Feasts, Firesides, and Core Activities

Bahá’íThe Bahá’í Faith first took shape in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) declared himself a divine messenger and the messianic figure predicted by the Bab (1819-1850). The religion stresses the oneness of God, the divine origin of all the world’... communal worship is distinguished by two characteristics. First, since the Bahá’í Faith has no clergyClergy are the body of ordained men (and in some cases women) who are authorized to perform the priestly, pastoral, or rabbinical duties of the community—as distinct from the laity whom they serve., worship can be planned and led by anyone, female or male, young or old. Second, rituals, rites, and ceremonies are forbidden, and so worship tends to be very simple.

Central to worship is the use of scripture, either carefully and clearly read, sung, or in the case of scriptures in Persian and ArabicClassical Arabic is the language of revelation in Islam as recorded in the Qur’an. Muslims consider every word of the Qur’an to be a direct utterance of God. The Arabic language itself is regarded as perfectly suited as the instrument for God’s comm..., chanted. Chanting of Bahá’í prayersPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not. in English, while not widespread, is developing. While the BibleThe Greek term biblia means the “books.” Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions to refer to the book which gathers together their sacred writings. The Hebrew Bible includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—a collection re..., the Qur’anThe word Qur’an literally means “recitation.” Revealed orally to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, he recited it to his followers. These recitations collected in written form are arranged in 114 surahs, generally from longest to shortest. Muslims consi..., and scriptures of other religions are occasionally used in Bahá’í worship—especially when the non-Bahá’í public is invited—generally the writings, and especially the prayers, of Baha’u’llahBahá’u’lláh (1817–1892) was born in Iran as Mirza Husayn ’Ali and became the most influential of the early followers of the Báb. He acquired the title Bahá’u’lláh (Arabic for "the Glory of God") in 1848. In 1863 he announced a claim to be..., the BábIn 1844, Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad of Shiraz (1819–1850) took the title of the “Bab” or “Gate,” implying that he was a means of access to divine guidance through the Twelfth Imam, a messianic figure expected at the end of the age. In actual fact, he ..., and Abdu’l-BahaUpon the death of Bahá’u’lláh in 1892, his son Abbas Effendi (1844-1921 CE), took the title `Abdu’l-Bahá (“Servant of Bahá’u’lláh”) and assumed the role given him by Bahá’u’lláh as the new head of the Bahá’í community. During ... are central to the program. The entire congregation does not recite a scriptural passage in unison. Generally one person reads, chants, or sings while the others listen. Such worship is best described as a meditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo... on and celebration of the Word of GodGod is a term used to refer to the Divine, the Supreme being, Transcendent deity, or Ultimate reality..

Another important element of Bahá’í worship is music. This may include instrumental music (except in Bahá’í Houses of Worship, where all music is acapella), listening to recorded music, or singing together. Bahá’í music as a particular musical genre does not exist; rather, music expressing Bahá’í themes has been written in many genres and styles. Music that is written to be performed in a worship context usually incorporates passages from the Bahá’í scriptures. The first American Bahá’í hymnbook was published in 1903 and contained mostly modified ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists... hymns. Soon after its publication, hymns on Bahá’í themes were composed.

With the rise of radio, records, talking pictures, and other forms of popular culture, Bahá’í songs came to be written in a wider variety of genres. Guitars became a particularly important instrument for Bahá’í music, because most Bahá’í music was performed in homes or rented facilities where portable instruments were most convenient. In the 1960s and 1970s several classical pieces were written on Bahá’í themes to be performed by orchestras. More recently country music and jazz have emerged as genres for Bahá’í music. Starting in the 1980s Bahá’í youth workshops created music and skits illustrating Bahá’í themes using rap and hip-hop. Music inspired by African-American traditions has been an important genre for Bahá’í music since the 1960s; in 1992 the debut of a gospelGospel means “Good News” and refers to the central message of the Christian tradition: the good news of Christ’s life and message of redemption. Gospel refers more specifically to the four books that tell the story of the Christ event and became par... choir at the Bahá’í World Congress made Bahá’í gospel music very popular in the United States. Always, the role of music is to uplift and inspire those gathered to worship.

The Bahá’í Faith has no required weekly worship services, but it does have a regular community gathering known as a Nineteen Day FeastThe Bahá’í community generally gathers on the first evening of each Bahá’í month, or once every nineteen days. Each Feast has three portions: worship, adminstrative and socializing. The devotional portion tends to center on two activities: the rea.... Generally held on the first evening of each Bahá’í month, or once every nineteen days, the feast has three portions: worship, administrative, and socializing. It is normally open only to Bahá’ís.

The worship portion of feast procedes in the same manner as devotional programs discussed above. Anyone can organize the readings and songs, even a child. At the administrative portion The administrative portion of the feast, the business of the Bahá’í community is discussed and necessary action taken. The feast concludes with a social portion, where all attending enjoy refreshments and socialize.

A common type of Bahá’í meeting is the firesideA fireside is a common type of Bahá’í meeting, a gathering in a Bahá’í home to discuss the faith. Bahá’ís are encouraged to host such gatherings regularly. Bahá’í communities also sponsor large public firesides in a home or a Bahá’í Ce.... The “classic” fireside described by Shoghi EffendiShoghi Effendi (1897–1957) succeeded his grandfather, `Abdu’l-Bahá, as the head of the Bahá’í Faith in 1921. In order to give the Bahá’í Faith organization, Shoghi Effendi established the institutional structure of local and national spiritua... involves a Bahá’í inviting someone to his or her home to discuss the faith in an atmosphere of service and friendship. The fireside generally has two elements: hospitality and discussion of the Bahá’í Faith with those seeking to learn about it. All Bahá’ísThe Bahá’í Faith first took shape in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) declared himself a divine messenger and the messianic figure predicted by the Bab (1819-1850). The religion stresses the oneness of God, the divine origin of all the world’... are encouraged to host such gatherings regularly. Sometimes Bahá’í communities sponsor large formal “firesides” in a home or a Bahá’í Center. These events begin with a speaker (who need not be a Bahá’í) describing an aspect of the Bahá’í Faith. This presentation is followed by questions, discussion, and refreshments. Because the Bahá’í Faith stresses personal investigation of the truth, questions and discussion are important parts of a fireside gathering. Formal firesidesA fireside is a common type of Bahá’í meeting, a gathering in a Bahá’í home to discuss the faith. Bahá’ís are encouraged to host such gatherings regularly. Bahá’í communities also sponsor large public firesides in a home or a Bahá’í Ce... are nearly always open to the public.

An important new focus of the Bahá’í community are the core activities: devotional meetings, children’s classes, programs for junior youth (those aged 12-14), and study circlesIn some Pagan traditions, a “circle” refers to the people who gather for a ritual. When standing in a circle, all the participants are able to see each other, with no one member elevated over any other. This practice is often felt to encourage egalita... for youth and adults. A devotional meeting is a meeting where prayers and other devotional materials (Bahá’í or not) are shared. They can be held by anyone anywhere. Bahá’ís have always held such meetings, but the emphasis on them is new. Junior youth programs focus both on classes and service projects where they assist their village, town, or city in some way. Study circles currently use the Ruhi books as their primary curriculum. Each book is studied with a tutor and requires dozens of hours to complete. Their purpose is not primarily to impart information, but to strengthen skills. Book 1 focuses on how to give devotional meetings; Book 2, how to visit people in their houses to share Bahá’í ideas and prayers; Book 3 provides materials and tips for teaching classes to children; Book 4 discusses the lives of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and ways to tell stories about them; Book 5 covers junior youth programs; Book 6, the teaching of the Bahá’í Faith to others; Book 7 offers training to be a Ruhi tutor; and Book 8 focuses on the Bahá’í covenantA covenant (or brit) is a mutual promise or compact between two parties. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covenant is of deep significance in describing the mutual relationship of God and the people of faith. The major covenants in Jewish scripture.... The purpose of the books is to inspire its students to study the Bahá’í scriptures regularly, explain them to others, and engage in a series of basic activities. The purpose of the core activities is not simply to expand the Bahá’í community, but also to empower others in their lives. Gradually, efforts at social action and public discourse are being integrated with the core activities, providing a vehicle for nonviolent social change accessible to all.

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