In neighbourhoods across Toronto, Bahá’ís and their friends are striving to build a community that weaves together both the material and spiritual necessities of life. Their efforts are inspired by Bahá’u’lláh, the most recent in the series of Divine Messengers sent by God to bring humanity to the next stage of its development.
Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings assert that, regardless of race, gender, class or creed, all humans are noble beings and have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization:
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.
The problems facing the world are manifold, and Bahá’ís are under no illusions that solving them will be simple. Indeed, one of the fundamental challenges that Bahá’ís and those who are likeminded face in every facet of life is how to translate the lofty vision of humanity presented in the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh into tangible reality. Learning how to do this is a preoccupation of the community.
At the neighbourhood level, these efforts find expression mainly through four activities. The four activities provide spaces for people of various ages to explore fundamental questions of the spiritual life of humanity, such as the nature of the soul and the relationship between one’s inner life and external conditions.
The Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Bahá’í world community, enumerated the core activities in this way:
… meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives…
These activities take place across the city of Toronto. At any one time, you might find junior youth groups happening along Finch Avenue East, children's classes taking place in St. James Town, study circles going on in Flemingdon Park, and devotional gatherings being held in Bloor West Village.
All of these activities are open to all, and people of all social and religious backgrounds have been participating in and offering them. Some residents have been engaged in a particular activity for a while, while others are taking their first tentative steps in this direction, accompanied by those with a little more experience. Regardless of their experience, all are contributing to a body of knowledge that seeks to balance both the material and spiritual prosperity of the community.
In addition to the efforts being made in these four main areas, a variety of other activities take place throughout the year, all of which serve to enrich the spiritual life of the residents of Toronto. These activities include firesides, which are informal gatherings in the intimate setting of the home, where friends discuss one or another aspect of the Bahá’í Faith; reflection meetings, where residents within a small geographic area gather to discuss the progress of their community-building activities; and Holy Day observances, which commemorate pivotal moments in the history of the Bahá’í Faith.
Overseeing all of these activities of the community is the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Toronto. The Assembly, a nine-member body elected every year, guides the community’s activities and, along with its agencies, assists residents to advance along this process of growth.
If you are interested in learning more about any of these activities or would like to participate in one, please do not hesitate to get in touch.