aha! after a while of messing around and banging my head against a wall of PHP, I’ve given my photos page a much-needed overhaul. now, instead of linking you directly to flickr, photos will appear directly within the comfortable doberman pizza interface you’re used to. to celebrate, I’ve posted photos from the recent reflection meeting, the refresher session on Anna’s presentation last Monday, the devotional meeting at Julie & Fanfan’s place last weekend, and the latest edition of our children’s class—all nicely arranged into photosets (i.e. albums) for your browsing pleasure. And don’t worry, if you want to see higher-res versions they’re still around on flickr. let me know what you think!
Martin’s been away for the past two weeks, participating in a program called Fire and Snow that’s been organized by the Baha’i Institute Board of Ontario. Following in the footsteps of the successful “Pebbles to Pearls” program offered in Summer 2006, Fire and Snow offers its participants the opportunity to learn about establishing and sustaining community-building activities for the general public and to gain tangible experience with community outreach. The program revolves around community groups for junior youth, aimed to help them “develop their capacities for teaching and service” and to “learn and strengthen their identity as selfless servants to humanity”. I’ll let Martin explain what’s been happening lately…
Things are going well here at the Fire and Snow training in Toronto. As you know I’m here with Mom and we are delivering firesides (hastily armed with Anna’s presentation and themes for elevating conversations), knocking on doors and inviting to core activities, and sustaining those core activities as we go. Today we held a junior youth course with seven junior youth from the neighbourhood, a Baha’i children’s class with the same amount of children, a Baha’i devotional gathering with five people, and we are hoping to launch a mothers’ group tomorrow—using materials that we have not even seen—or are confident that we will be able to get in time—a feature that describes much of the nature of our work!
Basically we study from the books composing the main sequence of the Ruhi curriculum (in our case, we used Books 2, 3, 5 and 6) during the morning and early afternoon and then prep quickly and go to our neighbourhoods from 6-9pm. It took some getting used to physically, but we soon established a rhythm (our days are from 7am-11:00pm).
There is nothing, on the whole, ‘magical’ about the process, just tons of Ruhi done with breakneck speed, heaps of singing and prayers, sagacious words from the Counsellor, and of course, unremitting action in the field of teaching.
 “Junior youth” refers to young adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14. youth in this age group are granted particular importance in the Baha’i community, falling as they do just before the “age of maturity” as defined by Baha’u’llah (15), by which time advanced mental, emotional and spiritual faculties are developed.
 “Firesides” (or “fireside chats”) usually refer to a friendly encounter in someone’s home, for the purpose of introducing someone to the Bahá’í Faith. The term originated with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who broadcasted his presidential addresses via “fireside chats”, creating an intimate and accessible atmosphere by holding them in his home, by the fire.
 “Anna’s presentation” is a nickname referring to several sections of Book 6 of the Ruhi curriculum, “Teaching the Cause”, in which participants explore how to effectively share with receptive souls a general overview (or presentation) of the Baha’i Faith that is detailed enough to be considered complete. When people talk about using “Anna’s presentation” they are generally referring to using notes they have distilled from these sections in order to present an accurate and complete overview of the Baha’i Faith.
 The act of “elevating conversations” refers to a skill developed in the last unit of Book 2 of the Ruhi curriculum, “Arising to Serve”. Participants study the many talks and lectures of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and familiarize themselves with the way He introduced uplifting topics and ideas into conversation, that they may use that same skill in their everyday lives.
 “Core activities” are fundamental activities on which healthy communities are founded, and which make up the core of Baha’i Community life worldwide. There are four generally recognized “core activities”, which are present with great variety and diversity throughout the world: devotional meetings (for prayer and meditation), study circles (to learn skills of service through interaction with the Creative Word of God), junior youth groups (to develop the latent capacities of young youth aged 12-14; see #1 above) and children’s classes (for the moral and spiritual education of children).
 The “Ruhi curriculum” refers to a sequence of courses offered as distance education by the Ruhi Institute in Colombia. the courses are offered as part of a dynamic curriculum meant to build skills of service, which, in turn, can be used to build a community. the courses involve examination of and interaction with the writings of the Bahá’í Faith, so as to understand their meaning and apply them to the real world. The “main sequence” of the Ruhi curriculum consists of the seven books which make up the foundation of this curriculum. For more information, visit Ruhi Resources.
 “Counsellors” are appointed individuals who serve on the continental level within the Baha’i administrative order as learned advisors to individuals and institutions. They hold no executive or legislative power; their only role is to advise. Counsellors and their auxiliaries often provide a much-needed global perspective to local efforts through their close ties to the World Centre of the Baha’i Faith.
staying home tonight, blogging and listening to some friends DJing internet radio. Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful; much thanks and praise was voiced, and much turkey was eaten. Our latest tutor movement session took place on Wednesday—the ‘spiritual preparation’ I mentioned in my last post. It’s been going really well; for my part, I’ve gotten a lot of support and encouragement from going. It’s been friendly, fun, reflective, with a good mix of guidance, discussion and practice. Practice dominates what we do—gaining experience seems to be the key goal, along with gaining confidence. The more you practice a simple act like studying a prayer with someone or elevating conversations with people around you, the more comfortable you become doing it.
Speaking of simple acts, you may be aware that since the turn of the (21st) century, the worldwide Baha’i community has been offering what it calls core activities of personal and community spiritual development—not only to its own members, but to all the world’s inhabitants. These include devotional gatherings (centered around prayers, readings, reflection), children’s classes (centered around the moral and spiritual education of children), study circles (centered around learning through individual and group reflection on divine writings), and junior youth groups (centered around increasing the capacities of youth aged 12-14). The Canadian Baha’i community recently released two videos that offer glimpses into the first two of these; check them out at the above link or download low-bandwidth versions here: (devotional meetings—children’s classes). Right-click either one of these two links and choose “Save Target As…” or “Save Link As…”, and save them to your local computer. Watch both of these videos and you may see people you recognize from the Ottawa and Gatineau Baha’i communities!
Today is (or was) Sunday, the 24th of September, 2006. Just a month plus a couple of days until Ottawa’s Baha’i community begins a new cycle of its program of growth; the same amount of time will pass before I leave for pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa. Both of these are preoccupying me at the moment. Before I leave for pilgrimage, I need to get quite a whack of documentation done up: renew my health card, renew my driver’s license (which will entail taking my G-level exam), get passport photos taken and signed by garantors, to name a few. I need to read up on safe travel guidelines for pilgrims coming to the World Centre, so that I’m not taken by surprise during my visit. Oh yeah: most people are surprised when I tell them that I’ve never been on an airplane. Never meaning “once, when I was one and a half years old and I don’t remember a thing about it”. So that’ll be an interesting experience. And beyond all the material preparations, there are the spiritual preparations for pilgrimage. I’m not sure that I’m fully ready to sit and pray in the Shrines and be able to take it all in. I’m afraid I’ll just be so overwhelmed, or worse, be left unaware of the full magnitude of the experience. I suppose everybody goes through that sort of self-questioning… like ‘Abdu’l-Baha said, when in doubt, pray for strength. It will be given to you, no matter how difficult the circumstances. More about this later.
And then there’s life in Ottawa, and my service goals for the year. I just came back from a tutor meeting tonight (Sunday night—had to skip choir 🙁 ). We went over the latest guidance from the Universal House of Justice, looking at it from the perspective of our roles as tutors.
Note: In this case, for those who may not know, “tutor” is just shorthand for someone who facilitates the sequence of courses offered by the Ruhi Institute, a community development program that focuses on the development of skills of service through the application of spiritual insights that are gained through profound study of the Baha’i Writings. Anyone who has completed said sequence of courses can act as a tutor; most commonly, we say that such a person “acts as a tutor” rather than bestowing a title of “Tutor” upon them. —dj
Much of our discussion focused on how we could be more effective in our service as tutors; for example, focusing on implementing the practice component of institute courses—which transforms the course from a mere academic exercise to a skill-building experience. Lots of food for thought. It should help me a lot in planning how I want to serve in the near future. So far, I plan to put a sizable chunk of my effort into our neighbourhood francophone children’s class. That’s going well so far; I already have an outline of the curriculum done up for the entire school year, up to August, all based on the modified Furutan curriculum provided by the Canadian Spiritual Assembly. That’s mental! And it’s already way past what we were able to do last year. I really feel like I’ve gained a lot of confidence and know-how from the past year’s experience of co-teaching this class—and that makes me feel quite optimistic about the challenge of the new year ahead.
One last note, relating to my own personal development: Certain things have been happening lately that have made me look back at the past few years of my life. Right now, I see how far my life has come in the past ten years and I’m almost brought to tears, tears of joy and of gratitude. Fact is, I barely recognize myself now. I feel like my life has done a complete volte-face, or about-face. When I was 16, I never would have thought that one day I would be confidently teaching children’s classes, establishing a successful career doing something I really enjoy, developing healthy, nourishing friendships and relationships with people I love and care about. Whereas I was quietly depressed as a teenager, now I feel like bursting with joy at the prospect of really living a rich and fulfilling life. There’s so much to tell about this that I don’t have the time to share right now, but God willing, I’ll be able to share some of these things with you. Have a good day at work or at school and keep the comments (and emails) coming.
Photo: Maurice & Marcelle Turgeon.
* dragfyre dies over and over
<Salinnatwork> df: bad day?
<dragfyre> tired, even
* dragfyre just came back from children's classes %)
<Salinnatwork> df - how old of a children are you, exactly?
<Zibblsnrt> df: As instructor or pupil?
<dragfyre> instructor 😛
<dragfyre> 6 and 7 yr olds
<Salinnatwork> yay! I love them
* dragfyre loves them too 🙂
<dragfyre> but they do have a lot of energy
<dragfyre> which is good!
<dragfyre> but it is tiring to deal with many of them at a time
<dragfyre> on the other hand, it is an interesting challenge and teaches one many useful parenting skills
<dragfyre> I'm trying to be positive here instead of dying all over the place and/or sticking forks in my eyes
Counsellor Scott’s talk went off quite well. About sixty people showed up, a mix of parents, teachers, members of institutions, children and youth. Part of the talk reprised points and ideas that were discussed at the meeting with the youth on the 5th, and that formed the conceptual framework necessary to understand the lines of action in the newest Five Year Plan. The focus at this meeting being the education of children and junior youth, we spent time discussing concepts related to the state of our education system and the state of children’s education in our community.
The talk made all of us question the sort of education we provide to our children—is it really enough to talk about virtues we “should be” manifesting, and go straight on without teaching related skills and developing in children the will to manifest those skills, or without practicing them in a safe, loving and encouraging environment? Is it enough to teach our children to be “relatively” excellent, whereas Shoghi Effendi exhorts the Bahá’ís not to “content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence”? Are we teaching our children to be merely good citizens, or are we teaching them to be agents of change that will transform the society around them?
I’ll definitely be doing some thinking, particularly since I’m involved in a Bahá’í children’s class (recently featured on Baha’i Views. cool, huh?). Sometimes I really feel like I’m learning everything from the ground up. These questions have profound implications for the way I serve, the importance I place on these weekly classes, and the attitude I cultivate about my role in the process. Food for thought from the Writings:
Blessed is that teacher who shall arise to instruct the children…
Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children…
According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with each breath, for you are educating your spiritual children.