National Treasurer speaks about material needs for growth

Posted: 2020/01/30

Bahá’í National Centre of Canada. Photo: Laura Friedmann

In one of several gatherings across the country, friends from the Toronto Bahá’í community came together in December to gain a deeper understanding of, as the invitation stated, “the profound relationship between material means and the growth of the Cause at the present time.”

Owing to a significant increase in the need for Funds at the local and regional levels, the gathering was a reminder of the National Fund, which requires further effort to support the accelerating pace of growth across the country. Dr. Anvari drew from the Writings of the Guardian in his remarks, which refer to the National Fund as “the bedrock on which all other Institutions must necessarily rest and be established.”[1]

The needs of clusters working towards large-scale growth, particularly Toronto and Vancouver, were also highlighted at the gathering. These two clusters both aim to reach 1000 core activities by the end of the current Five Year Plan, in 2021. This is going to require an increase in material means.

A turning point for Canada occurred around the time of National Convention, in April 2019.  “At the Convention,” Dr. Anvari explained, “groups from Toronto and Vancouver presented what they had learned from their visits to the Sydney cluster.[2] That cluster has reached 800 core activities. It became obvious to us that we can see the same vision of growth in Canada.” Canada now has 14 clusters that have passed the third milestone in their community’s development.

The groups that visited Sydney described how material arrangements in the cluster supported large-scale growth: community properties with the ability to host sleep-away camps for youth, a fleet of vans, plentiful Bahá’í literature. And now in Canada, with the rapid growth of the teaching work, there is an increase in the need for material means at the national, regional and cluster levels.

The Vancouver Bahá’í Centre for Learning consists of two duplexes as well as the neighbouring Vancouver Bahá’í Centre. Photo: Galen Humber.

In fact, the annual goal of $8.2 million presented to the National Convention was increased to $10.2 million based on a recommendation from the delegates to the incoming National Spiritual Assembly to meet the needs of the rapid growth of the Faith.

“A year ago, the National Fund expenditure was close to $5 million,” Dr. Anvari explained, “but in the last year, we’ve seen a significant change because of the rapid growth across the country. Although Ontario and British Columbia are at the forefront, he explained, many localities across the country are experiencing these types of needs.

Along with this growth, there has been an encouraging increase in fund contributions. “This shows the capacity of this community to respond to its needs,” noted Dr. Anvari, referring to the increase from Toronto.

He then went on to discuss specific needs. For example, the Deputization Fund has been drawn on more due to the growth of the Faith. “Support for pioneers alone this year will need somewhere between $600,000 to $1 million in various regions of the country – these are the youth year of service, short term pioneers.”

Another emerging need is for community properties to house the growing activities of various localities in the country. These include pioneer homes, of which there are about a dozen in British Columbia alone, administrative offices – both at the regional and cluster levels – and neighborhood centres.

When the National Spiritual Assembly wrote to the Universal House of Justice three years ago for guidance regarding the acquisition of properties, they were advised to also purchase two multi-purpose educational facilities, one for each learning site for the junior youth spiritual empowerment program – Toronto and Vancouver. One of these has already been purchased and is currently in use in Vancouver.

“We anticipate that the property footprint of the Bahá’í community is probably going to increase by two-fold in the next few years,” said Dr. Anvari. This is driven by the fact that localities are outgrowing their existing spaces to carry out activities such as junior youth groups, study circles and children’s classes.

Dr. Anvari conveyed the National Assembly’s confidence in the Canadian Bahá’í community to arise and respond to these growing needs. This was clearly demonstrated when a fund was established for the construction of the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “The goal for this fund, set at $500,000, was met within just two weeks of being set,” Dr. Anvari shared. Contributions to this fund have now surpassed $2 million.

He noted that this shows the Canadian Bahá’í community’s connection with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, both as a recipient of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, and as a country blessed with the Montreal Shrine, the only one of its kind outside of the Holy Land, which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called His home.

“The level of sacrifice we saw in how people contribute to this is remarkable,” Dr. Anvari continued. He went on to call the Bahá’í community to the same level of sacrifice when contributing to other Funds of the Faith, which support its growth “which is the vision of ‘Abdul-Bahá for this country.”

[1] Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p.32.

[2] See the article “Stories from Sydney” in the Summer 2019 issue for more information