This data was last updated on 01 September 2020.
History and Description: The Concord Bahá’í community has been meeting as a group since 1995, although there were Bahá’í families living in Concord and worshipping independently prior to the formalization of the assembly. In 2014, the Concord group formed a Local Spiritual Assembly. They often gather in private homes or in community centers for religious services such as the Nineteen Day feast, but they also run children’s classes, youth groups, devotional meetings, and study circles, as well as engage with wider Concord-Carlisle civic functions and social advocacy work. Their practice is multifaceted, guided by the foundational Bahá’í principles of unity, equality, and amity, and is open to all.
Structurally, the Bahá’í faith considers itself one large community – there is a centralized body at the international level that provides guidance to practitioners, who are organized geographically by town or county. Unity of the faith and of the human race is a cornerstone of Bahá’í belief, so Bahá’ís in Concord practice locally but identify with and are guided by the National Spiritual Assembly in Chicago and the Universal House of Justice in Israel. Another important aspect of Bahá’í practice in Concord is making time for independent worship, study, and prayer, enabling members to foster a rich, interior spiritual life in conversation with their wider community. The Concord Bahá’ís, organized by nine annually-elected members of the Local Spiritual Assembly, have 50 community members, one of the largest concentrations of Bahá’ís in metro-Boston.
Activities and Schedule: The Concord Bahá’ís practice is multifaceted: the community gathers regularly for Nineteen Day feasts, at which they recite prayers, cover administrative issues, update members on local happenings, share refreshments, and socialize, often in private homes or community centers. The Concord Bahá’ís also organize study circles, small groups in which they discuss the scriptures, and devotional meetings, more spontaneous worship meetings open to all, as well as children’s classes and youth groups for young members of the community.
Louisa Yamartino, a member of the community, sees a connection between her Bahá’í faith and Concord’s Transcendental legacy, grounding her faith in her town’s history as a place of, in Thoreau’s words, “living deliberately” in harmony with others. “It’s kind of cool that we’ve ended up with this unique group of people all living here and doing the work of trying to bring people together,” she said. “As the writings of Bahá’u’lláh say: the Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”
Outreach and Interfaith Activity: In addition to these religious meetings, community engagement and interfaith work form a cornerstone of Bahá’í practice in Concord. “There’s lots of coming together and working with others towards things that are important,” said Yamartino. “We’re really open to that.” The Bahá’ís are represented on the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council (CCHRC), a municipal, elected body that works to educate and advocate on behalf of respect, understanding, dignity, and good will in the town and beyond. In January 2020, the CCHRC organized their 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, an event that aligns with the Bahá’í beliefs of racial amity and universal unity. The event featured live performances, and focused on the legacy of the civil rights movement and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Yamartino sees an important distinction established by the term racial amity, namely that anything less allows for a distancing of people of different races. “It’s not about accepting or tolerating, or acting as white saviors, or throwing money at the problem,” she said. “It’s about friendship, because you don’t let these things happen to your friends.” She shared a piece of scripture that guides the Concord Bahá’ís’ interfaith work and community activism: “you are all the leaves of one tree, the flowers of one garden.”
The Concord Bahá’ís, who were already engaged with efforts to encourage amity as part of their routine practice, participated in a number of local protests and events following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, which sparked a national reckoning with racism and racial bias. Although the necessity of social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Concord Bahá’ís' celebration of National Race Amity Day online in June 2020, they still found ways to celebrate and organize as a community. Alongside racial amity, they are constantly working toward gender equity, religious tolerance, unity, and universal peace.