Fulfilling a Long-Pursued Goal: The Bethany Bahá’í Centre of Learning

Posted: 2020/11/30

Over the past few months, families and individuals have been arising to serve and beautify the Bethany property. This video, by Kiana Rezvani Baghae, offers a glimpse of the love, joy, humility, and magnanimity of these devoted volunteers.

On April 1st, 2016, a letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada presented a vision of establishing educational facilities to serve the pressing needs of growth. In its letter, the House of Justice said:

In Toronto and Vancouver, where institute activities have increased significantly and which are also serving as sites for the dissemination of learning about the junior youth spiritual empowerment program, it might be helpful for you to think in terms of a facility with dormitories dedicated to all forms of educational activity.

In response to this letter, an educational facility was first acquired for the Vancouver cluster in 2018, and, more recently, the National Assembly announced news of the acquisition of a 12-acre property in Bethany Hills, located in the Kawartha Lakes cluster. The property is approximately 115 km northeast of Toronto and although its primary use will be as a centre of learning for the Toronto cluster, it is also a valuable resource for the entire region. This step fulfilled a long-pursued goal that the House of Justice encouraged the National Assembly to meet to serve the growth of youth activities in Toronto. In a letter to the Spiritual Assembly of Toronto, the National Assembly wrote:

Having acquired a facility in Vancouver over two years ago and been in constant search for a suitable facility to serve the Toronto cluster, what joy it brings us to now assume possession of a 12-acre property, with 120-person dormitory capacity and buildings designed for educational activity, so close to the city!

The Bethany Bahá’í Centre of Learning is located in a protected ecosystem, which is part of a larger conservation area. The expanse of rolling hills and rich agriculture surrounding it will provide a peaceful setting for studying, enjoying recreational activities, and building bonds of friendships during camps and campaigns to be hosted there in the future.

As a learning site for the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme, Toronto has reached a point of requiring spaces where youth can accelerate in their study of the institute courses in a transformative environment. When restrictions ease, the space may also be used for Toronto learning site overnight learning and training seminars for young people in other clusters.

The Bethany property includes a main educational building with classrooms, art rooms, offices, a commercial grade kitchen and a dining hall. There are also two dormitory buildings that can host up to 120 people and outdoor spaces for sports and recreation.

To prepare the site to serve the needs of the Cause, the National Assembly appointed a task force to begin coordinating the immediate maintenance work needed to bring it into operation. The task force called upon the friends in Toronto and its neighbouring clusters to undertake various tasks such as cleaning, gardening, and repairs. An immediate challenge to the volunteer work has been the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and great care was taken both by the task force and volunteers to ensure daily health screening of all visitors, sanitization and mask requirements, and physical distancing measures.

Despite these challenges, tremendous progress has been made in the past several months. The task force reports that over the summer, a total of approximately 180 volunteers came from 15 different clusters contributing some 2,160 hours onsite. Community members donated water and snacks for volunteers, much needed funds for present and future maintenance of the property, heavy equipment and machinery, and cleaning equipment. Volunteers also offered their professional skills and experience as engineers, heavy equipment operators, landscapers, gardeners, and administrators. There is no doubt that the dedication, love, and generosity of the friends will continue as the facility becomes open to activities that will accelerate the community building process in the years to come.

— Emad Toukan