Feast - non Bahá’ís

The beloved Guardian has instructed me to write you concerning an action recently taken by your National Assembly, as published in your January-February Bahá’í News, that non-Bahá’ís may attend Nineteen Day Feasts if "the earnestness of their interest in the Faith" is vouched for by a declared believer. The Guardian wishes me to direct your attention to the fact that none of the institutions of the Faith nor its cardinal principles may be changed under any circumstances. The Nineteen Day Feast is an institution of the Cause, first established by the Báb, later confirmed by Bahá’u’lláh, and now made a prominent part of the administrative order of the Faith. These Nineteen Day Feasts are for the Bahá’ís, and the Bahá’ís exclusively, and no variation from this principle is permitted. Thus the Guardian feels you should rescind the action taken by your Assembly in opening the Feasts to "near Bahá’ís", as it is not consistent with the spirit of the administrative order for non-Bahá’ís or near Bahá’ís to attend the Nineteen Day Feasts, particularly the administrative portion of the Feast. The Guardian realizes that the spirit which animated you in making the suggested proposal, in order that the teaching work might go forward more aggressively; but he feels in the long run it would be detrimental to the Faith, and therefore should be rescinded as indicated above.

Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 443

A similar approach to the administrative portion may be adopted when the Feast is celebrated in the home of a family with some members who are not Bahá’ís. As part of planning these occasions, careful thought must be given, on the one hand, to the requisites of hospitality and love, and, on the other, to those of confidentiality and unfettered discussion on important and sensitive subjects. The Local Assembly, in consultation with the believers who have such relatives, should endeavour to find a satisfactory way to resolve each situation that arises.

Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 17 May 2009

Although it is generally understood that only members of the Bahá’í community and visiting Bahá’ís from other localities may attend Nineteen Day Feasts, the question is frequently asked whether persons close to the Faith and non-Bahá’í members of Bahá’í families might not be permitted to attend if they leave the room during the consultation period. It is sometimes argued that this privilege will bring these persons closer to the Faith and will dispel any feeling that there are "secrets" in the Faith. Bahá’ís should be able to take the necessary time to consult about plans and activities within their community. When visitors are excluded during consultation and are waiting to re-enter the room, the believers, from a sense of courtesy, feel obliged to hurry through the business and cut short the consultation so that their guests may not be kept waiting too long. Concentration on the essential aspects of the Feast is dissipated and sociability becomes the dominant factor. The friends should be sensitive to this and should refrain from inviting non-Bahá’í family members or seekers to any portion of the Feast.

Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities

Bahá’í communities have come to use the term "Unity Feast" to indicate events which resemble a Nineteen Day Feast but in which the administrative portion is not conducted due to the presence of non-Bahá’ís or because it is being jointly celebrated by more than one community. It is important to note that such an event is purely social and enjoys no special station in Bahá’í community life. A Unity Feast cannot take the place of a Nineteen Day Feast, an Institution of the Faith, which includes the administrative portion as an essential element. It is not quite correct to say that a Nineteen Day Feast is changed into a Unity Feast as a result of the presence of non-Bahá’ís. What can happen is that the consultative portion of the Feast has to be postponed. . . . If it is decided to postpone part or all of the consultative portion of the Feast, the House of Justice states that it is within the discretion of the Local Spiritual Assembly to decide whether another meeting should be held during the Bahá’í month to complete it, or whether it can be postponed until the following Nineteen Day Feast.

Universal House of Justice, NSA-USA: Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities

Concerning your inquiry asking if children under fifteen of non- Bahá’í parents could attend Nineteen Day Feasts or other events held exclusively for Bahá’ís when the children consider themselves as Bahá’ís, such children may be permitted to attend Bahá’í functions provided their parents have given their consent. This applies only, of course, to children under the age of fifteen years.

Universal House of Justice, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities

During the period of consultation the Bahá’ís should be able to enjoy perfect freedom to express their views on the work of the Cause, unembarrassed by the feeling that all they are saying is being heard by someone who has not accepted Bahá’u’lláh and who might, thereby, gain a very distorted picture of the Faith. It would also be very embarrassing for any sensitive non-Bahá’í to find himself plunged into the midst of a discussion of the detailed affairs of the Bahá’í Community of which he is not a part.

Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 240