Celebrating the Twin Holy Birthdays
From study of the Riḍván message at the outset of the year, many institutions, agencies, families and individuals were alert to the opportunity to begin preparing for the Twin Holy Days*, in light of experience from last year’s bicentenary celebrations. For some Assemblies, this required sustained focus across multiple meetings throughout the year, reflecting carefully on what had been experienced and what adjustments could be explored this year.
Then on 1 June 2018, the Universal House of Justice shared further guidance on how the eight cycles between the bicentennial anniversaries should be seen as a “season of intensive activity” in which the “main focus” and “greatest share of effort” would be to fulfill the objectives of the Five Year Plan. And crucially, a tremendous stimulus to these efforts would be provided by the bicentennial celebrations and this year’s observance of the Twin Holy Days.
For the bicentenary Festival of 174 B.E. (2017), as well as the recently observed Twin Holy Birthdays, there have been several key areas of learning:
· How to encourage the flourishing of activity at the local level
· How to ensure that the friends who participate can experience how worship and service are woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá'ís
· How each person who responds to an invitation can be perceived and lovingly nurtured as protagonists in the process of community building
· How to inspire the efflorescence of artistic expression arising from profound reflection on the appearance of the two Manifestations of God in quick succession
· How to cultivate the spirit of initiative among individuals, families and teams
Below are some examples of how communities continued to advance these areas of learning in their observance of the Twin Holy Days.
*The Birth of the Báb was 9 November 2018 and the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, 10 November 2018
Western Bay of Plenty - A small group of friends gathered at a home in Pongakawa for an afternoon of devotions and creativity. After an introduction on the appearance of the Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, the group meditated on selections of Writings on the themes of light and love. Then, as shared by these friends, “We had a lovely relaxing afternoon tea while we made beeswax drip candles and used drift wood as candle holders.”
Invercargill - The Local Assembly shared that “For the month of October we had dawn prayers in rotating households including the home of a friend of the Faith, followed by breakfast. These were held once a week and the prayers were dedicated to the Twin Birthday efforts. For the first week of November we had celebrations to celebrate the Birthdays hosted by different families in the community, each day of the week -each time trying to invite different friends to come and celebrate. Each celebration was slightly different, but always had a lot of food! All the celebrations accumulated into one big celebration that the Local Spiritual Assembly organised and was held on the 10th of November. This one was more publicised and an event made on Facebook to invite more people beyond our circle of friends. There was a lot of food and dancing on the day as well as a beautiful devotional programme and explanation of the significance of the Twin Birthdays. As follow-up we are hoping to do Book 1 with one family that attended, as well as [foster] an ongoing friendship (inviting them to activities) as well as involving their children in a junior youth group and children’s classes. Another family that attended the Holy Days is currently doing Book 1 and our goal is to finish Book 4 before the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh.”
Avondale, Auckland - “On the Monday before the Twin Holy Birthdays, we invited some of our neighbours to join us for a potluck dinner and devotions to celebrate. We visited them and contacted them the week before and we decorated the house to create a festive and joyous atmosphere. Three families came and celebrated with us with a total of 7 adults and 7 children. Overall it was a lovely space to get to know each other and we hope to create a regular devotional meeting in our home that we can invite the families to.”
Avondale kindergarten, Auckland - “We shared to the teachers beforehand that the Bahá’ís all over the world are celebrating for the Birth of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, the Twin Manifestation of God. As we celebrate, we would like to offer service to the children by teaching them a song about unity as this is Bahá’u’lláh's message to the world. On the 9th of November, we taught the children "We are Drops" and explored the meaning of unity and shared with them the importance of the celebration. The teachers and the children enjoyed the song and asked us to come back and continue teaching the song.”
In Waipa, the community gathered for celebration on a marae. They held devotions, shared stories of the life of the Báb, and viewed a short excerpt from A Widening Embrace. Demonstrating the correlation of worship and service, they also showed a slide presentation of current community building activities in Waipa. One friend also celebrated with a morning tea in the workplace.
In Hastings, the friends held four gatherings, including devotions with drumming at sunset, a viewing of the film the Gate, a gathering at the children’s class venue to share about the Life of Bahá’u’lláh, and a kotahitanga celebration in a park which resulted in 19 children being signed up for a children’s class. Most of the families of these children have since received follow-up visits from a team participating in the Summer Initiative.
Palmerston North - From efforts to hold an evening barbecue, a public gathering at the golf course, and dawn devotions in the public square, the friends have established an additional devotional gathering as well as a movie night.
Christchurch - Two celebrations were held where the friends enjoyed vibrant arts including dancing and singing from different cultures, a short talk, a dramatic play, visual arts and games.
Whangarei - In one Bahá’í household, devotions and lunch were held and it is hoped that some follow-up visits can be made in the near future to the homes of some work colleagues who had been invited, but didn't attend. Another Bahá’í household hosted devotions and dinner, and a couple of Bahá’í families and their extended family attended. Three children brought treats to school and shared about the significance of the day with their classmates. One person had a friend over, had dinner, prayers and talked about the Holy Day. A beach clean up happened on another weekend as a service project.
Dunedin - A screening of Light to the World was held.
Masterton - “There was a small gathering to celebrate the Birth of the Báb, where the documentary 'The Gate’ was shared and some very interesting conversations followed. Then we had Dawn Prayers on the Saturday morning, followed by celebrating the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh that evening with a hangi to which the kapahaka group and their families from the Kura were invited. Many conversations were had and the short introduction on who Bahá’u’lláh is and why we celebrate His birth. Some selected prayers read and sung in Te Reo and English were well-received by the families and children. Then on the Sunday, devotions and a community celebration were hosted by recent Book 1 graduates, sharing prayers, songs and their experiences of what they'd studied/learned over the past cycle. The group (of 3 participants + 1 tutor) will follow on to Book 2 in the new year - yay!”