Just as our bodies require nourishment to develop properly, we need regular prayer for our spiritual health. Prayer is food for the soul; it deepens the love of God in our hearts and draws us closer to Him.
Bahá’ís in St. John's gather together regularly in each other's homes or in public places to offer prayers and recite Holy Verses. These devotional gatherings can also include uplifting music and song.
Such gatherings serve to awaken spirituality within the participants and promote patterns of community life infused with a spirit of devotion.
There are no rituals at devotional meetings; no single individual has any special role. Meetings consist largely of reading prayers and passages from the Bahá’í sacred texts in an informal yet respectful atmosphere. Bahá’ís sometimes read sacred texts from other religions as well, and we welcome people of all faiths to worship with us.
“There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer…The most blessed condition is the condition of prayer and supplication.” - ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
All human beings have a two-fold purpose in life.
The first purpose is to seek to become a better person. The second is to help make this world a more just, loving and unified place.
To build the capacity to fulfill these purposes, Bahá’ís have developed an institute process. This is an approach that involves studying a sequence of courses grounded in Bahá’í principles and putting those principles into action in service to humanity.
Key to this process is the study circle.
“A study circle is a small group that meets at least once or twice a week for a few hours, usually in the home of one of its members, to study the course materials. Anyone aged fifteen or older, whether a Bahá’í or not, is welcome to take part.
“The group is brought together by a tutor associated with the training institute. Tutors do not hold any special status. They are simply those who are further along in their study of the materials. Everyone can potentially serve as a tutor on some occasions, while taking part as a member of a study circle on others.
"All those participating are seen as active agents of their own learning. Tutors strive to create an atmosphere that encourages individuals to assume ownership for the educational process in which they are engaged. A study circle should be a space that leads to the spiritual and moral empowerment of individuals.” - Excerpt from The Training Institute
Capacity to grow and to serve
At the personal level, the sessions create spaces where the joy of associating with long-standing and/or newer friends is augmented through sharing responses to the power and beauty of the creative word. This meaningful dialogue elevates the spirit and deepens the bonds of friendship.
The open and flexible format of the sessions invites participants to further enhance the spiritual atmosphere through the incorporation of art (stories, music, poetry, painting, crocheting or any art form.)
Far from limiting their attention to their own circle, the study groups may engage in community-building services. Such acts of service can include home visits to people of limited mobility, neighbourhood improvement projects, environmental initiatives, the education of children, and the empowerment of youth.
Study circles and the service projects that emerge from them are usually modest in scale. However, they are concrete ways of promoting the oneness of humanity and contributing to the advancement of civilization.
So, the participants develop new patterns of thought and action that build their capacity to grow spiritually and to serve humanity.
Junior Youth Empowerment
Bahá’ís look upon junior youth - aged roughly 11 to 15 - with a sense of hope and optimism. They believe youths of this age are characterized by “an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world.”
Starting from this viewpoint, Bahá’ís have created a junior youth spiritual empowerment program to help people of this age group develop their intellectual, moral and spiritual capacities.
While the junior youth program is inspired by Bahá’í spiritual principles, it is open to young people of all faiths. between the ages of 11 and 15. There is no religious indoctrination; rather the program's focus is to apply universal spiritual principles to the challenges faced by junior youth.
During junior youth classes, participants develop their powers of expression, their ability to solve problems and their capacity to be of service to humanity.
What happens in junior youth groups?
Participants develop these capacities through a combination of activities.
- The program seeks to create a warm social atmosphere in which junior youth feel welcomed, accepted and respected.
- Junior youth participate in the art, music, storytelling and cooperative games as both means of developing their power of a expression and ways to bond with others in the group.
- The participants read, reflect upon and discuss stories about junior youth from different parts of the world. In relating these stories to their own lives, they can think about how to apply the spiritual principles found within them to real-life problems.
- The junior youth come up with ideas for community service projects and carry them out themselves. In so doing, they develop their capacity to consult with others, solve problems and be of service to humanity.
- Older adolescents and young adults assist the junior youth as "JY animators," but it is the junior youth themselves who take the initiative in group projects.
As our friends at bahaiteachings.org state, the junior youth spiritual empowerment program is designed to help youths between the ages of 11 and 15 to "develop into focused, happy and productive teenagers and young adults."
For more information about how to join the program or become an animator in St. John's, call Robert at 709-221-1873.
Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity. — The Universal House of Justice
Recognizing the vital importance of educating children to be moral human beings, Bahá’í training institutes around the world have developed materials to help children acquire spiritual qualities such as honesty, patience and selflessness.
Classes based upon these materials use storytelling, prayer, games, art and song to help children build these qualities. Bahá’í children's classes aim to help children develop their capacity to make sound moral choices and to eventually assume responsibility for their own spiritual development.