oneness tree

Following a great discussion on our Facebook page recently, we tried out a new activity at our class: a “oneness of religions” Christmas tree made with wool, decorated with symbols of different religions. We found instructions for the woolen tree on Pinterest, and got the “oneness of religions” idea from a story told by one of our readers. Each of the children painted the symbol of their choice and hung it on one of the hooks along the edges of the tree. We tied this in to our lesson on God’s commandments, noting that Bahá’u’lláh has commanded us to “consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship”. Many of the children in our class wanted to celebrate Christmas, so we thought this would be a nice activity that would engage them in thinking about the holidays that are sacred to the many different religions.

oneness tree

the tree on the wall

you are beautiful

detail of one of the “ornaments”

tree details

more ornaments

springing forward

steadfastnessSpring has been a busy thing this year! Apart from remaining active in teaching children’s classes, I’ve been busy completing what must be the most demanding personal project I’ve ever taken: paperwork for my wife, a native of Vietnam, to immigrate to Canada. Thankfully, the long process is over now, and we’re finally able to be together for good. It took a lot of steadfastness and patience, and I can’t help thinking it must have made us both stronger and more united. It also made me think a lot about humanity’s crying need for complete unity. As I considered the complicated bureaucratic system that kept us apart so long and was such a challenge to our relationship, I thought: “This is why the world has to be one country.” If all of us treated others as beloved members of one human family, and citizens of one world, would there be a need for borders, those arbitrary lines in the sand that keep us apart?

Thankfully, the influence of these concepts seem to be having a growing effect on the discourse of civil society, as we see many of the ideas and principles promulgated by Bahá’u’lláh popping up in the news: the establishment of various international unions and agreements, an international auxiliary language, even a world currency. By and large, though, most remain unaware of the source of these innovations, or how to go about implementing them correctly. Those who have tried have seen their hopes dashed by prejudice, corruption, greed, conflict, disunity and injustice. Without a proper moral foundation at its core, progress towards a better, just, and unified world is nigh-impossible. This is why teaching children’s classes, animating junior youth groups, and supporting the rest of those “core activities” of the Plans of the Universal House of Justice is so important for each of us: through our service, and the service of all those who collaborate with us, we are laying a strong foundation, an unshakeable core upon which will be built a new world that will manifest these principles for good—the “Day which shall not be followed by night.”

I just thought I’d share that reflection with you today. Summer is almost here, and together, my wife and I will be taking over a neighbourhood children’s class started by a friend of ours, hopefully to grow it past the handful of children who’ve been attending, and maybe, if we can find or train willing animators, to start a junior youth group as well. Also, I plan to finish a major improvement to this website soon, one that should make it a lot easier for readers to browse for the information they need. I know it’s been mentioned before but this time I mean it! 😛

oneness of religion (take 1)

Today’s lesson: oneness of religion.

January 20, 2007: 2 hours, 9 children, average 7 years old. We scheduled this lesson for World Religion Day and had a lot of fun with the religious symbol stencils. We wanted to get the children’s hands in gear in creative ways; amazingly, no one was spotted running with scissors. My only beef with this class was that the lesson content wasn’t strong enough—for example, as we introduced each stencil, we could have had the children guess which religion the symbol represented, and which Manifestation founded that religion… I haven’t been able to find my binder full of lesson plans from the Canadian national curriculum (which have made things so much easier since we started using them—no more last minute brainstorms) and the lesson from Baha’i Education for Children only presents the play, which I didn’t think we could do at the time with the resources we had. So we made up this lesson with the stencils. It went over all right—most of the children seemed to enjoy the artistic activity. One of our Baha’i friends, a regional coordinator for children’s classes, was there and snapped some pictures:

children's class group shot
the whole group of us!

happy world religion day!
one of our shy participants.

world religion day activity
hard at work.

Our upcoming class will again touch on the oneness of religion, so there’ll doubtless be more to tell soon. By the way, I’m sorry this post came late—I noticed there was a spike in traffic to this blog just before World Religion Day but I couldn’t get my act together to post our lesson in time 😛 There’s always next year right?

ridván – the king of festivals

Today’s lesson: ridván, the king of festivals.

April 22, 2006: ~2 hours, 6 children, average age 6-7. The material we put together was great — but it didn’t last long enough. We started with prayers like usual, then talked briefly about Easter (since last weekend was Easter and many of the children in our class go to Sunday school) — most of the comments were about chocolate instead of Jesus, of course. We explained that Baha’is also have a very important holiday that started on Friday: the festival of Ridván. We explained briefly the meaning of Ridván, and how Bahá’u’lláh sacrificed forty years of His life in prison and exile to bring His message to the world. One of the children made the most amazing and unexpected comment — in trying to make the comparison between Jesus and Bahá’u’lláh, she said “So, they’re like brothers, right?” I live for moments like this.

We read a story about Ridván from God Passes By and then prepared pictures for painting (the rose above, as well as the map and the slide from book 4). The painting was a special treat for the kids, since we usually colour and draw with felt pens, crayons, and coloured pencils. The two main problems we had were a lack of coordination with the parents (i.e. some of the kids were picked up about 15 minutes after the time the class usually ends), and a lack of contingency planning (i.e. having more material ready to go to cover the ‘dead spots’ in between activities). I definitely could have been more on the ball during the week to remedy the first problem — for instance, calling the parents a couple of days in advance to remind them about the class. Also, it’s clear that we could have used more activities as backups in case we went over time. One note – usually we have lots of musical instruments for the kids to play while we sing, and today we didn’t have enough to go around. I think several of the kids lost enthusiasm and got distracted because of that.