Ottawa: Musical Fireside

{josquote}So this way, people can get together, eat some food, watch a presentation, sing some songs and have a discussion about religion and spirituality.{/josquote}

I first heard about musical firesides when I was in Kuala Lumpur last year, and though I didn’t have a chance to go to one until I got to Ottawa, I had heard about them being used in India, the US, the UK, France and all across Canada. And I’m sure they’re being used in another dozen countries as well, but it’s just so hard to keep up these days.

Anyway, a ‘musical fireside’ is simply a presentation about the basics of the Baha’i Faith that incorporates video, photos, songs and prayers. It’s an opportunity for Baha’is to invite their friends and neighbours to find out what Baha’is actually believe. These days, religion having the reputation that it does, people are often hesitant to talk about spirituality and belief (whether it’s your own or someone else’s) even when others are genuinely interested in it. So this way, people can get together, eat some food, watch a presentation, sing some songs and have a discussion about religion and spirituality. The singing, as you can see, is key.

After the songs, more food and some discussion. Time to drink tea and ask questions and get to know your friends and neighbours. Because, after all, isn’t understanding a fairly key step on the way to unity?

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Musical firesides

Lately, I have discovered a new trend in how to conduct a fireside. The new form of fireside is called a 'musical fireside' and the details can be found at the web page "A Musical Journey", which is at the website of the Vancouver Baha'i Community. The page gives a complete outline of how to conduct a musical fireside, right down to providing the script for those taking an active role in presenting the programme, and provides some resources.

{josquote}Event management isn't the same thing as teaching with wisdom{/josquote}

Back when I was a registered member of the Baha'i community, I understood a fireside to be an event where I invited a friend, associate or neighbour with whom I have a good relationship into my home for dinner and a chat - hence the 'fireside' idea. Because of the close relationship between the parties, it was assumed that the faith would be discussed. The Guardian stressed that a principal advantage of the fireside was that it enabled belivers to teach in their own homes. By this, I understand him partially to suggest that the fireside was a vehicle by which individuals could go down their own personal path of teaching - it empowered them to take the initiative on their own terms and in their own way, and allowed the responsibility of teaching to take root in their lives. Another related principle that the Guardian gave us was that individual believers are free to teach as they please in their own homes and the institutions should not interfere. I don't have the quote for this last point, unfortunately, but I think the principle is implied by the following quote about firesides from the Guardian's secretary, from Guidelines for Teaching, p 319:

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The Ruhi Signature

We've been hosting a Ruhi course at our house. It's a Baha'i thing. Ruhi is an institute that puts together materials intended to provide a consistent and measurable set of spiritual deepening for Bahais worldwide. Think 'prepared Bible study' and you've got the right idea...except we're not studying the Bible. We're studying Bahai Writings.

{josquote}...we're putting our spiritual signature on the house we restored. We built it with our hands; with the Ruhi courses, we're signing it with our hearts.{/josquote}

This has been a major touchstone for me recently. I thank God that the Ruhi class comes to us. If I had to travel to get there, I probably wouldn't go -- too distracted. Instead, it comes to us: adult classes; children's classes and guitar players, piano players, violin/cello players. and a roomful of people unafraid to sing.

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How Not to Prosleytize

Still in procrastination mode… I decided to have a bit of a surf through the blogs nominated in the Religion category for the 2008 Weblog Awards and came across a post on subtle-as-a-brick proselytizing at Stuff Christians Like. I had to laugh, because it reminded me of my youth, when I was a pretty gung-ho Baha’i.  I used to wear Baha’i jewelry, read Baha’i books on trains in case somebody asked, wear Baha’i t-shirts talking about peace, and generally be very Baha’i. I never initiated conversations, I just gave out enough hints that eventually somebody would approach me and start asking me about my religion.

It’s a bit better (not much, but a bit) than being a fully-blown Bible-Thumper (to borrow the phrase) where people will actually initiate prosleytizing conversations. Mind you, I used to *love* it when people would do so to me.  I’m one of the 0.001% of people who actually used to enjoy having the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons knock on the door.

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Life As A Virtual Baha'i

Heard of Second Life?

Ever wanted to take the Faith to the World but didn't have the means to travel?

Want to have Fun, involve yourself in an Education Project, Serve the Faith, and be involved in the most cutting-edge way to Interact with Others?

Come to Baha'i Island !

There's a small team of Baha'is preparing this Virtual Reality for full-blown Core Activities. It has the blessing of the International Teaching Center and the backing of the Baha'i Internet Agency.

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