A covenant

Let me talk about a covenant.

No, I promise to make it interesting, and this isn’t Covenant with a capital C. It’s a covenant between the leaders and the rest of us. It’s an often-unspoken understanding that leadership involves doing a lot of listening, consulting and making changes as well as just plain making smart decisions.

The Baha’i Faith requires a lot of its followers. For example, there’s a requirement to wholeheartedly support a decision even when people don’t agree with it. So that’s one half of the covenant—an agreement by those who are led, not only to be obedient, but also to be supportive—even when they don’t buy the idea.

The other half of the covenant is that leaders must act like servants—”trustees of the Merciful One”, as Baha’u’llah puts it. He’s turned top-down into bottom-up: Leaders are charged with the responsibility of being responsive to the needs of the community and putting them first.

Radical, huh? Baha’u’llah seems to be saying, and I may be reading too much in here, LSA members should be less concerned about what the NSA thinks of a decision than what the community thinks of it.

In theory, the Bahai Faith has a very devolved decision-making process. In theory, ideas expressed

  • at the feast, or
  • to a local assembly, or
  • to delegates to national convention,

filter up through the system—some reaching as far as the House.

In theory, an individual will have opportunities to appeal any decision, because it will come from their local assembly, or occasionally their national assembly—and thus can be appealed at least once, but usually twice.

Unfortunately, the Baha’i Faith has become very top-down and one-size-fits-all:

  • Feast has become a vehicle for the NSA to promote its latest programme,
  • Bahais are removed from membership by the House with no recourse to appeal, and
  • any ideas that don’t fit the current narrow Ruhi framework don’t get anywhere.

Result: Individuals feel manipulated and disempowered. I think it’s because the covenant (the little one) has been somewhat forgotten.

Insights from the Frontiers of Learning

I had a quick look through the new document from the International Teaching Centre:

It makes various bold claims, and I’d like to focus on this one:

“In this way, over a span of many cycles, there is a steady increase in the number of new believers, of core activities and participants, and of those who, when accompanied by others, are able to extend the scope and complexity of the work of expansion and consolidation.”

However, here’s the reality check. Out in the field, even the very best clusters are failing to achieve steady growth for more than six cycles.

Devotional gatherings in Norte del Cauca over 10 cycles of growth

Opting out of EBT

The Baha’i world community is in the midst of a vast, global process of systematic learning, growth and expansion. For a period of 25 years (1996 to 2021) the Baha’i world will focus on a single overarching purpose: to “advance the process of entry by troops.”
Sharing Baha’i Beliefs

Opt Out

But not me. I’ve opted out of the vast process that doesn’t seem to have a catchy name. (So I’ll call it Ruhi.) 25 years seems like a long time to opt out, but the Baha’i Cycle is apparently 500,000 years, so 25 years is a blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things. And the first 16 years have flown by.

It’s not like I’ve been doing nothing. I just haven’t been doing it Ruhi-style.

And here’s the funny thing: I didn’t even know I’d opted out until today. A friend pointed out that Ruhi had a 25-year lifetime, and I figured 1996 was around the time I opted out. I might be back in the fold in 2021, depending on the menu, and whether they’ll have me.

IPG Ween

Boy praying

Every year, the world and its system have a day set aside (October 31st) to celebrate ungodly images and evil characters while Christians all over the world participate, hide or just stay quiet on Halloween day. Being a day that is widely acceptable to solicit and knock on doors, God inspired us to encourage Christians to use this day as an opportunity to spread the gospel. The days of hiding are over and we choose to take a stand for Jesus. “Evil prevails when good people do nothing”. JesusWeen is expected to become the most effective Christian outreach day ever and that is why we also call it “World Evangelism Day”.

Source: Jesus Ween!

Only 15 more sleeps until Jesus Ween (aka Halloween). What a perfect occasion for an Intensive Programme of Growth Ween. The JesusWeeners are so right – this is the one day of the year when it is perfectly acceptable to go door-to-door. I can’t wait to go out trick-or-treating, armed only with Anna’s Presentation!

“Anna’s Presentation” booths to spring up in Germany

Please wait a minute

The booths, designed by Andreas Rimkus using materials from ThyssenKrupp Nirosta, are being used in a pilot project in Hanover:

Outwardly, [the booth’s] appearance is shaped by the six symbols of the major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Baha’i). People can stand in the middle of the stainless steel sculpture and by touching various sensors immerse themselves in an unknown world. Similar to an audio book, visitors can hear about the most important teachings of the individual religions and discover that all religions pursue the same basic goal: peace. The texts were written by the Council of Religions in Hanover. They provide a brief introduction to the various religions and are available in different languages.

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Anna’s Presentation

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in Anna’s Presentation. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in Book One at Ruhi Class. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

(With apologies to Robert Fulghum)

For the person who knows everything

I know this from my learnings

Earlier, I wrote:

The House is nothing if not systematic. It tries something, evaluates and adapts it, then tries again. If anything seems to work, it gets adopted and tried elsewhere. “Anna’s presentation” is probably a good example. A script in a training manual becomes an integral part of door-to-door teaching.
Expansion by expulsion

Today, I discovered a brand new use for Anna’s Presentation – the processing of self-recruited Baha’is:

Tonight she and I went through fundamental principles of the Faith using Anna’s Presentation over the phone to complete the confirmation process. (I explained that this is part of the process when a person is in an isolated locality and has never met with a Bahá’í about their declaration.) She already knew everything. She also knew about Feast and the Calendar and repeating the Greatest Name. She is fasting and looking forward to Naw Rúz and asked how she could contribute to the Fund.
“She already knew everything.”

What a handy-dandy document! It seems All We Really Need To Know We Learn In Kindergarten Anna’s Presentation

Forty-one out of forty-one

Mission accomplishedCongratulations to the Baha’i community for achieving all forty-one of its planned conferences, on time, and on… Oh, who cares about the budget? The Baha’is are playing their part in global social and economic development by stimulating the world economy, right when it’s needed.

And they’re doing this as an “extra”, right in the middle of a very ambitious Five Year Plan. With the score at forty-one out of a possible forty-one, it doesn’t get better than that!

In the wake of this great success, and with the demonstration of such strength and resolve from the Baha’i community, I fully expect to hear from the Baha’i administration that many more communities are now ready to forge ahead with door-to-door teaching.

When is a home visit not a home visit?

A home visit?
A home visit?
Q. When is a home visit not a home visit?
A. When it’s a social call.

“If a home visit, to take another example, is defined in the courses as an opportunity to enter into a deep conversation on spiritual matters, then it should not be reduced to a mere social call in which the Faith may not even be mentioned.” (Universal House of Justice 18 Aug 2005)
Bahá’í Institute Board of the Atlantic Provinces Bulletin – Home Visits

Glad I could clear that one up.

Pyramids – not just places to store dead bodies

It makes no difference what numbers you put into a pre-drawn pyramid, it's still going to look perfect. This is no good for analysis, but it's great for PR!
It makes no difference what numbers you put into a pre-drawn pyramid, it's still going to look perfect. This is no good for analysis, but it's great for PR!

Baha’is have been talking about “pyramids” for a few years now.  Probably the best known use of the term is in the phrase “What does the pyramid look like in our cluster?”. My limited understanding is that pyramids are a snapshot of a community’s “pyramid of human resources” In other words the numbers of people who have done each of the Ruhi books.

For example, each asterisk represents a person (sorry, a human resource), and each level represents a book:

Book 7 *
Book 6
Book 5 ***
Book 4 *******
Book 3 *****
Book 2 ************
Book 1 **************************

If you look real hard, you have a pyramid.   You can quickly see that too few human resources have taken Book 3, and that, sadly, book 6 is a human-resource-free zone. And somehow this matters.

I understand that it’s important for Baha’is to…

“move through the sequence of courses, in order to provide more human resources for the next cycle of the intensive program of growth”
ITC, 28 November 2004

…so maybe there’s a similar pyramid that charts how many Baha’is have taken how many courses.

Once you know the jargon, you can start introducing it naturally into your conversation, like this:

“The tutors then went into a consultation about plans to expand their pyramid of human resources in the next three months. 5 study circles will be started by 5 Book 7s and they aim to complete them by June.”
National Institute Board, “Tutors Times”, March 2006

Note the use of the phrase “Book 7s”, presumably denoting people who have completed the entire sequence of courses that are available so far.

“An important capacity of the institutions in promoting the two essential movements is the ability to interpret the ‘pyramid’ of human resources, that is, to look at the development of human resources and the consequent level of activity in the cluster and determine what needs to be done next.”
ITC, 28 November 2004

And that’s why we need institutions. Why, I bet half my readers couldn’t even name the “two essential movements”.

Ha-ha. No, that’s definitely not one of them.

“The friends in some clusters have successfully established their training program and pyramid of human resources, helping a sizable number of believers to proceed through the entire sequence of courses, thereby creating a new dynamic in the activities in the cluster.”
ITC, “Reflections on Growth”, March 2004

“Creating a new dynamic” – doesn’t that just sound new …and dynamic!

And please don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation of the revised training pyramid:

“View a presentation describing the process of training spiritual human resources, their movement through the sequence of courses, and their employment in various acts of service toward the community.”
Crimson Ark Regional Training institute – Understanding Trainings

I don’t know what the old training pyramid looked like, but this one is a whole lot better. A lot more learnings went into this one.