Progress of the Faith in the United States and South Carolina
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice2019-03-12
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT
Transmitted by email [redacted]
12 March 2019
Dear Bahá’í Friend,
The Universal House of Justice has received your email letter dated 22 August 2018 in which you share your thoughts and concerns about the progress of the Faith in the United States and, more specifically, in the state of South Carolina. We have been asked to convey the following.
The House of Justice appreciates the sincerity with which you have expressed your views and commends your unwavering dedication to the Cause and its progress. It is pleased you have turned to it for guidance on issues that have obviously been troubling your heart. While your concerns that the Faith is not advancing more quickly in your country and in your state are warmly acknowledged, the House of Justice encourages you not to allow your experience to be a cause of dismay for you.
From the perspective of the House of Justice, the situation nationally in the United States is more encouraging than what you understand it to be. The country is vast, and the range of experience of the friends in different regions and clusters is wide. It may be hard for the believers who serve in a given cluster in the United States and have to deal not only with challenges of the community but also the gathering forces of materialism and bigotry that surround them, to appreciate the distance the American Bahá’í community has traversed. Yet, the humble endeavors of each believer and the exploits of each struggling community, when combined across the country, offer promising prospects. In hundreds of clusters in your country where the friends are attempting to establish and intensify programs of growth, individual and institutional capacity is being raised and ever-increasing numbers of participants are becoming involved in community building. Some clusters have even reached a level where a hundred or more individuals are engaging hundreds of other souls. Of course, this is not to understate the level of effort it takes for an expanding nucleus of friends in a cluster or neighborhood to learn to apply the provisions of the Plan, to reflect on action, to make adjustments, and to chart the next moves forward. But the House of Justice hopes you will appreciate this wider perspective, take heart at the advances in communities scattered all over the country, and move forward in your own cluster with conviction and zeal.
Given your obvious dedication to the growth of the Faith in South Carolina, it is understandable that you would like to see efforts among that state’s receptive populations receive more attention and support from Bahá’í institutions. No doubt, the Continental Counsellors, the National Spiritual Assembly, the Regional Bahá’í Council, and the training institute will continue to reflect upon their experience and revise their approach in order to overcome the current obstacles, including determining the best approach to supporting the development of strong cluster agencies. While the challenges you face in South Carolina are acknowledged, the solution does not seem to lie in creating a Regional Bahá’í Council for the state. Most critical is to develop a sound pattern of action in the cluster that can engage an ever-increasing number of active participants. Whether or not the community in South Carolina would benefit from the assistance of human resources from other states, either deployed by the institutions or who arise independently, the local friends are well positioned to assess their circumstances and seize the opportunities available. With the assistance and support of Auxiliary Board members, an effective pattern of activity at the cluster level, no matter how simply it begins, is well within the reach of the active supporters of the Cause.
As you are aware, at its heart the work of the Plan is a spiritual enterprise, animated by teaching the Faith and engagement with the Word of God through prayer and study, whose purpose is the quickening of humanity. Often, however, at the early stages of the effort to establish a program of growth, the friends in the cluster, owing to limited experience, tend to seek some formulaic approach to advance the process, based on what they understand about the work from their study of the guidance and the efforts of believers in more advanced clusters. Yet, the quest to find the “right answer” that provides a particular set of activities that will result in growth and community building always proves to be elusive. Rather, central to every program of growth, no matter how nascent, is a group of individuals who can read the reality of their cluster, identify the opportunities and challenges, assess the capabilities the friends already possess and those they still need to develop, and build on strengths and overcome existing weaknesses. Thus, for example, if the friends in a cluster have yet to develop the capacity to reach out and effectively speak to the people around them in neighborhoods or clusters in a manner that attracts interest and ultimately participation, then there is no prospect for further progress. This need must be identified and capacity built through training and practice before the friends can advance to the next challenge. As another example, while among some friends in a cluster there may exist a capacity to reach out to youth and gradually build their capacity to put into place a pattern of community building that begins with the establishment ofjunior youth groups and children’s classes, other friends in that same cluster who are not able to engage in this type of activity can instead develop the capabilities necessary to reach out to other segments of the population across the cluster to establish a sustainable pattern of human resource development, beginning with, say, devotional meetings and study circles. As an expanding circle of friends grow in their capacity to diagnose challenges and prescribe the effective remedy in a systematic way, cycle after cycle, capacity will be built and activities increased, slowly at first and eventually more robustly, and the number of participants and effective workers will constantly expand. Essential to this process is, of course, the training institute, not only for building the capacity necessary to multiply core activities but also for enhancing the ability to engage in elevated conversations as well as to offer indirect and direct presentations of the Faith.
Owing to differing circumstances and differing capacities, the friends in different clusters will encounter varying issues and rates of progress. No less important than the quantitative advances anticipated are the qualitative dimensions of how the work is conducted. A spiritual character of community life nourished by regular devotional gatherings, a passion for teaching the Faith, a culture of encouragement and mutual support where criticism, anxiety, and competition find no place, and ties of love and union that make all involved a single family are among the characteristics that distinguish a program of growth that continues to increase in intensity, enabling the friends to overcome inevitable challenges and setbacks. All, whatever their specific experience, should be joyous and take heart for they are united in a worldwide enterprise with their fellows, laboring in the Divine Vineyard in response to the pressing needs of humanity. All who walk this path win the good pleasure of their Lord as they persevere in their efforts, day by day, to create a new, expanding pattern of life based on His teachings.
Rest assured of the supplications of the House of Justice at the Sacred Threshold that you and the friends in South Carolina may be assisted by the confirmations of the Blessed Beauty to realize your highest aspirations for the advancement of His Cause.
With loving Bahá’í greetings, Department of the Secretariat