Community Building

Conscious of their high calling, aware of the potentialities with which their homelands have been endowed, these communities, placing their reliance on the all-conquering power of Bahá’u’lláh must unitedly arise, however numerous the barriers imposed between them, to achieve their destiny, and contribute collectively and effectively, to the world-wide propagation, the universal recognition and ultimate world triumph of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p. 148

If the friends persist in their efforts to learn the ways and methods of community building in small settings in this way, the long-cherished goal of universal participation in the affairs of the Faith will, we are certain, move by several orders of magnitude within grasp.

Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2010

In an environment of love and trust born of common belief, practice, and mission, individuals of different races will have the intimate connection of heart and mind upon which mutual understanding and change depend. As a result of their training and deepening, a growing number of believers will draw insights from the Writings to sensitively and effectively address issues of racial prejudice that arise within their personal lives and families, among community members, and in social settings and the workplace. As programs of growth advance and the scope and intensity of activities grow, the friends will be drawn into participation in conversations and, in time, initiatives for social action at the grassroots where issues pertaining to freedom from prejudice naturally emerge, whether directly or indirectly.

Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 10 April 10 2011

In every cluster, once a consistent pattern of action is in place, attention needs to be given to extending it more broadly through a network of co-workers and acquaintances, while energies are, at the same time, focused on smaller pockets of the population, each of which should become a centre of intense activity. In an urban cluster, such a centre of activity might best be defined by the boundaries of a neighbourhood; in a cluster that is primarily rural in character, a small village would offer a suitable social space for this purpose. Those who serve in these settings, both local inhabitants and visiting teachers, would rightly view their work in terms of community building. To assign to their teaching efforts such labels as "door-to-door", even though the first contact may involve calling upon the residents of a home without prior notice, would not do justice to a process that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development. The activities that drive this process, and in which newly found friends are invited to engage--meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives--may well need to be maintained with assistance from outside the local population for a time. It is to be expected, however, that the multiplication of these core activities would soon be sustained by human resources indigenous to the neighbourhood or village itself – by men and women eager to improve material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings. A rhythm of community life should gradually emerge, then, commensurate with the capacity of an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh's vision of a new World Order.

Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2010

The capacity to reach young people and assist them in carrying out acts of service,

especially for establishing junior youth groups and children’s classes in neighborhoods that

have become centers of intense activity, offers great promise for the progress of clusters at

every juncture along their path of development. However, experience has demonstrated that the process of community building falters if there is a sense that the work of the Plan is

confined to the young or to certain neighborhoods alone. The House of Justice has emphasized the importance of a two-pronged approach to expansion and consolidation, involving endeavors throughout the localities in a cluster as well as in one or more receptive neighborhoods. The full pattern of activity envisioned for a thriving community requires involvement of the generality of believers. The friends everywhere can be assisted to overcome dichotomies, to grasp the intent of the Plan’s community-building activities, and to determine the place each will choose in contributing to the collective effort.

Universal House of Justice, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, 5 January 2015

The pattern of spiritual and social life taking shape in clusters that involves study circles, children's classes, junior youth groups, devotional meetings, home visits, teaching efforts, and reflection meetings, as well as Holy Day observances, Nineteen Day Feasts, and other gatherings, provides abundant opportunities for engagement, experience, consultation, and learning that will lead to change in personal and collective understanding and action. Issues of prejudice of race, class, and color will inevitably arise as the friends reach out to diverse populations, especially in the closely knit context of neighborhoods. There, every activity can take a form most suited to the culture and interests of the population, so that new believers can be quickened and confirmed in a nurturing and familiar environment, until they are able to offer their share to the resolution of the challenges faced by a growing Bahá’í community. For this is not a process that some carry out on behalf of others who are passive recipients—the mere extension of a congregation and invitation to paternalism—but one in which an ever-increasing number of souls recognize and take responsibility for the transformation of humanity set in motion by Bahá’u’lláh.

Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 10 April 10 2011

As discussed in section 1.3, particularly promising developments occur when, as the

House of Justice explains, some of the friends, often young believers, “become integrated into neighbourhoods and dedicate themselves to assisting particularly receptive populations to advance along a path of spiritual development—giving rise to centres of intense activity”

International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, Sections 3.3

Efforts to engage circles of friends in the core activities—university students or young mothers, to mention but two— make a valuable contribution to the overall community-building process under way. As the friends strive to creatively explore the possibilities around them in more and more parts of the cluster, new believers are welcomed, human resources raised up, and the pattern of community life that germinates through the core activities is gradually extended until it embraces all the believers and their associates. Essential as these efforts are, they eventually reach their own natural pace and scale, and alone, seem insufficient to achieve the thrust required for large-scale expansion and consolidation.

International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, Sections 3.3

In most clusters, there are a number of Bahá’í communities. Community-building efforts

will therefore naturally emerge in all these localities. Participants in core activities are drawn

from a wide circle of contacts and possibly from various parts of a cluster. Where the number of believers is few, a special measure of flexibility may be required and friends who live in nearby communities may need to collaborate in their endeavours. In sizeable communities, gatherings in a local centre provide an opportunity to host large numbers and demonstrate the distinctive spirit of the Faith, reinforcing the work in smaller settings.

International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, Sections 3.3

In the early days in Persia, the cradle of the Faith, teaching work went ahead with tremendous devotion and sacrifice. The believers worked together as a team. There were those who made contact with people, won their confidence, and after careful assessment of their motives and background introduced the Faith to them and brought them along to the gatherings of the friends. There were others who were knowledgeable and spoke at meetings, yet others who were excellent hosts and provided the right atmosphere for discussing the challenging claims of the Cause of God. All these friends worked together hand in hand. With absolute unity and devotion the believers consecrated their lives to teaching the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh until great numbers entered the Faith and many of them laid down their lives in His path. It is true to say that during the seventy-seven years of the Heroic Age of the Faith (which included the ministries of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá) the pure in heart among the Persian people were brought under the shadow of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. In this period the gem-like essence of that nation was attracted into the community of the Most Great Name.

Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 92

This type of endeavour, a distinguishing feature of the most advanced clusters, offers great

promise as well for all clusters where the friends seek to build intensity. In some cases, work in the neighbourhoods or villages is initiated as a result of organized, direct teaching activities or a campaign to expand a particular core activity; in others, individuals settle as pioneers for this purpose; and in some, cluster agencies accompany resident believers to further intensify their teaching efforts among their neighbours. In clusters where, from the outset, the junior youth programme is singled out as a critical element in advancing the community-building process, agencies identify neighbourhoods with a large number of youth and junior youth. In selecting neighbourhoods or villages for focused efforts, it has been observed that fostering activity in too many areas at once can dissipate energies. These varied experiences suggest the importance of the friends’ taking an in-depth view of a particular neighbourhood or village to understand its reality—its resources, its challenges, and the potential of its population to work alongside the Bahá’ís to “begin a process of collective transformation”

International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, Sections 3.3

When a dedicated team of believers focuses its attention on fostering activity in a

neighbourhood or village, these friends need to be given latitude to function in a manner that is in harmony with an unfolding organic process and be provided with appropriate support from institutions. They need time to learn how to respond to the demands of growth within a receptive population: how to form genuine friendships, what teaching activities are effective, and how to channel resources to sustain such a growth process. It is not necessary, or even productive, for everyone in the cluster to focus on the neighbourhood. Yet, often it has been found that progress in a neighbourhood or village can infuse a new energy and optimism in endeavours across the rest of the cluster, providing a fresh impulse to its forward movement and to the process of community building under way in all areas.

As multiple activities are concentrated in the small, relatively cohesive areas of a

neighbourhood or village, the transformative impact of the spiritual and social forces at work are more readily noticed by the population at large. Parents see their children and youth progressing before their eyes and recognize that the social relations of their community have been imbued with a new spirit. Entire families are sometimes drawn to participate in the life of the Bahá’í community and embrace its teachings. And efforts are eventually “sustained by human resources indigenous to the neighbourhood or village itself—by men and women eager to improve material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings”

International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, Sections 3.3