How does one synthesize over 128 pages of text tackling the pastoral care issue of The Beloved Community: Creating a Tender-Loving, Pastoral-Care Baltimore Bahá’í Community down into 500 words or less? This is a challenging task, but as the author of the aforementioned document, I will do my best.
In my previous blog-posting, you received an introduction to the Bahá’í Faith where we elaborated on the fundamental teachings and principles: the Oneness of God, Religion, and Humanity which must be achieved through creating a safe space for the independent investigation of spiritual truth; abandoning all forms of prejudice; the equality of the sexes; universal education provided to all men, women, and children; the eradication of the extremes of wealth and poverty; the balance between religious truth and reason and scientific knowledge; the establishment of a universal auxiliary language to eliminate misunderstanding; and the creation of a global commonwealth of nations and accompanying institutions to support these efforts. These are all amazing ideals that we take for granted in 2012 North America, but back in 1844 when the Bahá’í Faith was born, these Teachings were quite revolutionary causing the clergy and government of Iran to incarcerate and kill the Báb, Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Dispensation, in 1850 and submit Bahá’u'lláh to a series of imprisonments and exiles for accepting and spreading the Teachings of the Báb before revealing His own Station in Baghdad in 1863 (http://info.bahai.org).
So the question becomes this: as the Bahá’í Faith enters its 169th year of existence and has become the second most geographically widespread religion after Christianity throughout the world – including to North America and the City of Baltimore, how do we create a tender-loving, pastoral care-giving Baltimore Bahá’í Community? Ours is a Faith that has no clergy, therefore, how do people learn about these Teachings and stay connected to the Faith once they have accepted that Bahá’u'lláh is the Devine Messenger of God and Revealer of His/Her Word for the time in which we live?
To answer the second question first, now we are engaging in a systematic program of growth through the Ruhi Institute process (www.ruhi.org), where individuals (or the laity) actively engage neighbors, friends, colleagues in an educational process that focuses on developing human resources that will empower communities to engage in spiritual conversations while providing a community service such as character education classes for children, empowering youth, conducting home visits and engaging in spiritual discussions and prayer gatherings with whole families – including the sick, shut-in, professional, or individuals engaging in academic study – for example. My theory attempted to tackle the question of “now that we’ve got them, how do we keep them?” In essence my thesis explored the discipleship issue of creating a pastoral care ministry that meets the needs of participants who participated in the systematic learning process but need more nurturing, spiritual guidance, and deepening so that they become stanch and stalwart enough to “accept the Cause of Bahá’u'lláh for the sake of the Cause, love it, and cling to it, and teach it, and fight for it as their own Cause, forgetful of the shortcomings of others” (Shoghí Effendi, in To Move the World: Louis Gregory and Racial Amity in America,1982/1942, p. 296).