Vancouver youth gathering bears fruit

Posted: 2015/10/06
Participants at the Vancouver youth gathering sing together.

Participants at the Vancouver youth gathering sing together.

A number of youth gatherings have taken place this past summer, bringing youth across the country together to discuss matters of spiritual import, including the role of youth in contributing to the material and spiritual prosperity of their communities. The gatherings are inspired by the 114 youth conferences that were held in 2013, and have been organized by Regional Councils and local teams in order to reach more youth. Here is a story of one such gathering held in Vancouver, B.C.:

Welcomed by a representative of the Musqueam people of the Vancouver area, 59 youth gathered in July at the Musqueam Cultural Centre to consider the contribution our generation is called upon to make in response to Bahá’u’lláh’s summons. Many of the participants had been invited to the gathering only over the course of the preceding two weeks. During those two weeks, 41 friends invited 339 youth to the gathering. To symbolize their efforts, they undertook a collective art project. First, a bare tree was made, and for every youth they encountered, a leaf sprouted; for every interested youth who received a follow-up visit, a flower blossomed; and for every youth who registered for the gathering, the tree bore fruit.

The sacrifices participants made to attend heightened the sacredness of the atmosphere. One youth shared: “When I was first invited, I wasn’t going to come. I had summer school, and I needed to use the weekend to study … But then I realized that this gathering is also an important part of my education … I knew that attending this gathering would greatly help all the aspects of my life, including school.”

With a joyful spirit and an inquisitive attitude characteristic of those in the prime of their lives, 42 of the friends were participating in this type of gathering for the first time. About ten of them were entirely new to the work of the Bahá’í community and its aims until the opportunity to participate in the gathering was presented. A sense of humble learning permeated the interactions over the course of those three days as everyone, regardless of where they were on a path of service, saw in such a gathering the opportunity to learn from one another.

The youth examined the current stage of their lives, the forces operating on them in various environments (such as in the family, in their peer groups, or in the media), and the role of service in contributing to both individual growth and to the progress of society. When discussing the myriad negative forces prominent in the media, one youth remarked: “There is so much happening around the world, and since we know of it we have the responsibility to do something. But we must be focused and not get distracted by all of the problems. We must keep focused on the things we can do … Faith in humanity is indispensable, for that maintains hope.” Regarding positive forces, another participant commented, “Everybody has this thirst for knowledge, attraction to beauty, love of truth. Individuals chasing these concepts is what brings progress for society.”

Youth make plans at the Vancouver gathering in Musqueam, B.C.

Youth make plans at the Vancouver gathering in Musqueam, B.C.

This discussion led naturally to a consideration of the topic of early adolescence and how those younger than the youth can be more affected by societal forces. One concept addressed in depth was the potential of the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme to bring about individual and collective transformation. The youth were also encouraged to reflect on their ‘sacred charge’ to create nurturing environments for the younger generation through serving as animators of junior youth groups.

To translate these ideas into action, each participant explored what it means to walk a path of service guided by the systematic study of the sequence of courses created by the Ruhi Institute. Groups also planned how to bring more young people from their neighbourhoods into an ongoing conversation fuelled by study and service. Some youth expressed a desire to serve as children’s class teachers, others to serve as animators of junior youth groups.

Because of the gathering, six youth began their study of the first book of the sequence, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit, with three of them continuing intensively for the following four days to complete the course. Another 13 made plans to participate in trainings in August to become animators or children’s class teachers.

The friendships formed at the gathering have already taken a tangible form. Some of the youth were studying Reflections on the Life of the Spirit in the same space as a group of youth studying Drawing on the Power of the Word, a junior youth text. During their breaks, the older youth would assist the younger youth in their study.  As part of the practice component, the older youth enthusiastically shared a prayer for children with the younger youth, so that together they would be thinking of how they can nurture the youngest members of the community.

– Stefan Jauca