Seeing in each person... a potential protagonist
“We urge you to see in each person who responded to your invitation [to the Bicentennial celebrations] a potential protagonist in the community-building process.” Universal House of Justice, 31 Oct 2017
Over the past year the friends in Invercargill have been focused on strengthening the process of expansion and consolidation that was stimulated by the bicentenary celebrations of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh in 2017, which were attended by 50 friends. A promising sign of the growth that has been built since this time is the capacity to reach out to others, with 70 friends attending the same Holy Day celebrations in 2018. Following up systematically with those that attended these events has been a goal for the friends, leading to a number of home visits and conversations about the Faith and invitations extended to study the first of the sequence of Ruhi courses. These home visits have now resulted in 8 young friends participating in the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme and also connected the group with three new families all of whom attended a Holy Day celebration. These families also have children, and a team is forming to strengthen both the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme and the programme for the spiritual education of children—to provide for the needs of these families. This core team of tutors is aware of the need to deepen the parents through the main sequence of Ruhi institute courses, though creative strategies will be needed to form study circles suited to the reality of busy parents with children of all ages.
“there must emerge … a growing band of believers who can maintain, with those around them, a sustained focus on nurturing growth and building capacity, and who are distinguished by their ability and their discipline to reflect on action and learn from experience.” Ridván 2018
The Local Spiritual Assembly has been stimulating the growth of the cluster by meeting fortnightly to reflect on the recent Universal House of Justice messages, plan for teaching, as well as overseeing the administrative affairs of the community with vigilance. The cluster institute coordinator has developed the cluster reflection meetings by increasing awareness of the nature of cycles, widening the circle of those participating, implementing meaningful use of up to date statistics, and drawing out the experiences of the friends engaging in meaningful conversation with their neighbours and friends. This has allowed the reality of the cluster and each neighbourhood to be better articulated each cycle, and has widened the circle of those participating in study circles, devotional meetings, the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme and the programme for the spiritual education of children.
An important focus has been learning how to engage with whole families in the institute process and its related activities. Instead of inviting individual junior youth, children or parents to activities, capacity is being developed to explore the vision and practicality of the transformative power of Bahá’u’lláh's teachings through conversations. At the same time, we are constantly building capacity as individuals and as a community to participate and accompany others effectively in the activities of the Five Year Plan. To assist in this regard the core group of friends who are facilitating activities has made an extra effort to continue through the sequence beginning with Ruhi Book 8 with the goal of finishing Book 10, while at the same time working to form study circles with others in Books 1 to 7. Those facilitating activities have reached out to others and now each activity has a team of some four friends who offer mutual support and accompaniment to ensure the integrity of the activities and to build capacity in others, creating a culture of walking a path of service side by side. This same group is working systematically to move through the material of the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme and the grades of the curriculum for the spiritual education of children.