Friday, October 3, 2014

Unity Feasts

I love my community. I said that at a recent gathering in Vancouver for all members of Local Spiritual Assemblies in British Columbia. I love them, I said. They're wacky.

"Last year", I announced at the microphone, "we celebrated 19 Feasts and are so proud of our achievement that this year we decided to see if we could celebrate 23."

And you know what? It's true.

As you are no doubt aware, the Baha'i Feast is reserved for members of the Baha'i community in good standing. Why? Well, to put it simply, it's because that is the time in which we have free and open consultation on the affairs of the community. It is sort of like a family meeting. As the Universal House of Justice has said, the Feast is "an entirely private religious and domestic occasion for the Baha'i community when its internal affairs are discussed and its members meet for personal fellowship and worship." It is "essentially domestic and administrative", and "No great issue should be made of it for there is certainly nothing secret about the Feast but it is organized for Baha'is only." And while we would "certainly not invite a non-Baha'i to attend", if someone does show up who is not a member of the Baha'i community, we would, of course, make them feel welcome.

In our community, as I'm sure you have seen in your own, there are a number of families in which one spouse is a Baha'i, and the other is not. This, of course, has led to some concerns, most of which were addressed in that letter from the Universal House of Justice a few years ago

We hope to be ever more open, while still being obedient to the guidance.

And so, in our community the question came up, once again, about having a Unity Feast. After all, we all know the importance of the Feast, and how we find ourselves "spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world." We know that is brings "bliss and unity and love", that it "rejoiceth mind and heart". How could we not want our loved family members to attend?

But the rules regarding attendance are still there.

So we looked at it again. We really wanted to see what the guidance was, and if there was any wiggle room that we could find,

While still being obedient, of course.

We looked at many Writings. We looked at lots of guidance. We looked at all sorts of aspects, from the three parts of the Feast to the guidance that the while non-Baha'is may be there for the devotional and social portion, those two parts are still considered part of the Feast and we would, of course, never think to invite someone who is not Baha'i. We even looked at the guidance about how if someone outside the community shows up, we could still have the administrative portion, given that most everything we discuss is not confidential in nature.

But still we could not invite.

And then we focused. Our attention was drawn to the line, "Feasts should be held on the first day of the Baha'i month, if possible."

What, we wondered, if we hold the Feast on another day? But it should be on the first day.

But what about a Unity Feast? No guidance there.

Hey! What if we have our Feast on the first day of the month, and a Unity Feast on another?

You mean, like a public meeting? No. A Feast. It would be modeled on the Feast, and follow all the guidance of a Feast, and the agenda of a Feast, but it would be on another day, and open to all.

Oh yeah, and then we can have a topic for consultation that is relevant to the greater community. We can see what others think about, for example, fostering the devotional character of the community.

And so, dear Reader, our community has set a goal for 23 Feasts this year. 19 regular Feasts, and 4 Unity Feasts, the first of which is this evening.

So how about you? Is this something that would be useful in your community? I'd love to hear your thoughts or experience.

1 comment:

  1. We are a small community (15 adults and 4 children/youths) and our assembly has decided to hold unity feasts instead of 19 day feasts for the past few years whenever it seamed to help the community grow. So 2 or 3 times a year - usually during an expansion phase we have a unity feast where we actually invite friends and relatives.