“Gather ye together with the utmost joy and fellowship and recite the verses revealed by the merciful Lord.” – Baha’u’llah
In New Westminster and around the world, Baha’i communities are moving activities online in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes devotional meetings, one of the core activities of every Baha’i community.
Devotionals are gatherings where people unite to share prayers, songs, and passages from sacred texts. Devotionals are usually held by individuals or families, in homes, common rooms, parks and community centres, and they take many different forms, from soulful prayer meetings, to deep discussions of life’s big questions.
Here in New Westminster, the Baha’i Community has several devotional gatherings held on a weekly and monthly basis. Now that the community is practising social distancing, these activities have moved online using video conferencing tools.
Along with sharing prayers and a much-needed sense of connection, these devotionals are addressing the current crisis in unique ways. One devotional, held every Friday evening, has been providing a space to discuss issues related to the pandemic, like calamity and hope, and the impacts of the extremes of wealth and poverty on health. Another devotional group meeting each Tuesday has been inspired to learn about different acts of service sorely needed during this time, like donating blood.
Although the opportunity to meet face-to-face is sorely missed, online gatherings have been a wonderful way to sustain and grow the spiritual life of the community. They have also been a learning opportunity. Virtual meetings require an extra degree of organization and focus from participants. They can provide accessibility challenges to those without easy access to technology, highlighting the need for extra support and communication. To address this issue, the Local Spiritual Assembly of New Westminster has been reaching out to community members to see what kind of technology they have available and assist them in connecting to online meetings.
At the same time, online devotionals have also proved more accessible to some, and people have also been able to attend devotionals from other locals, like a Toronto couple that attended one of our community’s devotionals, or the daily virtual prayer sessions hosted by the Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Chicago and attended by visitors from all over the world.
If you’re interested in attending a devotional, please contact: info@NewWestminsterBahai.org