Friends from local community gathered together at the Baha'i Centre.
Nineteen Day Feast & Consultation
In the Bahá’í community, gatherings are held for various purposes: to pray, to study, to celebrate special occasions, to consult on community affairs and service to society, and to discuss plans of action.
The Bahá’í calendar consists of nineteen months of nineteen days each, and, in every locality, Bahá’ís gather together on the first day of each month for this meeting- the Ninenteen Day Feast- as stipulated by the teachings of Bahá’ ’u’lláh:
“Verily, it is enjoined upon you to offer a feast, once in every month, though only water be served; for God hath purposed to bind hearts together, albeit through both earthly and heavenly means.”
The Nineteen Day Feast consists of three parts:
The first is the devotional part, during which prayers are recited, and passages from the Bahá’í Holy Writings are read. Listening to the Word of God in gatherings among friends brings joy to the hearts, attracting Divine bestowals and strengthens bonds of unity.
The second is referred to as the administrative part, during which deliberations on the needs of the local community takes place. These consultations are of the utmost importance, for, through this means, every individual is able to participate in, and contribute towards the affairs of their community.
The third is the social part, a time for friendship, elevated conversations and hospitality. Diverse expressions of culture, at once dignified and joyful, can be used to enrich this part of the Feast.
The primary intent is to kindle these stirrings of the spirit, but at the same time it follows quite naturally that those present should partake of food, so that the world of the body may mirror the spirit’s world, and flesh take on the qualities of soul; and just as the spiritual delights are here in profusion, so too the material delights.”
Friends gathered together to reflect and consult on the Baha'i Writings
The principle of consultation provides a framework where collective decisions can be made, and also serves as a means of harmonising points of view, in order to strengthen unity between members of the community.
The tool of consultation is vital for individuals, communities and institutions as it serves to strengthen the bonds of trust and love between everyone participating. It allows new insights into complex issues to be brought forward and examined dispassionately. Therefore, consultation is referred to as the bedrock of the Administrative Order established by Bahá’u’lláh.
“Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation.”
The Bahá’í community sees consultation as influential in fostering systematic action, creating focus and unity of vision among the participants in a given line of action, where diverse perspectives can be integrated into the group’s understanding of the issues and activities at hand. In this regard, consultation is an essential component of the mode of learning adopted by the Bahá’í community around the world and across the range of its endeavours.
Consultation is a unique expression and technique of communication, understanding that the power of human utterance can serve to bring either unity or discord, depending on how speech is channelled and directed. With the pivotal purpose of the Bahá’í Faith to establish the oneness of humankind, consultation is not merely a discussion or voicing of opinions, but rather serves to allow for the collective investigation of truth and reality. Bahá’ís believe, the “reality of truth is one”. Consultation must therefore have as its imperative aim and object, the investigation of truth- of which nothing else is “of greater importance to humankind”.
The attitudes, inner spiritual attitudes and qualities that Bahá’ís believe are necessary for the consultative process and the relationships among the participants include: promoting well-being, striving for unity, attaining certitude, reaching maturity of understanding, having a humble posture of learning, open-mindedness, candour and modesty, and a high sense of justice and duty. Bahá’ís believe those attitudes that diminish the efficacy of consultation include exclusiveness, an atmosphere of secrecy, a domineering attitude and prejudice of all kinds.