Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Regional Councils

The week of June 11th 2012 is a historic week in the USA. The Bahá’í community has grown in many aspects. Up until now the continental US was divided into six regions. But each region is now so large in the number of members and activities, in the number of active agents of change, and in scope and diversity of activities and circumstances that new arrangements are called for.

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, had indicated that in future, as the Faith expands in scope and diversity, the Universal House of Justice will bring about new institutions in response to the demands of growth itself. So some 15 years ago, in 1997 the head of the Faith created Regional Bahá’í Councils. These Councils are executive arms of the National Assembly and are normally elected by members of Local Spiritual Assemblies. The main functions of these institutions is related to growth and the process of community building. Now the US National Spiritual Assembly, in consultation with the Continental Board of Counsellors, and with warm encouragement of the Universal House of Justice, has called for the formation of 10 Regional Bahá’í Councils. Members of some 1200 Assemblies, from as many cities, towns or counties across this country will cast their votes this week, in quiet reverence, and in a rarified atmosphere of detachment and service. There will then be some 174 such administrative bodies in the Bahá’í world.

In a sense this represents a new beginning. It is a milestone marking along the path of progress. No one is concerned about who might get elected. No one is anxious about what might happen. There are no winners or losers, because there is no contest. No one is running for anything. And those who will receive a call to inform them of their election, and to ask them if they are able to give the time for such service, will often wonder if they are truly qualified for such a task. This is a new model of governance for human society.

In the Old World Order the person who is elected leaves his mark on the institution. In the New World Order we can say that it is mostly the opposite, it is the institution that leaves its mark on the individuals who are elected. First the person is humbled, then he or she feels overwhelmed. The task is large and complex, and the path for learning is wide. And you have to rise up to this level while carrying on with your normal profession.

Each new member now has to engage more intensely in his or her own neighborhood to accelerate his learning about the dynamics of community building. If previously he has completed his study of a sequence of courses offered by the training institute, and only occasionally he had tutored a course, now he has to engage more and deeper. He will have to personally be involved in a number of core activities at the level of the neighborhood, and in visiting homes of others, and in learning to carry on meaningful and distinctive conversations, and establishing friendships based on shared understanding. He or she will have to definitely animate a group of junior youth, to teach a class for children, and be engaged both in an educational process and in cycles of activity, which are after all two perspectives of the same reality. 

It is such personal experience that sharpens the ability to read reality, to analyze conditions of a larger number of clusters and to serve the needs of the community on a larger scale.

All this will work out well since those who are elected will have to have the humility to recognize that they are not the central ornaments of the Cause, that they did not seek to serve in such a capacity, but that their orientation is one of a posture of learning, and of a temporary assignment and call to service.

With such an orientation towards service the fundamental relationship between individuals and institutions will begin to experience the transformation that is the prerequisite for a divine civilization.

Can you identify and list all those qualities, attitudes, habits and postures that characterize a decaying world order? Can you now identify and list all those qualities, attitudes, habits and postures that characterize a developing new world order? Are you able to find appropriate passages to illuminate your list, from within the Writings, and guidance of the House of Justice? Would such a list, with your appropriate commentary, be useful to those who serve on various institutions serving a community? 

Baha'u'llah wrote: "That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century."