A sense of community in the Waikato
After the North Island Regional Bahá'í Council set goals for the Waikato cluster to enable it to reach the third milestone by the end of the Plan, the Waikato District Spiritual Assembly took ownership of its share of goals. We are a small, widely scattered community, with a small number of children. In the past, we have tended to gravitate to Hamilton for children's classes and often other core activities. Acknowledging the need to create our own sense of neighbourhood has led our community to strive to develop its own identity and increase our own core activities.
Supported by the Spiritual Assembly, one Bahá'í mother launched children's classes in her home at the beginning of this school term. She lives in a small rural lifestyle community on the outskirts of Hamilton. A class, which began with four children, has already doubled in number, with others keen to join. Although the mother is the primary facilitator and instigator of the class, she is supported by members of the Assembly, who serve as helpers on the day, assist with the planning, and are available to reflect with her. It is a very holistic approach that draws on collective action in a seamless way.
Devotional meetings have also increased and we've had Holy Days this year where friends of the Faith have outnumbered us in a significant way. Some of these friends attend weekly devotional meetings and we see potential to extend our core activities to involve them further. We have also established a monthly community devotional meeting in Raglan where a very small pocket of Bahá'ís live. Our aim is to foster an all-embracing sense of community spiritual life.
The goals set by the Regional Bahá'í Council, together with the appointment of a cluster institute coordinator, has helped us expand our involvement in Ruhi books, either through serving as tutors or attending study classes. And as our Assembly acknowledges its own need to grow and mature, it has committed to a collective study of Book 10, Unit 2: Consultation.
We work hard to create that very essential unity of spirit and take inspiration from each others' efforts and sacrifices. For instance, one couple has been working with a Tongan family for five years. A friendship developed after the family participated in social and economic activities facilitated by the Bahá'í couple. The father is a former Christian minister. The children have attended junior youth programmes and associated activities. Reciting prayers and reading the Holy Writings in Tongan is seen as a good way for the children to become fluent in their mother tongue. Devotional meetings have become a regular weekly activity where time is also given to sharing spiritual insights, reflecting on them, and consulting together. The practice of shared learning, listening to others' thoughts and offering opinions is outside the cultural realm of the family who, in traditional Tongan Christian society, are not afforded these opportunities. The devotional meeting format is opening up a new world to the family, who also attend the occasional cluster reflection meeting and Holy Days. After attending bicentenary events last year, the family is now studying Book 1. The Bahá'í couple nurture the friendships they have with other Tongan families, largely through systematic home visits.