The most significant initial contribution of Local Assemblies to the processes of growth was providing encouragement to the believers. This was particularly effective when an expansion of vision had resulted from the participation of Assembly members in the institute process as well as the study of Five Year Plan documents.
This approach has… done much to assist Local Assemblies to realign their administrative processes and priorities. Beyond these considerations, the leadership role of the Spiritual Assemblies — be they national or local — is of profound importance. It has been observed in many clusters that the processes of growth are greatly enhanced where this leadership role is exercised through the Assemblies’ constant effort to maintain the vision of growth before the believers, allowing for the two essential movements to impact priorities, avoiding unnecessary distractions, providing the necessary resources, and reinforcing the plans and initiatives at the cluster level. Further, the dynamic force of individual example as the members of Assemblies themselves become personally involved in the cluster activities, actively supporting the efforts…
-International Teaching Centre, Impact of Growth on Administration, July 2005
RESIDENT: Patient is a 62y M who presented with shortness of breath, cough, and fever, diagnosed with pneumonia by chest X-ray in the emergency room, and is now, hospital day two, in the intensive care unit on broad-spectrum IV antibiotics for sepsis secondary to pneumonia. Earlier this morning, patient is dong well; overnight, no events. Vital signs are stable. On physical exam…
ATTENDING: What were the vital signs?
In clinical medicine, there are a set of vital signs, including temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, that help a clinician to assess the patient. If the respiratory rate is high, perhaps the asthma exacerbation isn’t getting better; if the pulse is low, perhaps there is an arrhythmia.
The problem with these measurements are that they are a point in time, a static reading of otherwise dynamic process. In the above scenario, unless the vital signs were abnormal, there isn’t much utility in saying that “at 7:38am this morning, for one second, the patient’s pulse was 83.” It could have changed after walking away.
The purpose of measurement is to more and more precisely describe reality. We are still affected by the enlightenment’s static and reductionist worldview; with the accompanied coarseness of mind came a loss of understanding the complexity of existence. With a mechanistic vision of the universe, perceiving the subtleties of change gradually faded from scientific inquiry – reality was forced into boxes and integers and human definitions. Instead of seeing change in all things, the idea of staticism was introduced. Yet, reality begs to differ. When a patient’s pulse is “unchanged” at 75 from one minute to another, it is not a default static state; rather, an extremely complex set of physiobiochemicalneuroendocrine interactions are working to maintain the pulse at that rate. The only thing not changing is the number on the monitor and the frequency of the beeping sound; only our measurement is the same number from second to second. But all things change – it is a law of reality. Movement is an essence of existence. And even stillness is not lack of change, but rather a state of dynamic equilibrium.
Clearly, in order to describe reality more precisely, we need more profound conceptions of measurement, and not simply more measures (as is the response of medicine, for example). Throughout the history of medicine, blood pressure has been one attempt at this. Hundreds of years ago, pressure was measured as a single number – the pulse pressure. This was originally done with inserting a tube into a cut artery; as this proved too dangerous, non-invasive methods were used. Yet, it was still a single number, “pressure”. It was only just around 100 years ago that the concept of systolic and diastolic pressure was introduced, the one we currently use. The value of the maximum and minimum pressure exerted on the artery walls at any given heart beat is vastly more informative that a single number representing arterial pressure. Why is it more informative? Because it’s one step closer towards a more adequate reading of reality.
The measurement of blood pressure as a spectrum is a step towards reflecting the underlying truth of reality that all things are on a continuum. Perhaps pulse can be reported as “between 65 and 72 overnight” or “between 45 and 110, with an average of 82 overnight” (which are two different clinical pictures).
The work of the Bahá’ís and their friends in community-building at the grassroots is based upon a progressively more precise reading of reality. And reality is a dynamic continuum. The mode of functioning, at the same time, of this community-building work is systematic – which involves quantitative (and qualitative) measurement. The Baha’i community has been learning about placing its descriptions of reality on a ever-more-rich continuum. This helps avoid two pitfalls – both manifestations of the same underlying tendency to reduce reality – which have plagued society for years: collapsing all individuals into one middle group (such as in the case with school systems) or collapsing all individuals into one of two bi-polar groups (such as in the case with political systems). The reality, instead, is that there is a continuum.
Take the example of a group of junior youth engaged with the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme. One can describe them by saying, “The group has around 12 junior youth, and the group has completed one of the texts so far, and 7 of them were at the first service project”. One can also – more precisely – describe the group by saying: “The group has 22 junior youth that are associated with the group – 6 form the core and have completed every lesson, 9 come sometimes and have done more than half the lessons, and another 7 have come at least once or twice and the animator and junior youth are in contact with them. 7 were at the first service project, yet another 4 were at the planning meeting, and 2 lent supplies; a participation total of 13.” What a more befitting way to describe the reality! These activities are living and moving and changing – they are dynamic. The pulse pressure is not a static 12, but a dynamic 22 over 6…
As we sharpen our perception, we will learn to recognize and measure social and spiritual dynamism in both movement and stillness in order to build vibrant community life.
“In clusters at an early stage of development, it is possible to work with a core group of believers—say five to ten—and by giving them a vision of the framework, assisting them to make plans, and accompanying them in teaching and other acts of service, set in motion a process that will lead to sustained growth. One should never underestimate what a handful of capable tutors can do and how effectively they can respond to growth and raise up new human resources. The vital component of such an incipient growth program is an emphasis on teaching, which needs to be present from the start. Again, this is a key element of learning from clusters with intensive programs of growth. Those that have attained a healthy, sustainable growth pattern are characterized by a focus on teaching, in particular direct teaching, and not just on extending invitations to core activities. Where intensive programs of growth have stalled at a plateau of low numbers of enrollments, the dimension missing from the framework for action is direct, collective teaching.”
“Yet, although many admire your dynamism and ideals, the true significance of these endeavours is less apparent to the world at large. You, however, are aware of your part in a mighty, transforming process that will yield, in time, a global civilization reflecting the oneness of humankind. You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live. Consciousness of this broad context helps to shatter the distorting looking glass in which everyday tests, difficulties, setbacks, and misunderstandings can seem insurmountable. And in the struggles that are common to each individual’s spiritual growth, the will required to make progress is more easily summoned when one’s energies are being channelled towards a higher goal—the more so when one belongs to a community that is united in that goal.”
“It is important to note that, as a programme of growth is being brought into existence, an emergent community spirit begins to exert its influence on the course of events. Whether activities are scattered across the cluster or concentrated in one village or neighbourhood, a sense of common purpose characterizes the endeavours of the friends. Whatever level of organization served to channel the early manifestations of this spirit, the systematic, coordinated multiplication of core activities necessitates that higher levels soon be attained. Through various measures, greater structure is lent to activity, and initiative, shaped largely by individual volition before, is now given collective expression. A complement of coordinators appointed by the institute moves into place—those for study circles, for junior youth groups, and for children’s classes. Any order of appointment is potentially valid. Nothing less than an acute awareness of circumstances on the ground should make this determination, for what is at stake is not compliance with a set of procedures but the unfoldment of an educational process that has begun to show its potential to bring about the spiritual empowerment of large numbers.”
Compiled by youth serving in three focus neighborhoods around Harris cluster, the agenda represents the questions that arise from experience by those laboring shoulder to shoulder, not in the abstract, with animators and junior youth in the field of service. Please reflect on these agenda items as a teaching team, prepare responses on the basis of your shared experience since the last reflection gathering, and divvy up the topics amongst your team members to encourage universal participation. Thoughtful reflections, stumbling blocks and how they became stepping stones, beautiful pictures and audiovisual presentations are all welcome! Looking forward to seeing you!
Harris County Cluster
Neighborhood Reflection Gathering
18:00, 8 Sultan 170 B.E.
Attendees: ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ __________ __________
(Agenda derived from consultation with indigenous and visiting youth who are serving at the grassroots in focus neighborhoods)
Each team please present an update on your experience and learnings since the last reflection gathering. Please share your team’s prepared responses to the questions below, having divided the questions up amongst the group members.
“O people of Justice! Be as brilliant as the light, and as splendid as the fire that blazed in the Burning Bush. The brightness of the fire of your love will no doubt fuse and unify the contending peoples and kindreds of the earth…”