Bicentenary stories: Ottawa, Ontario

Posted: 2018/01/23

The members of a junior youth group in an Ottawa neighbourhood take a moment to memorialize their efforts to host a bicentenary celebration for their community.

A group of friends working in a neighbourhood in Ottawa used the opportunity of bicentenary to share how the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh were at the core of their community-building work.

Before the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, in the large suburban community of Greenboro, Ottawa, a group of homefront pioneers, alongside animators native to the neighbourhood, came together to study the October 2017 message from the Universal House of Justice.

Together they read, “On this two hundredth anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s appearance, the many who are part of this enterprise are reaching out to those around them with a simple invitation: seize this opportunity to find out who He was and what He represents.”[1] With this guidance in mind they decided, through a series of home visits, to invite those in their neighbourhood to come together to learn about the significance of this moment.

With more than 10 elementary and secondary schools, the population of Greenboro is primarily made up of families with children. At its heart is an active community centre and library that acts as a hub for people of diverse backgrounds to come together. A variety of housing types – from low rise apartment buildings to detached houses – are in close proximity, allowing residents to develop friendships with a wide range of people.

The bicentenary celebration took place at the local community centre in the form of an open house. Starting in the mid-afternoon and lasting for five hours, members of the community were invited to come and learn about the life of Bahá’u’lláh and how the pioneers and animators were working to practice His teachings through the core activities. They were also invited to participate in the community development process.

In total, 80 people attended the event: 20 children, 21 junior youth, 25 youth and 14 adults. Each group found something specific to their interests. The children did an art activity; the junior youth were told about the junior youth program by others their own age; the youth about their important role in the institute process; and the parents were given the chance to explore the aims of the programs their children were involved in. Everyone, of all ages, was also invited to contribute to a collective art project inspired by the Writings.

Community members contributed to a collaborative art project to create two wings for the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh. Photo: Caitlin Moore

The junior youth brought their friends and family – even extended family members – to learn more about the programs they participated in. Others, spending a usual day at the centre, found they were drawn to the joyful atmosphere of the event, were welcomed and given the opportunity to find out about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh.

So attractive was the message being shared that the head of the staff at the community centre began to invite people walking by to take part in the celebration. By the end of the night he had such an appreciation for the work that he said he wanted to be considered a collaborator in the community.

– Caitlin Moore

[1] From the Universal House of Justice to all who celebrate the Glory of God, October 2017.