning, but we now have to carry that further.

The second is that we need to learn more about the coherency between the various activities we are doing, such as the core activities. In other words, we are doing these various activities, which is a great accomplishment, but we have to see them more as parts of a whole, as opposed to separate activities that stand on their own.

The third is that we have to dramatically increase the number of people who are "alive to the vision of the Faith" and "are labouring so assiduously in pursuit of its God-given mission." Make no mistake: people are enrolling in the Faith, and others who aren't enrolling are still helping out with our activities. This needs to increase.

After outlining this, they then draw our attention back to the Ridvan message and how it is there that they "described the dynamics of the process of learning that... has steadily gathered momentum". If we're unsure about this dynamic, that is where we should look to learn more.

But just in case we are disappointed in the 3, 5, or maybe even 10 souls who have gone through Book 1 in the past year in our own home cluster (or hundred if we're in a really dynamic cluster), they remind us not to look at only our own area. Our vision is too short-sighted if we do that. Instead, they point out the truly huge number of people who have taken Book 1: 350,000. This has dramatically increased our "capacity to shape a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character". Now that our capacity has increased, which is measurable by this statistic, we need to act on it. We should see a concomitant rise in the number of devotional gatherings, for example.

The number of children's classes has nearly doubled, now sitting at around 130,000. Junior youth groups have seen a six-fold increase worldwide. Study circles are now seeing 500,000 participants at any given time, and the number of friends capable of tutoring has increased to 70,000. Beyond this, the friends are now ready to enter into spiritual conversations with anyone, and are eager to explore reality in a manner that gives rise to a shared understanding of the importance of this day, as well as humanity's needs and effective means for addressing the problems facing all of us. Wow. This is all amazing.

Finally, in paragraph 3, they once more remind us of the nearly limitless potential for the training institute. Strengthening it is an on-going, and vital, aim of our efforts. The cluster, in which we are all working, gives us a simpler way in which to think about how to facilitate the growth of the Faith in a small geographic region. And this gives clearer focus to the implementation of our practices in the Ruhi Books, which, in turn, allows us to make more reasonable plans for the near future.

They go into far more detail in the next couple of paragraphs, which I'll write more about separately.

What really stands out though, is that we have come a long way in just the past few years. While this is very obvious in some areas, we should never for a moment be disappointed if we don't see it clearly, for the Universal House of Justice does, and they are reflecting back what they are privileged to see.

I'm just glad for the opportunity to see it through their eyes.

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