Saturday, October 27, 2007

Homevisits in Da 'Hood

As an elected member of the local governing council (or Spiritual Assembly) of the Baha'i community of Boston I am reminded of the responsibility to which I have been called by God:

"The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Baha...They should consider themselves as entering the Court of the presence of God, the Exalted, the Most High, and as beholding Him Who is the Unseen. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive."
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 29)

Over the years that I have served on the Spiritual Assembly and meditated on these Words of Baha'u'llah, my heart has filled with love for the men, women, youth and children of this city, a city blessed by three visits from 'Abdu'l-Baha during his travels in North America in 1912. Here are a few of the comments he made will he was in Boston:

"Progress is of two kinds: material and spiritual. The former is attained through observation of the surrounding existence and constitutes the foundation of civilization. Spiritual progress is through the breaths of the Holy Spirit and is the awakening of the conscious soul of man to perceive the reality of Divinity. Material progress ensures the happiness of the human world. Spiritual progress ensures the happiness and eternal continuance of the soul. The Prophets of God have founded the laws of divine civilization. They have been the root and fundamental source of all knowledge."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 142)

"Strive, therefore, to create love in the hearts in order that they may become glowing and radiant. When that love is shining, it will permeate other hearts even as this electric light illumines its surroundings. When the love of God is established, everything else will be realized. This is the true foundation of all economics. Reflect upon it. Endeavor to become the cause of the attraction of souls rather than to enforce minds. Manifest true economics to the people. Show what love is, what kindness is, what true severance is and generosity. This is the important thing for you to do. Act in accordance with the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 238)

"Bahá'u'lláh teaches that the foundations of the divine religion are one reality which does not admit of multiplicity or division. Therefore, the commandments and teachings of God are one. The religious differences and divisions which exist in the world are due to blind imitations of forms without knowledge or investigation of the fundamental divine reality which underlies all the religions. Inasmuch as these imitations of ancestral forms are various, dissensions have arisen among the people of religion. Therefore, it is necessary to free mankind from this subjection to blind belief by pointing the way of guidance to reality itself, which is the only basis of unity."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 286)

In addition to his visiting Boston and speaking at various sites around the city, 'Abdu'l-Baha also addressed a letter to the Boston Spiritual Assembly in which he wrote:

" must strive to make Boston a fruit-garden and a rose-garden. Verily, this is not difficult with the Lord. The beloved of God in this mortal world are each a spiritual trumpet. They breathe the breath of life and thus confer upon them that are dead in negligence and ignorance, the life eternal. They are the merciful physicians who bestow upon the spiritual patients eternal healing. The city of Boston hath great preparation, but the endeavor of the righteous is needed and the efforts and strivings of the free are necessary. For unless the seed is sown, the bounty and blessing will not be attained; until the tree be planted, the fresh fruit will not be produced; unless the candle contact with fire, it will not ignite; and until a light dawn, the darkness will not vanish. Therefore, the beloved of God must sow the seeds and plant the fresh plants in that garden. They must ignite the extinguished candles so that the purpose may be attained and the beloved intent unveil its face.In the spirit of humility and supplication do I beg and implore at the Divine Threshold and seek for you assistance and providence."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v3, p. 632)

I just read a fascinating piece in the Boston Globe about an initiative to have city officials and employees go door to door in the neighborhood hit hardest by violence. Here is a selection from the article:

In the next few weeks, police officers, city employees, and street workers will blanket pockets of Dorchester and Roxbury that have had a high concentration of slayings, shootings, stabbings, and robberies in the past three years. They will knock on doors and ask parents if their children are involved in after-school programs. They will offer transportation to nearby community centers for children whose parents are afraid to let them go out alone.

They will also help form neighborhood councils of church leaders, business owners, and residents that would examine problems in the neighborhood and discuss them with police and city liaisons who will report back to police and other city supervisors.

All city departments will be asked to participate in the effort either by identifying employees who live in the four neighborhoods and can go door to door or by providing employees for a few hours to administer surveys to middle school students about how to improve after-school programs, said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, which will work with the initiative. (Read the whole article here)

This initiative reminds me of the current practice of Baha'is throughout the world of doing spiritual outreach through visiting people in their homes and the potential this practice has in urban areas like Boston where a spiritual perspective on the practical challenges people are facing could be offered. Like Abdu'l-Baha in 1912, Baha'is in Boston have a message to give to the people of this city that harmonizes with the needs of a human race making the difficult transition from spiritual adolescence to spiritual maturity. This maturity will be embodied in a social order based on the reality that humanity is a single people and this planet is our common homeland.