In part 1 of this series, I contemplated the importance of Feast. Now, what are the guidelines on where should it be held?
“The matter of where the Nineteen Day Feasts should be held is certainly one for the Spiritual Assembly to decide; but the Haziratu’l-Quds seems the logical place on most occasions. Until the friends have a place of worship … this building will also be used for devotional meetings, as well as for administrative purposes.
“If under some circumstances, some special Feast is offered in the home of one of the believers, with the approval of the Spiritual Assembly, there can be no objection; but, generally speaking, he feels it is better to use the Haziratu’l-Quds.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
“There is no objection to holding meetings in the open air as long as they are conducted with dignity.”
(Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)
I would love to have Feast outside sometime! And as for the below guidance, it is important to consider the appearance of us being a sect of another religion, or being just a mixture of a bunch of different religions.
“Generally there is no objection to holding … Bahá’í functions in places or facilities owned and operated by non-Bahá’í religious bodies, provided such use does not tend to identify the Faith, in the eyes of the public, with other religions.”
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice)
When should it be held?
“As to your questions concerning the times for Feasts and Holy Days: The Bahá’í Day is from sunset to sunset, therefore if in summer the sun sets too late to enable the Nineteen Day Feast to be held on the
preceding evening, it should be held on the day itself. As long as the meeting begins before sunset it is considered to be held on the day which comes to an end with that sunset. Naturally Nineteen Day Feasts should be held on the first day of the Bahá’í month if possible, but if it should be difficult to do so, for example if it coincides with a regular public meeting evening, it is permissible to hold it on the following day, i.e., on a succeeding day of the Bahá’í month.”
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated June 23, 1964, to a National Spiritual Assembly)
One Assembly that I served on considered carefully when the Feast should be held, looked at the times of sunset, and also tried to hold Feast during the day whenever it fell on a weekend in order to accommodate families or those who worked different shifts. It was reassuring to know the Feast schedule for the year and when it would be far in advance, because I could put it in my calendar and plan around it.
“…You ask if it is within the discretion of a Local Spiritual Assembly, to schedule the Feasts at times other than the first day of a Bahá’í month, and point out that attendance was very low when the Feasts were held in the middle of a week, but that when held on a Saturday many more of the friends were able to attend. It seems obvious, therefore, that the intent of the Local Assembly, in loving consideration of the members of its community, was to make the participation in a Nineteen Day Feast available to as many of the believers as possible. Perhaps the Assembly was basing its decision on Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement, taken from the compilation on the Nineteen Day Feast, that the ‘object’ of the Feast is ‘concord, that through this fellowship hearts may become perfectly united…’
“Other passages from that same compilation are: ‘This Feast is a bringer of joy. It is the groundwork of agreement and unity. It is the key to affection and fellowship… ‘The believers of God must assemble and associate with each other in the utmost love, joy and fragrance.’
“On the other hand, since the beloved Guardian expressed a preference, and considered it ‘most suitable’, for the Feast to be held on the first day of each month, the House of Justice hopes that the friends everywhere will aim at scheduling their Nineteen Day Feasts in this way, and that the friends themselves will arrange their personal affairs to be able to attend.
“As in so many aspects of our beloved Faith, this is a matter of the gradual maturing of the Bahá’ís and of the institutions. The House of Justice feels that you should lovingly guide the Local Assemblies in this matter, but leave it to their discretion for the time being.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico)
Obviously there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility with holding Feast at dates and times where people will attend…but how will we ever learn to center our lives around the rhythm of the Badi calendar when we keep trying to adjust it to fit our lives?
I also found this 2009 letter from the Universal House of Justice about Feast to be very helpful when thinking about Feast as a whole.