fire and snow

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[1], 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[2] (hastily armed with Anna’s presentation[3] and themes for elevating conversations[4]), knocking on doors and inviting to core activities[5], 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[6] (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[7], and of course, unremitting action in the field of teaching.

Helpful Glossary:

[1] “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.

[2] “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.

[3] “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.

[4] 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.

[5] “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).

[6] 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.

[7] “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.

this is the august update

youth triohey all you wonderful people. it’s been a long week and an even longer month, filled with lots of busymaking, vacationing, and picture-taking – and even some singing. you’ve probably noticed, but just in case, do pop by my flickr site to check out the latest photos and leave a comment or two. Along with updated vacation photos – mostly landscapes so far, more people shots coming soon – I’ve also posted some photos of the Super Ex, taken on the day I performed at the Joy of Faith concert with a musical group of Baha’i youth (well, mostly youth, with one youthful gentleman along for the ride).

It’s that time again. What time, you ask? Why, the time to get children’s classes in gear for the upcoming year. Our local coordinators have been kind enough to forward me copies of a pilot curriculum for Baha’i children’s classes, developed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, based on the “Baha’i Education for Children” series by A. A. Furutan. I’ll be using the pilot curriculum as a framework for our children’s class (“our” because I’m not the only teacher, and because the class is starting to feel a little like a family to me), which will entail translating it into French and finding corresponding French-language activities to replace those that don’t survive translation. See baha’i children’s class ideas to follow the progress of the class this year.

Those of you who have been following the situation in the Middle East and who have wondered about the state and condition of the Baha’i World Centre and Holy Places in Haifa and surroundings will be pleased to know that, according to the most recent communication from the Universal House of Justice, “no damage was done to the Holy Places and that the friends here remained in safety, pursuing their tasks with steadiness of purpose and exemplary perseverance”. Of course, as has been noted by many people since this most recent outbreak of violence began, we must remember to keep in our prayers not only our friends at the World Centre, but also our many fellow human beings who find themselves innocent victims of this conflict. Perhaps now, more than ever, is the time to rededicate ourselves to championing the Cause of world unity and to teach peace all the world around (to borrow a turn of phrase from Red Grammer). Part of my efforts in this wise include my participation in the core activities of the Baha’i Faith, most notably the above-mentioned children’s classes. I’ve also had a strong desire to start a study circle that would allow friends, family and acquaintances to get together and exchange on some of these topics. If you’re in the Ottawa area and you’d like to get involved, please do let me know.

On a side note, I’m seriously considering returning to my earlier vegetarian diet, after a hiatus of a few years (induced by a knock on the head). I was originally a pesco-ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I would eat fish, eggs and dairy products – I’m thinking I may become pesco-pollo-ovo vegetarian, adding chicken but cutting out dairy (since I definitely have lactose intolerance issues). Basically, that would make me semi-vegetarian, or “wishy-washy” as some might put it. Any feedback, comments, and encouragement you may have would be greatly appreciated – via email or comment on this post. And Martin, I already know what you think.

long weekend wrap-up ahh nice

Easter weekend went well. I did some cleaning up in my room on Friday, helped out at the Ottawa Baha’i Centre on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, sanding the walls. The renovations are going along well, but there is a definite need for more people so the whole process can go faster. If you’ve got some time in the next little while, consider coming in and helping out — help get the centre up and running sooner.

Saturday I popped into the Howden Fireside down the street from our place, for a warm and cozy talk given by Louise Profeit-Leblanc. Lots of wisdom there. She’s a great storyteller with a lot of amazing stories to tell. She talked a fair bit about how she came to know the Baha’i Faith in her early days living in the Yukon, and tied her stories in with the virtue of courage — what it means to have courage, and so on. It was a good combination. Becoming a Baha’i is as much an act of courage for some people as it is an act of faith. Perhaps it would be easier if becoming a Baha’i wasn’t seen so much as “changing religions” as acknowledging the oneness of all religions. You know — rather than thinking of it as “switching from one family to another”, realizing that we’re all part of a much bigger family — the human family — that includes us all. Anyway, I digress. We had some good conversation that night, and we inexplicably ended up listening to Vaudeville Follies records. We started the evening listening to Hair, so it was definitely a weird night for music.

Tonight was a relaxing day; I made some phone calls and caught up with faraway friends, and tagged along with mom, sister and niece as they went shopping at Wal-Mart and Ikea. Then I joined up with a few members of the Baha’i choir for a mini-rehearsal; some of us will be performing at the celebration of the 1st day of Ridván. Don’t forget to join us at the St. Elias Banquet Hall — the Ridván elections start at 8 PM on Thursday evening, and continue the next day from 1 PM on; the celebration itself begins at 3 PM. Don’t forget to come and vote, or, if you can’t be there, vote in advance and get someone to bring it in! Read a little about Ridván and Bahá’í elections to put yourself in the spirit, or peruse a compilation on Bahá’í elections.

One last thing – it’s time for another patented movie devotional at Vafa’s place! Go check out his website for more details.

[Note: This post was recently blogged on Baha’i Views. Neat, huh?]

ruhi refresher courses in ottawa

if you’re looking for a way to get ready for the Ottawa Baha’i Community’s new cycle of growth and maximize the effectiveness of your teaching efforts during the intensive teaching phase, get plugged in to this week’s Ruhi refresher courses, Tuesday to Friday at 7:30 PM!

  • Tuesday: Buzz by the Browns’, by Bayshore (1 Kitimat)
  • Wednesday: Hook up with the Hashemis, in Kanata (20 Allenby)
  • Thursday: Be there at the Benoit-James’s, in Vanier (304 Ducharme)
  • Friday: Mingle with Marty and family, in Orleans (2047 Rolling Brook)

Come on out to any of the evenings above, regardless of how many or which Ruhi books you’ve taken (even none!). We’ll be revisiting Book 2 where we learned how to nurture individuals along the spiritual path through home visits, and in Book 6 where we became familiar with the different approaches and methods of teaching, such as Anna’s presentation of the Faith to her friend Emilia.

And if this post doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you—drop me a line!

ruhi rainbow

february rambling

rideauthings have been alright lately. I haven’t been as diligent with my prayers and daily readings as I’d like. maybe I can take care of that before going to bed. speaking of daily readings, check out the Baha’i Quotes Syndication Service — it’s an individual initiative that allows you to have Baha’i quotes pop up in an RSS reader. And for the RSS-disabled among us, it’s a nice blog full of Baha’i quotes illustrated with wonderful photos.

Last night, I acted as a tutor for a study circle covering Book 6 of the Ruhi curriculum. Sahba (our area institute coordinator) called the night before asking me to act as a substitute, and — surprise! — it turned out my evening was open. It was a small group, but it was still a blast. We studied several sections of the first unit, entitled “The Spiritual Nature of Teaching”. It was just the best thing ever to be plunged back into that book again. The whole book is about teaching the Bahá’í Faith — sharing the message of Bahá’u’lláh with the world of humanity. I could go on and on about it, but I’ll leave that for later on. Suffice to say that it was a happy surprise to be given the chance to be there, facilitating the study circle and learning from the other participants. Combined with the Book 3 circle I subbed for last week, I’d say I’m comfortably rediscovering the role of ‘study circle tutor’, and what a bounty it can be. Hopefully I can once again find a nice and special place for it in my life.

Oh, and for fans of Homestar Runner: Check this out. (The song, not the picture.)

hallelujah!

a breakthrough!

I know what’s going on.

I know where I’m going.

actually, I don’t have a clue about anything in life.

but I KNOW that I don’t have a clue!

and now I know what’s going on with ME.

now I honestly know what I want to be.

I know what my passion is!

I’ve found my passion!

that’s what’s been going on!

I know now why I had all these strange, incoherent, and often ridiculous experiences. cranberries. coffee. cars. computers.

God has been leading me around through all these hoops, all these tests and trials to get me to listen to my heart, instead of running away from it.

I want to teach.

I want to be a teacher.

I want to help people learn and achieve their best and highest potential.

There’s nothing I want to do more in my life than to teach. Nothing.

And I will stop at nothing to see it done.

finally — I know where I’m going.