Community and administration

Entries about Baha'i community life, about Baha'i administration, and about how the two intersect.

A single vow: 'Sacred serenity to absolute joy'

Lahdan Saeed and Kelsey Heidarian
Lahdan Saeed married Kelsey Heidarian in a simple, Baha'i ceremony at Red Butte Gardens. (Ryan Galbraith/The Salt Lake Tribune)
Promises to each other and to God are the focus of a Bahai wedding in lush Red Butte Garden

On a balmy June evening, Lahdan Saeed and Kelsey Heidarian strolled arm in arm through a meadow of dame's rockets, dianthus, sage, oregano, chamomile, yarrow, catmint, ornamental onion and thyme at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City to the strains of Pachelbel's evocative Canon.

At the end of the path, they stepped onto a Persian carpet spread before them, while the lively and colorful crowd of friends and family watched in awed silence.

No bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls or parents went before them. No father of the bride handed her off to her future mate. No white-collared clergy waited at an altar to marry the couple.

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Addressing Domestic Violence

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States has developed a manual, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, for the purpose of providing informed, consistent, and explicit guidance to Local Spiritual Assemblies concerning domestic violence. It is designed as a tool to familiarize local Assemblies with the many forms of domestic violence, to eliminate misconceptions about it, and to assist Local Spiritual Assemblies that may need to provide guidance to members of the Baha'i community on this issue.

Although this manual is intended primarily as a reference tool for use when a Local Spiritual Assembly is confronted with a situation of domestic violence, we welcome its examination by others who are also seeking to free humanity from this pernicious and age-old social disorder.

Full story, and the manual...

Contemplating a World without Kalimat

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As Special Ideas celebrates its 25th anniversary, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the pioneers of independent Bahá’í Publishing at Kalimat Press, who took the heat, took the risk, and made the sacrifices so that I—and all of you other artists, writers and musicians out there—could express ourselves freely without being told that we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

When I became a Bahá’í in 1974, there was one publisher of Bahá’í materials in the United States. One. Sure, there was George Ronald Publishing in England, but everyone knew that it was owned by a member of the Universal House of Justice, and had been started at the recommendation of Shoghi Effendi, so it was almost as official as the Publishing Trust. The idea of an individual just deciding to start publishing an entire line of Bahá’í-oriented materials was almost unthinkable. Then something amazing happened.

Read more: Contemplating a World without Kalimat

Tyranny of the one, or terrorist tactics in the consultative process

There are many things that an individual can do to make sure that his or her opinions and desires prevail over the combined good sense of the other eight people in a consultation. Don’t think that I am aiding and abetting the manipulative by explaining them here – those who use them are quite aware of their effectiveness, even if they are used subconsciously. It is those who cave in under their tactics that need to be forewarned and forearmed. These tactics include:
  • The one who talks the loudest wins
  • The one who is the most restrictive wins
  • The one who claims the moral high ground by being the most narrow-minded, puritanical or judgmental wins
  • The one who is most fearful and can imagine the most dire consequences for the alternate path wins
  • The one who is the most emotional wins
These techniques are often played like cards, with restrictive trumping loud, emotional trumping restrictive, and, of course, a loud, emotional, fearful expression of the dire consequences of not following the most narrow-minded puritanical path being the highest trump of them all.

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Let's talk honestly about teaching

In case you hadn’t guessed, I love teaching. I live to teach, and I have dedicated my life and my career to helping Bahá’ís teach. And every now and then, I like to take a look around and ask myself “how am I doing?” “Am I helping the Faith grow?” But unfortunately, in spite of how everyone talks about how we are growing, when I look around, I don’t see any growth. Am I crazy? Blind? Living in Indiana? Well, yes for the third one, but I hope no for the first two. So I started looking at some numbers. The American Bahá’í publishes enrollment figures every month, and they average between eighty and one hundred per Gregorian month. That’s about 1,100, or about one per LSA per year. But then last summer, an Auxiliary Board member told our summer school class that historically, we only have a 20% retention rate. That means that of those 80-100 new believers, only 16-20 of them will stay Bahá’ís. (The NSA published a 50% retention figure, which I assume means that 30% become inactive without officially withdrawing.) Then I looked in the back of the American Bahá’í and saw that more than 20 Bahá’ís are dying each month. If this keeps up, we will start shrinking! Clearly, I am not being successful in helping the Faith grow. What can I do differently?

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