A Bahá’í of Nineteen Years Revisits an Introduction to the Faith, Begins Two Teaching Activities

The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction 2018
Faculty: Robert Stockman, William Collins

For Ben Guterson, The Bahá’í Faith: A Comprehensive Introduction 2018 was his first experience with Wilmette Institute online courses. A Bahá’í of nineteen years who lives with his wife in North Bend, Washington, USA, Ben was “looking to refresh and deepen” his “knowledge of the Faith in a systematic, comprehensive fashion.” He also wanted to follow up on a friend’s suggestion that he read Rob Stockman’s book The Bahá’í Faith: A Guide for the Perplexed, the course’s text.

Three Goals. Ben accomplished two of his three goals, both of which have increased his ability to discuss the life-giving teachings of the Bahá’í Faith with many different people. His first goal was to gain “a clearer understanding of Bahá’í history, teachings, and practices”; his second one, being “able to articulate the core principles and features of the Faith to a variety of individuals or audiences.” Ben is “still working to flesh” out his third goal: bringing “a reinvigorated and deepened awareness of the uniqueness of the Bahá’í message” to his own work and the efforts he and his wife “are making to engage in social action and community building.”

Ben’s Learnings. Ben shared a number of his new insights, skills, feelings, and changes in his views:

  • For me, it’s less that I gained significant new understandings or insights in any particular areas (though my understanding of the Bahá’í approach to economics was definitely enhanced, as was my clarity on Shoghi Effendi’s vast efforts) as that the overall richness of my understanding of the Faith has been enhanced. I feel that I have a deeper knowledge of the Faith across the board.
  • I don’t think [that I have acquired any new skills], though I don’t think coming into the course I felt that would be an immediate payoff. I do believe, though, that my deepened knowledge will allow me to interact more effectively with seekers as I represent the Faith to them.
  • I definitely have a greater appreciation for the amount of effort and determination it has taken to allow the Faith to advance to where it is today. I’ve always understood this somewhat, but Robert’s writing and some of the supporting materials made this awareness more concrete for me.
  • There has been a bit of a deepening of my commitment to my Baha’i ideals as a result of this course. So—less of a change and more of a maturing or intensifying, I would say.

The Payoff. What taking the course motivated Ben (and his wife) to do is a pair of actions:

My wife and I have initiated a monthly “Spiritual Discussions” gathering in a local coffee shop as a way of gently introducing people to the Faith. The knowledge I’ve gained in this course will undoubtedly help me do a better job of fielding any questions that might arise in those get-togethers. We are also starting a weekly “English Corner” gathering(inspired by the Bahá’í community in Vancouver, B.C.—I first heard about this through the film A Widening Embrace), and I’m sure the knowledge from this class will assist me with those sessions, too.

Revisiting the fundamentals of the Bahá’í Faith followed by consultation and reflection. Then action. Such a simple formula for success.

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1. For an engaging account of English Corners, go to A Widening Embrace, around 1:04:00. English Corners started in Vancouver to teach English to newcomers to Canada. But the Bahá’ís there soon discovered that English and grammar were the secondary need. The “yearning for newcomers” was “to be part of a group of friends that would be in constant dialogue about the well-being of their community.” Hence the Bahá’ís developed materials to meet that need. The result, in the words of one newcomer is that “You learn your English, and you get to know more friends, and then together you create a small community.”

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