Qawl 180 B.E./December 2023
Devotional meetings are occasions where any soul may enter, inhale the heavenly fragrances, experience the sweetness of prayer, meditate upon the Creative Word, be transported on the wings of the spirit, and commune with the one Beloved. Feelings of fellowship and common cause are generated, particularly in the spiritually heightened conversations that naturally occur at such times and through which the “city of the human heart” may be opened. By convening a gathering for worship at which adults and children of any background are welcome, the spirit of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár is evoked in any locality. The enhancement of the devotional character of a community also has an effect on the Nineteen Day Feast and can be felt at other times when the friends come together. --Universal House of Justice, 29 December 2015 - To the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors
From this, we can see how foundational the concept of devotional meetings is to progress in any cluster. In the linking of devotional meetings to the spirit of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the connection between worship and service also becomes clear...The vital importance of these meetings and the heartening momentum that has already been achieved in holding them has inspired us to set the following goal: in this final year of the Plan, we ask that every Bahá’í household in the nation undertake the hosting of a regular devotional meeting. The members of the National Spiritual Assembly have pledged to do their part, and we lovingly invite you to join us in achieving this vision. --National Spiritual Assembly, Ridván 2020 Message
The devotional gathering is an opportunity to lay the "spiritual foundations of future Houses of Worship. (Ridvan 2018 message from the Universal House of Justice). Often an entry point into the Institute process, the devotional meeting is "fundamental to the pattern of collective endeavour aimed at the spiritual and material betterment of society.." (The Institution of the Mas͟hriqu’l-Ad͟hkár)
[D]evotional meetings infuse a new spirit into the life of a community. Interwoven with educational efforts for all ages, they reinforce the lofty purpose of those efforts: to foster communities distinguished by their worship of God and their service to humankind. --Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2019
As children's classes and devotional gatherings are made open to the wider community through a variety of well-conceived and imaginative means, they attract a growing number of seekers, who, more often than not, are eager to attend firesides and join study circles. Many go on subsequently to declare their faith in Bahá’u’lláh and, from the outset, view their role in the community as that of active participants in a dynamic process of growth. --Building Momentum, A Coherent Approach to Growth: a document prepared by the International Teaching Centre, April 2003
In recent messages, we have explored the dimensions of the contribution devotional gatherings make to the vibrancy of Bahá’í community life, and the opportunities they present to people from all walks of life to participate in meaningful conversations on critical issues of our time, such as racial equality, justice, and unity. We have considered their potential as portals of entry to a path of service to humanity and how the friends walking that path encourage and assist each other in a continual and dynamic process of transformation and learning... --National Spiritual Assembly, Message for Feast of Qawl, November 21, 2020
Stories from devotional gatherings around the region
Columbia, South Carolina – Sharareh Borhanian
“I think the success of a devotional meeting is showing real love, openness and welcoming. Our neighbors love to come to our house because we have shown real love for them. --Sharareh Borhanian
We moved to Columbia in June of 2021. Our home is in a cul-de-sac of 6 houses. After settling in we decided to start a devotional meeting at our new home and get to know our new neighbors.
We printed a flier inviting everyone to our home for “Prayers and Pancakes”, which we were going to have once a month. We mentioned on the flier: “with all the things going on in the world, everybody can use a little prayer.”
Of five neighbors, four attended the first gathering. We introduced ourselves, why we have moved to Columbia, and we also mentioned we were Baha’is. Then we had some interfaith devotions, had pancakes and sat and talked.
Our house is the only house in the cul-de-sac they have ever been invited to, even though some had lived in the neighborhood for more than 15 years. No one had seen the inside of each other’s homes.
We kept the meetings going, by sending a friendly reminder the week of the meetings. We keep the refreshment part or pancakes simple, so it’s sustainable. We choose the prayers according to what is happening with our little community. When one neighbor was pregnant, we said special prayers for pregnant women, and when the baby was born, prayers for babies and children. If someone was sick, healing prayers were said. We have been consistent in holding our meetings. On Memorial Day weekend last year when everybody was out of town except one family, we decided not to hold one. That family actually called and said that they are in town and would love to come if we are having one!
We started reading quotes from Book 1, which they loved. We have introduced the idea of a Book 1 study circle, and the attendees agreed to participate. We have shown slides of Haifa. One neighbor has attended a few Holy Day celebrations at our house.
Between 2-4 families usually attend. These meetings are now established, and everyone is comfortable and looking forward to coming. A friendship has developed among all the neighbors. The gatherings have brought all of us closer together. Our neighborhood is alive, more loving, and caring because of our “Prayers and Pancakes” devotional.
P.S. One couple has never attended our meetings because it involves prayers. They are always invited, and we always pray for them.