So by now, you’ve probably gotten a copy of the long-awaited letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated 29 December 2015, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, which spells out the framework for the upcoming Five Year Plan. (If not, it’s available online, from the official Bahá’í Reference Library website!)
First things first: It’s a really awesome letter. A friend and I read through it the day it came out, and we felt that it was one of the most complete letters we’ve read—in terms of describing the entire process of growth from the initial stages, through the establishment of a program of growth, past the intensification of growth and into the far reaches of activity where Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation starts to permeate into the fabric of society. We were also able to see quite clearly the stages at which our clusters were located in the process, and the next steps awaiting us as we progressed from one milestone of growth to the next.
Those “milestones”, though—what are those? In the interest of cutting through some of the jargon, here’s my attempt at a brief explanation/recap of “milestones” in the context of the Five Year Plan.
The “milestones” mentioned by the Universal House of Justice in its recent guidance all relate to the development of a community’s capacity for systematic, collective action towards its own spiritual and social transformation. Basically, we can think of them as stage markers that help describe how advanced a community in its spiritual and social development. Here are the ones we know about.
Just starting out
No systematic action yet, although individual initiatives may take place here and there. Institute process may not yet be established or is at the very beginning stages.
An initial flow of human resources goes through the sequence of institute courses and advances into the field of systematic action. Core activities “are being maintained by those progressing through the sequence of institute courses and committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster.” A program of growth first emerges.
See: 28 December 2010 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors , para. 4; Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, Section 2, “Emerging Programmes of Growth”; both available as part of the compilation The Five Year Plan, 2011-2016 .
A steady stream of friends is going through the institute process & engaging in intensive, systematic action; the process of growth becomes self-sustaining; “all the elements necessary to accelerate the expansion and consolidation of the Faith are not only in place but also functioning with an adequate degree of effectiveness”; an intensive program of growth develops.
See: 28 December 2010 message to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors , para. 9; Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, Section 3, “Increasing Intensity”; both available as part of the compilation The Five Year Plan, 2011-2016 .
Capacity for self-sustaining social action within a population, based on the skills of service developed through the institute process, emerges. A system for extending a “dynamic pattern of community life” that can “engage a people…in the work of their own spiritual and social transformation” is evident.
Significant percentage of population engaged; Societal impact of the Faith, and its effect on general discourse in a locality, is evident. “They are seeking to understand how a flourishing local population can transform the society of which it is an integral part.”
So now, a question: How advanced do you feel your home cluster is, in terms of these milestones?
Photo: Borne routière sur la Route Nationale 7 à Madagascar, by Bernard Gagnon.