Friday, December 31, 2010

28 December 2010 - Take 4

While it is fairly easy to make a few cursory comments here and there on this letter, I am far more interested in looking at what the overall spirit of the letter is, and how we can act upon it.

When I get to paragraph six, I feel like I am beginning to get a sense of community. In other words, I now get the sense that I am moving from the question of "What can I do" to "What can we do".

The beginning of this letter really spoke to me about how I can make a start in the teaching field, given the circumstances of my own life. (Oh, and I am going to speak as if it is all from my own point of view, but in fact what I am doing is synthesizing a number of stories I have heard into something fairly coherent that kind of ties most of these stories together.) It also seemed to speak of the support I can give to others as they begin to take similar steps (or maybe even some of the support I might receive in turn).

But now, with paragraph six, something seems to shift. There seem to be a number of individuals that are doing things, all of whom (or at least more than just a couple) are seeing some modicum of success. And it is the spirit that is generated by this that now lends "its influence on the course of events." What is this spirit? Well, I think it is the sense of purpose that we get when we begin to see things moving in the direction we hope to go. We are no longer a group of individuals doing whatever it is that catches our particular fancy. We are now a group of people all moving in a common direction, although we may each be taking a slightly different path to get there.

This is where the coordination of activities begins to really help.

I remember one time when I had hoped to start a Book 1 group (it's actually someone else, but just humour me here), but found that I was unable to commit the time. It was only because there was an Area Coordinator who was aware of the other study groups starting that I was able to suggest that this one individual join another group.

This, to me, was a marvelous example of how the work of the Faith in a given area required the position of a Coordinator. In this particular case, it happened to be a coordinator for the Training Institute, but as the Universal House of Justice points out, in some other clusters, the needed coordinator may be coordinating something else, like children's classes.

This example also helped elevate, for me, the work that I was doing. It was no longer something that I was just doing on my own in my own little area, but was really part of a global enterprise. My own meager efforts were able to help support someone else's study circle, just as some other people's efforts, later on, helped support my own.

But now, with paragraph seven, something new is energing. And once again, I find it useful to look at my own experience.

The way it happened for me is that I was just going about my own business, doing my own thing, when the occassional person would come to a devotional gathering, or perhaps accept an invitation into a study circle. I would be overjoyed, and hope, or even pray, that something similar would happen again.

As the years have gone by, we have all gone to reflection meetings in our clusters, generally out of obedience. I didn't really know why we were having them, but I accepted it as part of the new paradigm, and just went with it.

Now, more years later, I realize the importance of them, and have turned around and begun to reflect on all my activities.

In paragraph seven, they seem to suggest we do it the other way around.

Do some stuff, and then reflect on it. Learn what worked well, and do more of it. Learn what didn't work too well, and try something else.

When we begin to work in teams, or small groups, we can reflect as a team. When there are a number of teams in a cluster, it is only natural to reflect upon all of our work together. This eventually becomes the Reflection Meeting, capitalized here due to its importance. Of course, for a good Reflection Meeting, you would need an Area Teaching Committee, or a Cluster Growth Committee, along with an Area Coordinator and an Auxiliary Board member, to put it together. Besides, by the time the Reflection Meeting is needed, this administrative structure would already be in place, having been needed for a while.

As we do this, and learn from our actions, we discover that our teaching has a natural rhythm to it, which becomes our cycles of growth.

Pretty cool, eh? (I'm Canadian. Gotta throw in an 'eh' every now and then.)

And how do we know this is all developing appropriately? Because of our Auxiliary Board members and our Baha'i Councils. They have a clearer overall vision, and can see when the trends in any particular cluster are moving in this direction. With close collaboration, and lots of loving communication, these decisions are made not for the sake of form, but because they meet the needs of the people living in the cluster.

These structures, and this administration, are not something that are developed to keep us busy, or for their own sake, but are really conducive to further developing the relationships between the friends and helping them be more effective in their work. For more information on this, the Universal House of Justice directs our attention, once more, back to the Ridvan Message.

Of course, as all of this grows and develops, it has its own impact on the previously existing administrative structures, such as the local Spiritual Assembly. They remind us that all of our activities are done "with a humble attitude of learning" and that every task we do and every interaction we have can be seen "as an occassion to join hands in the pursuit of progress and to accompany one another in (our) efforts to serve the Cause."

Then, quite importantly, they point out an outcome of this. When we try to learn from everything we do, and see all of our work as an opportunity to work together, to support each other, a number of pitfalls are avoided. We will no longer tend to over instruct, nor will we be tempted "to reduce a complex process of transformation into simplistic steps". There are no steps. Or more accurately, there are no "correct" steps, and by implication no "wrong" ones, either. It's no longer about going from A to B to C. It's about taking a step and seeing what the next step in front of us is.

When we do this, when we recognize that the direction is clear, but the path is unique, then "even the smallest of steps is endowed with meaning" and we become far more aware of the "operation of spiritual forces".

And finally, they remind us that "the bonds of friendship" are of extreme importance. They are, as the Universal House of Justice says, "vital to a healthy pattern of growth". These bonds are not just a good idea, or merely a pleasant thing: they are essential to this process. And they're wonderful, too. After all, what would the Faith be without the friendships?

Hmm. Speaking of friendships, it's time for my family and I to go across the way to a friend's party. (You really gotta love a Faith that puts the importance on the friendships.)

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