Spiritual Assemblies

Organize ye Spiritual Assemblies; lay ye the foundation of union and concord in this world; destroy ye the fabric of strife and war from the face of the earth; construct ye the temple of harmony and agreement; enkindle ye the light of the realm of the oneness of humanity; open ye your eyes; gaze and behold ye the other world! The kingdom of peace, salvation, uprightness and reconciliation is founded in the invisible world, and it will by degrees become manifest and apparent through the power of the Word of God!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 408

These Spiritual Assemblies are aided by the Spirit of God. Their defender is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Over them He spreadeth His wings. What bounty is there greater than this? These Spiritual Assemblies are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of life streameth in every direction. They, indeed, are the potent sources of the progress of man, at all times and under all conditions. What bounty is there greater than this?

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80

Shoghi Effendi hopes that the Assemblies will do their utmost in planning such teaching activities that every single soul will be kept busy.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 33

The first quality for leadership both among individuals and Assemblies is the capacity to use the energy and competence that exists in the rank and file of its followers. Otherwise the more competent members of the groups will go at a tangent and try to find elsewhere a field of work and where they could use their energy.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 33

Your Assembly must be very careful not to over-load the Bahá’ís with rules and regulations, circulars and directions. The purpose of the Administration at this time is to blow on the fire newly kindled in the heats of these people who have accepted the Faith, to create in them the desire and capacity to teach, to facilitate the pioneer and teaching work, and help deepen the knowledge and understanding of the friends. The beloved Guardian issues this work of warning, as long experience has shown that it is a tendency on the part of all N.S.A.s to over-administer. In their enthusiasm they forget that they only have a handful of inexperienced souls to guide, and attempt to deal with their work as if they had a large population to regulate! This then stifles the spirit of the friends and the teaching work suffers.

Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 37

In discharging their educational responsibilities towards the body of the believers, the institutions of the Faith need to bear in mind how little is accomplished when their efforts are reduced to repeated admonitions or to dogmatic instruction in proper conduct. Rather should their aim be to raise consciousness and to increase understanding. Theirs is not the duty to pry into personal lives or to impose Bahá’í law on the individual but to create an environment in which the friends eagerly arise to fulfil their obligations as followers of Bahá’u’lláh, to uphold His law, and to align their lives with His teachings. The efforts of the institutions will bear fruit to the extent that the friends, especially those of the younger generation, find themselves immersed in the activities of a vibrant and growing community and feel confirmed in the mission with which Bahá’u’lláh has entrusted them.

Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 19 April 2013

The environment sought is, at the most fundamental level, one of love and support, in which the believers, all endeavoring to achieve the Bahá’í standard in their personal conduct, show patience and respect to each other and, when needed, receive wise counsel and ready assistance. Gossip and backbiting have no place in the Bahá’í community; nor do judgmental attitudes and self-righteousness.

Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 19 April 2013

The institutions of the Faith . . . do not pry into the personal lives of individuals. Nor are they vindictive and judgmental, eager to punish those who fall short of the Bahá’í standard. Except in extreme cases of blatant and flagrant disregard for the law that could potentially harm the Cause and may require them to administer sanctions, their attention is focused on encouragement, assistance, counsel, and education.

Universal House of Justice to an individual, 19 April 2013

By Spiritual Assembly is meant the administrative body of nine persons, elected annually by each local Bahá’í community, in which is vested the authority of decision on all matters of mutual action on the part of the community. This designation is temporary, since in future the Spiritual Assemblies will be termed Houses of Justice.

Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 180

The Spiritual Assembly is in no wise equivalent to the priest or clergy, but is responsible for upholding the teachings, stimulating active service, conducting meetings, maintaining unity, holding Bahá’í property in trust for the community, and representing it in its relations to the public and to other Bahá’í communities.

Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 180