National reflection on devotional gatherings

Posted: 2021/12/07

On December 5th, over 900 friends from across the country took part in a meeting to reflect on the remarkable growth in the last 16 months of the number of devotional gatherings being held in Canada. This historic national gathering, the first of its kind, was open “to all those who are engaged in learning about enhancing the devotional character of our communities”.

Arranged by the National Spiritual Assembly and held over four hours on Zoom, the meeting was designed as a space to share and build upon the experience gained, as devotional gatherings have more than doubled to 5,600 since April 2020, with a regular participation of almost 20,000.

The meeting had over 750 connections, with many participants who serve together joining as groups in one physical space.

“Despite all the uncertainties of these strange days, in communities large and small this has happened” noted a member of the National Assembly in the meeting’s opening remarks. “These gatherings have been a lifeline for so many, and interwoven with educational efforts for all ages, they have reinforced their lofty purpose of combining worship and service to humanity. ”

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Participants of the national gathering share reflections on devotional gatherings.

Following these remarks, participants heard from Counsellors Ayafor Ayafor and Borna Noureddin, after which brief presentations were made by a panel of individuals from across the country on the following topics:

  • Learning to share prayers and invite others to devotional gatherings
  • Fostering profound conversations in the context of a devotional gathering
  • The devotional gathering and an expanding nucleus
  • Introducing the training institute and inviting participation
  • Working with special populations
  • Working with families – our own and in groups of families

The stories shared by panelists represented the diversity of the Canadian population, highlighting the creative ways in which many of the shared difficulties of starting devotional gatherings have been overcome, as well as the insights that have been generated through action and reflection.

One panelist shared how devotional gathering hosts who were developing the capacity to hold meaningful conversations first felt daunted by the self-imposed expectation that such a conversation need be limited to “one spectacular moment”. Rather, they are now learning that it is an ongoing conversation, one closely linked to the relationship that participants develop with one another. As sharing prayers together naturally leads to closer relationships and more sharing in conversation. “These gatherings lay bare the side of our heart that otherwise doesn’t emerge in daily life,” said the panelist.

Following the panel presentations, participants were invited to breakout rooms where they could consult in smaller groups and share their own learning experiences or ask questions.