December 2015 Message to the Continental Boards of Counsellors

Nov 2015
United States
Highlights (in my opinion):

  • The ambitious goal of raising to 5,000 the number of clusters where a programme of growth, at whatever level of intensity, is under way looks set to be achieved in the months that remain before Riḍván 2016.
  • Worldwide, half a million individuals have now been enabled to complete at least the first book in the sequence of courses, an extraordinary feat that has laid a sure foundation for the system of human resource development.
  • Marvelling at what they have seen, leaders of society in certain places are pressing the Bahá’ís to make their programmes for educating the young widely available.
  • The unfoldment of the process of growth in a cluster, while naturally possessing unique features in every instance... conforms to certain shared characteristics. ... A collective understanding of what is required for
    the friends in a cluster to pass the first of the milestones we described [in the 2010 letter], and then the second, has grown over this period.
  • Much depends on the ability of the institutions to draw on help from friends in other clusters.
  • Well over 4,500 believers have already arisen to serve [as homefront pioneers] during the present Plan.
  • Essential, of course, is the support of Auxiliary Board members and their assistants.
  • The number of those starting their study [of the institute materials] continues to rise.
  • Progress relies to a large extent on the quality of the efforts of those serving as tutors.
  • Efforts to usher in the first cadre of tutors from the cluster should steer a path between two undesirable outcomes. If individuals proceed through the courses of the institute too hastily, the capacity to serve is not sufficiently developed; conversely, if study is overly prolonged, the process is robbed of the dynamism essential to its advancement.
  • As the institute process in a cluster gains momentum, the act of teaching comes to assume greater prominence in the lives of the friends.
  • The precise objectives of each expansion phase vary, depending on conditions in the cluster and the circumstances of the Bahá’í community. In some instances, its main aim is to increase participation in the core activities; in others, readiness to enrol in the Faith is discovered. Conversations about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh and the purpose of His mission occur in a variety of settings, including firesides and visits to homes. The actions undertaken during this phase allow abilities developed through studying the relevant institute materials to be exercised and refined. As experience grows, the friends become more adept at discerning when they have found a hearing ear, at deciding when to be more direct in sharing the message, at removing obstacles to understanding, and at helping seekers to embrace the Cause.
  • The pattern of community life has to be developed in places where receptivity wells up, those small centres of population where intense activity can be sustained.
  • Therefore, a significant task facing you and your auxiliaries at the outset of the coming Plan will be to assist the friends everywhere to appreciate that, for existing programmes of growth to continue to gain strength, the strategy of initiating community-building activities in neighbourhoods and villages that show promise must be widely adopted and systematically followed.
  • What is required from those involved is long-term commitment and a yearning to become so familiar with the reality of a place that they integrate into local life and, eschewing any trace of prejudice or paternalism, form those bonds of true friendship that befit companions on a spiritual journey. The dynamic that develops in such settings creates a strong sense of collective will and movement.
  • Reaching the second milestone along the continuum of development is accompanied by advances qualitative, but also quantitative.
  • In the last five years, the path that leads to the emergence of an intensive programme of growth has become more readily discernible. It must be earnestly pursued. In the Plan that will commence this Riḍván, we are calling for growth to be accelerated in all clusters where it has begun. Notwithstanding the natural ebb and flow characteristic of an organic process, there should appear a clear arc of progress over the course of twenty cycles. This combined effort should seek to raise the number of clusters where a programme of growth has become intensive to 5,000 by Riḍván 2021. [Emphasis added]
  • Being able to reach out to large numbers—mobilizing a hundred people or more, whose service connects them with many hundreds or even thousands—requires the capacity to adapt to a substantial increase in complexity.
  • In the course of their endeavours, the believers encounter receptivity within distinct populations who represent a particular ethnic, tribal, or other group and who may be concentrated in a small setting or present throughout the cluster and well beyond it. There is much to be learned about the dynamics involved when a population of this kind embraces the Faith and is galvanized through its edifying influence.
  • The Area Teaching Committee is rising to a new level of functioning. It is engaged in a more thorough reading of circumstances in the whole cluster: on the one hand, accurately assessing the capacities of the community and the effects being produced by sustained growth, and on the other, understanding the implications of various social realities for community building in the long term.
  • A variety of questions become more pressing: how to mobilize the entire company of believers in support of teaching goals; how to organize systematic home visits to the friends who would benefit from deepening and discussions that connect them with the community; how to strengthen spiritual bonds with the parents of children and junior youth; how to build on the interest of those who have shown goodwill towards the Faith but have yet to take part in its activities.
  • Promoting the widespread holding of devotional meetings is another concern, so that hundreds of people, eventually thousands, are engaged in worship in the company of their households and their neighbours.
  • A notable characteristic of advanced clusters is a mode of learning that permeates the whole community and acts as a spur to the rise in institutional capacity.
  • There are locations within these clusters where a significant percentage of the entire population is now involved in community-building activities. For instance, there are small villages where the institute has been able to engage the participation of all the children and junior youth in its programmes... Figures of authority from the wider society start to draw on the insight and experience arising from initiatives of social action inspired by Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings... Beyond the Bahá’í community, people are coming to regard the Local Spiritual Assembly as a radiant source of wisdom to which they too can turn for illumination.
  • In the wake of the youth conferences convened in 2013, in which 80,000 youth participated, an additional cohort of over 100,000 have joined them in taking part in numerous encounters held since then.

This list is mostly in the words of the letter, but I edited the sentences to be more readable in list form, so please do not attribute excerpts from this list to the Universal House of Justice.

I got as far as Page 10 of 16 before I needed to take a break.
Dec 2015
N Ireland
Brother Neal thank you so very much for your summary. It was a huge piece of work and a loving gesture from you:yes:


Jun 2015
Perth, Australia
It really is a huge body of a Letter!

Thank you Neal, you did very well to get to page 10!!

To be honest the same letter of 2010 is still a manifesto for our family, excerpts on the fridge, especially the parts relating to parenting!

Great thread!
Probably the most important one here on this forum in my humble opinion :)

Nov 2015
United States
The letter is broken into the following sections:

Page 1

The emergence of a programme of growth
Page 2

Strengthening the pattern of action
Pages 2-6

Embracing large numbers and managing complexity
Pages 6-10

Releasing the potential of the youth
Pages 10-12

Enhancing institutional capacity
Pages 12-15

A period of special potency
Pages 15-16
Nov 2015
United States
Within the letter is a hitherto untranslated passage from a Tablet by Baha'u'llah. I will quote the entire paragraph in which the Writing appears.


The coming global endeavour to which the friends will be summoned calls for the application of proven strategies, systematic action, informed analysis, and keen insight. Yet above all, it is a spiritual enterprise, and its true character should never be obscured. The urgency to act is impelled by the world's desperate condition. All that the followers of Baha'u'llah have learned in the last twenty years must culminate in the accomplishments of the next five. The scale of what is being asked of them brings to mind one of His Tablets in which He describes, in striking terms, the challenge entailed in spreading His Cause:

How many the lands that remained untilled and uncultivated; and how many the lands that were tilled and cultivated, and yet remained without water; and how many the lands which, when the harvest time arrived, no harvester came forth to reap! However, through the wonders of God's favour and the revelations of His loving-kindness, We cherish the hope that souls may appear who are the embodiments of heavenly virtue and who will occupy themselves with teaching the Cause of God and training all that dwell on earth.

The systematic efforts of His loved ones throughout the world aim at the fulfilment of the hope thus expressed by the Blessed Perfection. May He Himself reinforce them at every turn.

- The Universal House of Justice
Nov 2015
United States
Here is a follow up letter from the House


2 January 2016

To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

We address you these words from the gathering where, for five successive days, the Continental Counsellors have earnestly considered the implications of the next global Plan. Their insightful consultations drew on the impressive body of knowledge about the process of capacity building that is being generated in thousands of clusters worldwide. The numerous accounts that were shared in the course of the Conference attested the creativity, tenacity, and burgeoning abilities of the community of the Greatest Name and, above all, its reliance on the confirmations of the Almighty. There is a growing appreciation among people in all parts of the world of the efficacy of Bahá’u’lláh’s remedy for healing the maladies of society.

Before the first century of the Formative Age concludes, there lies a span of time that stretches between two anniversaries associated with documents of measureless significance. It begins with the centenary of the revelation by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, just as the friends are embarking on a new stage in the unfoldment of that Plan. It ends at the lapse of one hundred years since the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which was followed by the opening of the Master’s Will and Testament. With these thoughts in mind, and in preparation for their deliberations, the Continental Counsellors, led by the members of the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre, visited the House of the Master—the place where three of the Tablets of the Divine Plan had been revealed and where, a few weeks after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, His Will and Testament had been read aloud to believers from four continents. In that sacred House, on the eve of the present Conference, passages were recited from those two Charters which, Shoghi Effendi explained, set in motion processes for the propagation of the Faith and the establishment of its Administrative Order. This was a fitting prologue to five days of consultation focused on diffusing more widely the light of Bahá’u’lláh and strengthening the ability of His institutions to act as channels through which His promised blessings may flow to humankind.

The provisions of the coming Five Year Plan are contained in the message that we addressed to the Conference on its opening day and which was at the same time distributed to all National Spiritual Assemblies. The colossal effort that will be asked from the loved ones of the Lord was clearly recognized by the Counsellors, but they also voiced their confidence in the capacity of the Bahá’í world to face this challenge. At no earlier time could such an undertaking have been seriously contemplated, but given what is being achieved in the present Plan, the realms of possibility are wider than ever before. Our hearts were moved by the reports that began to arrive, within hours of our message to the Conference being released, of the friends eagerly coming together in settings of all kinds to help one another become familiar with its contents. We hope that study of the message will spread rapidly throughout the community. Meanwhile, the institutions will be putting in place whatever administrative and organizational arrangements are necessary to ensure the most auspicious start to the Plan at Riḍván.

In the few months that remain before then, the work of the current Plan, establishing new programmes of growth in particular, will continue to be pursued. Every step taken in that direction will increase the readiness of the worldwide community to begin the next five-year enterprise. Each moment is precious. We long to see every believer choose the path of consecrated service and high endeavour to which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá repeatedly summoned the friends in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. In our supplications on your behalf, we will beseech the Author of that Plan to intercede before the throne of His Father that He might guide you in your service as long as there are souls in need of the bread of heaven.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]
Sep 2010
Normanton, Far North West Queensland
Thank you Neal - Very useful material - We do a community study on it next Saturday and Sunday.

Regards Tony