Friday, July 20, 2007

One By One

"Walk thou high above the world of being through the power of the Most Great Name, that thou mayest become aware of the immemorial mysteries and be acquainted with that wherewith no one is acquainted. Verily, thy Lord is the Helper, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. Be thou as a throbbing artery, pulsating in the body of the entire creation, that through the heat generated by this motion there may appear that which will quicken the hearts of those who hesitate."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 142)

I've always seen this quote from Baha'u'llah as being about the power of drumming. At the Gathering, as the drums thunder you can definitely feel the heat of the Holy Spirit blazing and your heart starts to quicken. You. Can. Not. Hesitate under its influence. The past couple of days have been as powerful as the beginning of the week. We broke into our various regions again to continue talking about bringing the Word of God to the masses of people of African descent where we live. Yesterday, the Hand of God took hold of us and lifted us to a whole new level of understanding about integrating in a seamless way the elements of the Gathering experience with the wider processes of immersion in the Word of God and applying that Word in the field of service and teaching known as the 5 Year Plan. The quality of unity that was generated about the brothers in the Northeast region of the U.S. was extremely empowering and reminded me of 'Abdu'l -Baha's comments on the spiritual potential of this part of the country:

"Praise be to God, that the Northeastern States are in the utmost capacity. Because the ground is rich, the rain of the divine outpouring is descending. Now you must become heavenly farmers and scatter pure seeds in the prepared soil. The harvest of every other seed is limited, but the bounty and the blessing of the seed of the divine teachings is unlimited. Throughout the coming centuries and cycles many harvests will be gathered. Consider the work of former generations. During the lifetime of Jesus Christ the believing, firm souls were few and numbered, but the heavenly blessings descended so plentifully that in a number of years countless souls entered beneath the shadow of the Gospel. God has said in the Qur'án: "One grain will bring forth seven sheaves, and every sheaf shall contain one hundred grains." In other words, one grain will become seven hundred; and if God so wills He will double these also. It has often happened that one blessed soul has become the cause of the guidance of a nation. Now we must not consider our ability and capacity, nay, rather, we must fix our gaze upon the favors and bounties of God, in these days, Who has made of the drop a sea, and of the atom a sun."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan)

Last night we had the inestimable privilege of a whole evening of consultation with a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors, Dr. Eugene Andrews. He called our attention to guidance from the Writings that should be internalized by every Baha'i of African descent:

"As we neither feel nor acknowledge any distinction between the duties and privileges of a Bahá'í, whoever he may be, it is incumbent upon the negro (note: the Baha'i Writings use the terms common to when they were written) believers to rise above this great test which the attitude of some of their white brethren may present. They must prove their innate equality not by words but by deeds. They must 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 shortcoming of others. Any other attitude is unworthy of their faith.
(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 533)

I'm very much looking forward to loving, clinging, teaching and fighting with a worthy attitude when I return home. The central theme of his discourse was also the need for greater integration with the 5 Year Plan and seeing the Gathering as a process rather than an event. The choicest fruit of the Gathering should be souls recognizing their Lord.

There have of course been many humorous parts of the Gathering as well. A group of the younger participants went into town to purchase some junk food. At the convenience store, a white woman approached us with a friend of hers and asked "Are you guys in a band?". After a fit of laughter we explained that we were not members of a band. Another thing that happened at this store was that one of us challenged the other to drink a bottle of a soda called Moxie that I guess is notoriously foul tasting. The prize for success would be 10 dollars. We asked the man working at the counter if he would take the same challenge and his reply involved strong language that should not be used on a Baha'i blog!

One of my favorite things about the Gathering has been brothers being inspired to share new songs with each other that we can now take back to our local communities. One of them goes like this:

Take me to the water
Take me to the water
Take me to the water
And baptise me

One for Baha'u'llah
One for The Bab
One for 'Abdu'l-Baha
One By One