He Raranga Hou boosts collaboration and action
The National Teaching Conference, He Raranga Hou, gave its participants a new glimpse into a world-embracing vision. It also gave them powerful resources to strengthen their efforts locally. Two venues hosted the conference, one in Auckland and the other in Christchurch, over the weekend of 24-26 May.
Convened at an auspicious time, the conference aimed to provide a welcoming environment for all friends—new and veteran, young and old, from every locality—to consider the opportunity that exists in this bicentennial period, to strengthen vision, to intensify efforts, and to return to local communities with specific plans of action.
In their planning and learning, participants were galvanised by awareness of how special and potent is the present time leading up to the bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb. They were also encouraged by astute insights from representatives of the Continental Board of Counsellors, the National Spiritual Assembly, and the Regional Bahá’í Councils. Listen here for Counsellor Tessa Scrine’s opening comments on Day 2 of the conference in the North Island.
By the end of the weekend, the friends were ready to go back to their communities with plans in hand for intensifying their efforts. Meanwhile, institutions and agencies are striving to ensure that all the friends who were inspired to arise in service to their communities are accompanied in their endeavours.
The programme provided opportunities for small groups of friends to study and consult together, and to come up with definite ideas on what they can do to support the work of the Plan. The programme structure enabled individuals not only to perceive the comprehensive vision of the Plan in its world-embracing scope, but also to form new teams, strengthen existing teams, or collaborate as a “nucleus of friends” focused on a particular area and sharing the same social reality. The format resembled that which the Universal House of Justice established for the youth conferences in 2013.
For youth and adults, programme materials focused on the purpose of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation, the concept of weaving together worship and service, the importance of ensuring the progress of all communities, creating spiritually vibrant neighbourhoods and towns, the spiritual empowerment of youth and their whanau, and our spiritual whakapapa and destiny. The friends are encouraged to continue using these materials in local settings which can be downloaded here.
For children and junior youth, themes included service to others, and stories from the life of the Báb. The children and junior youth sessions were run by a team of trained friends from Australia who travelled to New Zealand as volunteers for the purpose, thus enabling New Zealand friends who would have taught these classes to participate fully in the programme.
For all age groups, the arts featured prominently, integrated into both plenary sessions and group work.
Some of the early fruits of the conference include:
22 clusters have multiple activities planned
Over 50 new devotional meetings pledged
Over 10 new children’s classes pledged
Over 20 new study circles pledged
Over 10 new junior youth groups pledged
One cluster has set a goal of focusing on home visits
A tutor encounter has been held
A few “post-conference” gatherings have been held for institutions and agencies to analyse progress and determine next steps
Following the conference, the Regional Councils sent letters to the friends in their region, expressing their ardent hopes that the momentum generated by the conference will reinforce a shared vision, and our individual and collective efforts to serve the Faith and transform our communities.
“It has now been a month since our National Teaching Conference - He Raranga Hou”, wrote the South Island Regional Council to the friends in the South Island “and this Feast would be a great opportunity for members of your community to share the impact the Conference may have had on them personally. It would also be interesting to hear any stories of the strengthening of current activities or of new activities that have been started since the Conference. This sharing could help maintain the enthusiasm and momentum built at the Conference, and inspire and encourage others in their efforts to serve the Faith. One of the objectives of He Raranga Hou was to ‘enthuse and excite us, embed us with a strong sense of mission to arise to teach individually and collectively.”
In the North Island, the Regional Bahá’í Council wrote that it “was overjoyed to witness the spirit that permeated the gathering of friends from across the North Island at our National Bahá’í Teaching Conference — He Raranga Hou. The spirit generated through a wonderful weekend of diverse artistic expressions, study, reflection on action and the sharing of pertinent learning concluded with a collective renewal of commitment to our shared vision of contributing to the transformation of our communities. In the weeks following the conference, we have seen this spirit being diffused across the region with vigour and vitality. We see increasing consciousness of the spiritual forces at work in these two critical cycles that are drawing us nearer to another momentous milestone in the history of our Faith: the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb.”
The conference in the South Island drew attendance from almost half the Bahá’í population of the island, and the presence, contribution and encouragement of Counsellor Taraz Nadarajah, was invaluable. The North Island conference attracted around 700 participants, and was similarly blessed by Counsellor Tessa Scrine’s presence. The long-term results are incalculable, from the mingling of many friends in unity, their engagement in vision-expanding study, and to their collaboration in planning their joint contributions to the forward march of the Cause. For those who were not able to participate in the conference, your role in contributing to teaching the Faith, building community, and celebrating the bicentenary is also much needed and valued.