Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ridvan Message, Take 9

I can hear you now, dear Reader. "Ridvan message? But it's December!" Yes, that's true, but it's still relevant, isn't it? And yes, I know that we'll probably be receiving another community-shaking message when the Counsellors meet in the Holy Land.

But until then, there are only 5 more months left of this 5-Year Plan. Just a few short months left to "strengthen the pattern of expansion and consolidation... in preparation for the tasks" we will soon be called to do.

And what are those tasks that we will be called to try and accomplish? I'm sure I don't know, but you can bet your little pet bunny that it will be centred around advancing the process of entry by troops.

So, until we receive a copy of that message that will surely guide the Counsellors in their deliberations at the end of this month, it seems prudent to me to re-visit this past Ridvan message in light of the experience we have gained in the past few months.

As I re-read the first few pages from the Universal House of Justice, I was particularly struck in the second paragraph by their recognition and appreciation of our ability to "converse with others on spiritual matters and to speak with ease about the Person of Baha'u'llah and His Revelation." But I had to ask myself, "Can I really do this? Can I speak with ease in this manner?" If I can, well and good. But if not, then it is an indication that this is something to work on, for it will surely be a tool to use in the future. So, if I don't have this skill, how can I acquire it? If I do, how can I improve it? The answer to both of these questions lies in the Ruhi Books, especially books 2 and 6. With the assistance of a skilled tutor, I will be able to increase my capacity in this area. (Thanks, o tutors of mine.)

Then I moved on to paragraph 3, with its references to teaching campaigns. Do I really understand that a teaching campaign establishes "ties of friendship, on the basis of shared understanding"? Is this how I view it? If so, how does this understanding impact my work in my neighbourhood? Or how does it change my input into consultation on community teaching plans at a reflection meeting?

Looking back over the past few months, it is clear to me (isn't hindsight wonderful) that the most effective plans have had this awareness at their core. We are recognizing that when we truly develop friendships, everything else falls in to place. With friendships comes concern and care. As we grow to be truly concerned about these new friends, we naturally invite them to pray with us. We take a more active interest in their children. We are far more aware of their needs and their heartfelt desires, and we can respond to them in a more appropriate manner. It is through this caring and loving friendship that we naturally devote more time to working with them. And the work we do with them is actually with them, not for them.

Here I find that I have a new appreciation for the numbers we see in the cluster growth profiles. We do not track the number of children's classes because that number is important, in and of itself. No. We track it, because it helps measure our involvement in the spiritual life of our community. You see, if we discover that the number of children's classes has plateaued, the solution is not necessarily to have a campaign focussed on starting more children's classes. Instead, it is to help raise the awareness of the importance of providing for "classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children" so that we think about them more readily when we are engaged in conversations with our friends about their own children.

It is through this awareness, and seeing these tools as the means to address the needs of our dearly loved friends, that the core activities will increase in a fully sustainable manner.

When our newly established friends, or even our old ones, are crying out in desperate need for help, we should naturally turn to prayer for assistance from on high. Through the solace offered in these devotional gatherings, we will find that many of our friends will be attracted, returning more and more often. Some may even seek out more prayer gatherings, or start their own. A few may even want to know more about the spirit that animates our devotional gatherings, and we can offer Book 1 as an explanation.

Whatever way we find ourselves moving, it is the friendships that will steer our course of what we do, for then we are responding to the needs of the community, instead of looking for people who happen to fit into the activities we wish to host.

And out of all these activities, some will arise to work with us. There is nothing quite as encourging as having a friend join you, or support you, in your work. We will surely find some who will want to "participate in the proccess of community buidling" with us.

But here, in paragraph 6, we find ourselves at a fork in the road. "In cluster after cluster where an intensive programme of growth is now in operation..." Do we, in our cluster, have an intensive programme of growth? Oh, and I don't mean, "Are we an A-cluster" or "Are we launching our IPG?" Neither of those are the same as actually having one. Those two mean that we have all the pieces we need in place, but do not yet have the practical experience of sustaining our work.

No. An intensive programme of growth implies that we have growth, either through an increase in the number of people in the community of interest, the number of core activities, or in enrollments. Preferably, we would have growth in all three areas.

If we are regularly seeing this growth, then the next step before us is "to teach within one or more receptive populations". In other words, we have the tools, and we have some skill in using them effectively. Now let's focus our use of them on a single point, start a fire, and see what happens.

If not, if we are only seeing the occassional increase of one or two people in core activities, a slow fluctuation of activities with a regular but small increase, or an enrollment or two here and there, let's not be discouraged. Any increase is good. We can focus on what is working, and try to learn how to better it. Even if we don't have any signs of growth yet, it means that we have eliminated one option that is not working, so even that is good, as long as we are willing to learn and try to move forward.

But if either of these are the case, it may not be timely to go looking for a receptive population, for our need at the moment is to better learn how to sustain and increase. If we don't know how to do this with a small population, it will only be that much more difficult with larger numbers.

So, for myself, in these last few months of this plan, I will be striving to learn more about how to make friends in my neighbourhood and inviting them to join me in those activities that seem to suit their needs.

Oh, and I'll also finish re-reading the rest of the Ridvan message and sharing my few thoughts here.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome insights Mead. I liked how you discussed an intensive programme of growth. Friendships are so wonderful for everyone!