I dropped out of the Faith for several years. Ok, several really means more than 20 years. And by dropped out, I don’t mean that I didn’t believe in Baha’u’llah or the Faith. I just didn’t do much. I was an isolated believer who made minimal attempts to participate in Baha’i activities in the communities around me.
For the last couple years, I have felt the pull to do more, to be a better Baha’i. I still haven’t been able to develop a daily prayer routine, let alone, two, one in the morning and one at night. I also haven’t developed a consistent habit of studying the Sacred Writings.
I have foundered. But now, I think I am beginning to see my way. I have started studying the letters and guidance on the Plans of the Faith. I really have not paid any attention in the last 20+ years to what has been going on in the Baha’i Faith.
I was watching a talk by Tom Price on the 5 Year Plan on Youtube and he pointed out the changes that have gone on. He said that if a Baha’i had been asleep, Rip van Winkle style, for the last 20 years, and woke up now (actually the talk was in 2011, I believe) they would be very confused because of all the terminology and the actions by the Baha’is themselves.
I recognized myself in that analogy. Even though I have been conscious, I have deliberately not paid attention to what was going on. “That’s for other places, not here. No one is interested in the Faith here.” That, at least, was my justification.
But now that I am reading the Plans, I understand that there is a structure or framework for action. There are concrete things I can do, actions I can take. I have a place to start.
When I became a Baha’i in 1986, the method of teaching the Faith was to invite people to Firesides, talk to them about the Faith, and if someone signed a card, that was great. Then…….it was up to them to deepen themselves in the Faith. There would be study sessions called “Deepenings” on various topics as someone felt moved to give them, but it wasn’t organized. New Baha’is could attend Firesides and learn more that way or buy books.
It worked, sort of, but the Universal House of Justice realized that it would not work for integrating large numbers of people into the Faith. “Entry by Troops” is the term used in the Baha’I writings to indicate large numbers of people joining the Faith.
The Ruhi Institute was established in Columbia, I believe in the 1980s. It’s purpose was to develop ways to educate and integrate new Baha’is. It developed a series of study books on spiritual topics: “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit,” “Arising to Serve,” and “Teaching Children’s Classes.”
One of the reasons I “checked out” was lack of access to Ruhi courses. Last week I was reading over an analysis by the International Teaching Committee written in April 2003, it reminded me of this. At the beginning of this great effort of growth and consolidation, the beginning of the process relied on believers going through the classes. Since I didn’t have access, there was no way for me to start or participate.
Now there is less emphasis on Ruhi classes to get a cluster started. It is still a part, but now I can start with devotional gatherings. I believe there is also a loosening of requirements for people to become tutors. Last I heard, once you have completed one course, you can tutor that and other courses.
Soooo, here I am re-awakened and ready to teach the Faith to others.