Waves of Pioneers Preparing in Ontario

With the launch of the Nine Year Plan, Bahá’ís and their collaborators are expanding their vision of growth in a number of ways, including considering how to respond to the needs of their sister communities and responding to the call of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Bahá’í Community. Periodic gatherings are being held for those who are considering arising as pioneers; those who can relocate to assist with the establishment of activities that assist communities to develop both materially and spiritually. The Pioneering Task Force is holding periodic orientation programmes which are intended to imbue prospective pioneers with a profound appreciation of the spiritual nature of the enterprise and include the study of major messages of the House of Justice.

Seventeen friends attended a recent gathering in July, held over three days at the Bethany Bahá’í Centre for Learning and then at the newly re-acquired Don Valley Educational Centre. They studied guidance from the Universal House of Justice, as well as the stories of the Knights of Bahá’u’lláh, those who formed the first Local Spiritual Assemblies during the Ten Year Crusade (1953-1963). Several described the orientation as an uplifting and joyful space infused with the arts as a means to extend and express spiritual concepts and stories. Participants also spent time in the field, carrying out visits to vibrant centres of intense activity.

Participants in a July Pioneer Orientation express their understanding through the arts

The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada has further described that: “Beyond ensuring the flow of pioneers on our home front, Canada has been asked to raise at least 28 pioneers from our advanced clusters to be dispatched as early as possible…”[1] A member of the pioneering task force described how “this call is different from the earlier calls for pioneers. Those who arise as pioneers in this Plan will be drawing on the Bahá’í Community’s growing experience with the training institute and the way in which it can be employed as a tool in strengthening centre after centre.”

The July orientation session was held around the Toronto cluster, allowing the group to visit four centres of intense activity.  Rather than carrying out outreach or home visits, as often happens in institute campaigns or seminars, they had the opportunity to consult with the neighbourhood teams and learn about the story of these neighbourhood pockets over time, to further understand the stages of growth a neighbourhood might move through, as well as the way the team refines its reading of social reality and navigates waves of crisis and victory. In some cases, they also attended neighbourhood festivals or went on guided walks with a team member.

The group also had the bounty of visiting the National Centre and offered prayers in the chamber of the Assembly, benefiting from an address from the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly on behalf of the Institution. Then the friends planned their own community gathering, with a focus on extending the spirit of the pioneering orientation with the broader Toronto community. Participants shared prayers, artistic pieces and reflections either on the field visits or the content they had studied. 

There was a broad spectrum in terms of those who attended and their plans to pioneer. While some have already settled in their pioneer posts, others were more broadly exploring their interest in pioneering and are considering the possibilities of relocating internationally in the future, and gathering experience in the field before leaving. Others still attended the orientation and were inspired by the spirit of the Knights of Bahá’u’lláh, bringing a renewed energy and spirit to the work where they already reside.

Ontario’s second pioneer orientation session which will be held September 10-17 at Providence Point near Ottawa. Friends who wish to apply to an orientation session are requested to do so by completing and submitting the form at the following link: Ontario Pioneer Orientation Application Form.  Please reach out to the task force directly at pioneering@ontariobahai.org if you have any questions or wish to explore possibilities.

[1]  National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, July 7th, 2022

Get in touch with the neighbourhood team in this story, or share your own learning with Ontario Baha’i here.

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