Seasonal schools open their doors in Ontario

Posted: 2018/06/20

Tahirih Naylor-Thimm shares how the Wildfire school works to create an open and collaborative space for anyone who wants to attend or volunteer at a Bahá’í school.

In recent years, seasonal schools in Ontario have been steadily developing thanks to a core group of local organizers and consistent encouragement from the Bahá’í Council and its Seasonal Schools Committee.

On March 31, the fourth annual Seasonal Schools gathering of school organizers and supporters – a total of 14 participants in all – was held at Wildfire Lodge in southern Ontario, which has, itself, been a long-standing venue for Bahá’í schools in the province.

During the day-long consultation, the representatives of four schools – Shining Lamp Baha’i School, Rainbow Baha’i School, Kawaa’aatae/Kawartha and Wildfire – reported on their respective experiences from 2017 and consulted about upcoming summer plans. ROBSI, a school specifically for children and junior youth, was not represented as its organizers were unable to attend, though they did provide a report on their strengths and challenges.

While each school has its own character, they all share a sense of “close and intense community life,”[1] which one speaker described as something unique to schools.

With this in mind, the group discussed the relationship between summer schools and the training institute. Recognizing that the Universal House of Justice has emphasized that these two “centres of learning”[2] are “complementary, and benefit from each other as both flourish,”[3] the organizers took time to look at how Shoghi Effendi said one of the purposes of seasonal schools is that, “through daily association with the believers, non-Bahá’ís will come to see the Cause functioning as an active and living community entirely dedicated to the service of what is best and highest in the world.”

The participants shared stories and ideas on how to ensure that seasonal schools are a place for the everyone to come together and experience the nature of a Bahá’í community life over a period of days. Many of them drew on their experiences with the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh and what was learned during that time about engaging the wider community in Bahá’í life and celebration.

With the same outward-looking orientation asked of all centres of Bahá’í activity, each school organizer then pledged to make every effort to make sure friends of the Faith are a part of seasonal schools this year. The school planners are now sharing information for their upcoming summer activities, and while some have already filled their registration limits, they are finding ways to make sure that any friend of the Faith who wishes to participate in a school is able to do so.

— Neil McMillan

[1] From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, 17 October, 1936

[2] From the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Board of Counsellors, 26 December 1995

[3] From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Finland, 18 June 2001