Thursday, November 27, 2008

Return of an Institution

All Hail, Mrs. Aqdas Javid

By John Taylor; 2008 Nov 27, 5 Qawl 165 BE

The following is a caption in reference to the photo on the Badi' Blog at:

Mrs. Javid, in her own words, "dragged herself out of the grave" to see that last night's fireside took place. Last week she had heart failure, followed by pneumonia. Somehow she talked her way out of hospital that very day; still she had arranged a speaker for last night. Then she had cancelled two days before the fireside. Undaunted, Mrs J. heard that Ninaz Shadman was available and got her to come. Meanwhile, in the hospital Mrs Javid, in her unfortunately inimitable way, had persuaded one of the nurses who was taking care of her to come to the fireside, but she canceled out at the last minute, too.

Fortunately by an extraordinary coincidence the night before some Chinese friends had at last agreed to come out to the Day of the Covenant in Hamilton. Some had been attending the Javid fireside periodically last summer but I had not been in contact for a couple of months. They met Ninaz at the Day of the Covenant. I am told that she is the only Baha'i public speaker in Canada who is fluent in Chinese; she said the closing prayer of the meeting in Chinese. They were impressed with her and agreed to come to Mrs. Javid's the next night. She spoke to them, explained what Ruhi is, and gave her talk half in English, half in Chinese. For political reasons I have to be discrete (which is why they are not in the photograph), but let us just say that her words did not fall on unhearing ears.

Who knows how much longer this institution of the Wednesday night Javid fireside will continue? Will we mere mortals be able to carry on when she is gone? The fireside has been going on since 1967. I became a Baha'i quickly at the Millington's home in Ancaster back in 1973, but I attended the Javid meetings regularly for years afterwards; that is where my first deepening happened. I cannot imagine it ending.

As always, we were reluctant to leave after the fireside and Mrs. J started talking about her favourite topic, teaching. She complained that no believers are bringing out contacts to her meeting. I can imagine her going up to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and before he can open his mouth she would be asking, "Have you got any contacts? Have you been teaching the Faith?" Anyway, I mentioned that we have no Persian believers in Haldimand and she said that the Guardian said:

"The Persians are like salt, they are wonderful when dispersed but when they gather in the cities, they kill anything that grows."

We really need to think about how to carry on this fireside, or at least its spirit, into perpetuity. I wrote the following suggestion, inspired in part by her, to a Baha'i newsgroup yesterday:

"We should offer far more support and encouragement for Baha'i speakers, including a speaker's circuit. I think this is the greatest need in the Faith right now. Since the Hands passed on, we have not given the problem of nurturing inspiring speakers nearly the attention it deserves."

Mrs. J. did that. She had a stable of speakers who often would preface their talks by saying, "I was doing this and that but then Aqdas called and asked me to speak, and when you get that call you drop whatever you are doing and go, no matter what." Such was the devotion she inspired.

She has had the spectacular success with her fireside not just because she is bold -- and she is bold, she puts the most macho young men (including me a few decades ago) to shame in her ability to go up to strangers and tell them about the most dreaded subject in this society, religion. Once at a conference a Baha'i in the elevator asked her how she does it, and she proceeded to talk up everybody who entered the elevator; they all left with an invitation to come to plenary session. Her approach was not pussyfooting. Just try and get a muscleman like Arnold Swartzeneggar to go up to a stranger and say:

"Have you heard of the Baha'i Faith?"
"Why not? I do not believe it! You have really never heard of Baha'i? Really? You are not joking, you have really never heard of it?"
"Um, no. No I haven't."
"Well you should look into it. Baha'i is really the greatest thing. Come to my place on Wednesday, I am having a wonderful speaker who will tell you all about it."

Not only in her moral courage, I say, but mostly I am convinced that the secret of her success is steadfastness. We are talking every Wednesday night since 1967, and the rest of the week dunning reluctant non-Baha'is to come and even more reluctant Baha'is to bring their friends. I always think of her when I read the Master's encomiums of this virtue. Let us close with two examples.


"O thou who art firm in the Covenant!
"Thank thou God for that thou art assisted to establish a spiritual meeting in that city. That assembly is the rose-garden of the Cause of God and that meeting is the gathering-place of the beloved of God. If it endureth, it is the first assembly of the world and is the greatest assembly of mankind. Exert thyself with all heart and soul so that it may continue and be stable and constant until blessed results may ensue therefrom, for without firmness and steadfastness no matter shall prove effective in existence. Some of the friends organized meetings for teaching in the neighborhood of that region, but owing to lack of steadfastness those meetings scattered with great rapidity. I hope that thy spiritual meeting may become continual and cause the spread of the lights." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets, vol. 2, 457-458)


"The Sunday school for the children in which the Tablets and Teachings of Baha'u'llah are read, and the Word of God is recited for the children is indeed a blessed thing. Thou must certainly continue this organized activity without cessation, and attach importance to it, so that day by day it may grow and be quickened with the breaths of the Holy Spirit. If this activity is well organized, rest thou assured that it will yield great results. Firmness and steadfastness, however, are necessary, otherwise it will continue for some time, but later be gradually forgotten. Perseverance is an essential condition. In every project firmness and steadfastness will undoubtedly lead to good results; otherwise it will exist for some days, and then be discontinued." (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 143-144)


1 comment: said...

There was a declaration at Javid's last week when she was in the hospital (again)... Gord Naylor spoke and stayed till 11
seeking her affirmation.

The Javid fireside has been the most productive entity in Hamilton for 40 years, showing that tenaciously sustained, well prepared, unity gatherings
however informal, where the spirit is allowed to grow organically are most effective.

The formula is large room ,comfy chairs ,circular positioning,happy exuberant host, flexible subject material. The persistent adjoining invitations to it make it an honour to speak at and you almost feel guilty if you cannot attend -- even as a spectator but as we all know that is Agdas' unrelenting way, and only she can get away with it; she is the most dangerous person to your complacency I know who is 80
something ... stooped over on a cae... you use the tools you got.

It is not just a `happening', there is a lot of phone calls going on all week to enlist participants etc. that she does and the place is prepared with prayers and snacks and vacuuming.

We have fallen back on this fireside for years and she has supported us when the attempts with the international programs struggle to become the warm loving refuges we all need.

Wednesday night's child is getting on and it will be wonderful to clone this example throughout the region.

I say this because despite the large international programs and A cluster experiments going on, it appears that individual dedication can still make a huge impact in any area with any size Baha'i population.

With the world in social decline there is a huge opportunity to
use Baha'i hospitality to its full advantage.

-- Joe