Delegates from across the country flocked to Wilmette, Ill. Thursday for the 2010 Baha’i National Convention.
The annual event, held during the 12-day Festival of Ridvan, which commemorates Baha’u’llah’s proclaiming in 1863 His mission as God’s Messenger for this age, is when delegates come together to elect the nine-member National Spiritual Assembly.
As the Baha’i Faith has no clergy, the National Spiritual Assembly – and assemblies elected at the local, regional and international levels — are charged, according to Baha’i writings, with the responsibility of being “channels of divine guidance, planners of the teaching work, developers of human resources, builders of communities, and loving shepherds of the multitudes.”
The Convention, held at the House of Worship, provides an opportunity for delegates to discuss many issues, including the annual message of the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’is of the world, known as the Ridvan Message.
This year’s letter gives an overview of the progress of the Faith in the previous year and provides guidance on how best to move forward to achieve the goals set for the Baha’i community by the House of Justice. The faith is now entering the last year of a Five Year Plan aimed at the long-term development of the Faith.
Robert Wilson, delegate from Stamford, Conn., explained that the Five Year Plan aims to reach out to people through devotional gatherings and courses of spiritual education for children, youth and adults.
“We always move from strength to strength. We look at our strengths now, then look at the letter, then look at how we can apply these new ideas to what we’re doing now, and as a community, move forward into greater outreach, greater community service, develop greater children’s programs, youth programs and adult programs,” Wilson said.
In the Stamford area, he noted, there is a “very loving, very united” Baha’i community that is offering popular children’s classes. Ten non-Baha’i children, and their parents, are attending the classes weekly.
“So what I’m going to do is look for guidance in this year’s Ridvan Message that we can apply to our children’s program and junior program,” Wilson said. Other delegates may be examining other aspects of the letter.
“Every convention has its own flavor. It’s very cutting edge,” said Wilson, who has been attending the annual convention since 1972.
He said that although the convention is a time to learn, it’s also a time for fellowship. This year 171 delegates from across the U.S. will be attending the event.
“It’s a time for spiritual renewal. We meet friends from all over the country,” he said. “We’re small, but we think big as citizens of the world.”
The National Convention will continue through May 2 and is the continuation of a process that began last October when Baha’is at Unit Conventions throughout the nation elected delegates.