Arts Academy

The Bahá’í Arts Academy ’09 was not only the highlight of my summer, but also one of the very best weeks of my life. It began on the evening of August 1st with a dinner, followed by an opening presentation and announcements. The mood was set with a beautiful devotional, and then we were left to socialise for the remainder of the evening.

I have always found that the friendship groups made with fellow Bahá’í youth are extremely strong ones, aided by the amazing atmosphere that is created by spending a week with a large group of several hundred people who share your views and ideals. Everyone can become your close friend very easily. One is not constantly surrounded by unnecessarily ineloquent and continuously unseemly conversation; one rarely finds oneself engaged in wholly trivial banter; rambunctious behaviour is voluntarily restricted to an absolute minimum. One doesn’t feel inhibited about, for example, requesting that people refrain from backbiting (though it is rare for such unsavoury talk to even arise anyway). As a result, close friendships that hardly falter are easily established, and the company with whom I spent the week of the Arts Academy was one that created a wonderful sense of joy and happiness to be with. At the end of it all, parting with the all the friends from the Arts Academy was deeply saddening.

Every morning, there would be what was called a “Morning Focus”, in which the entire Arts Academy assembled after breakfast for a devotional (which never failed to be beautifully prepared) followed by the necessary announcements that were made to ensure the smooth running of the Arts Academy. Everyone would then move on to their chosen course.

The course I was on was one aimed at older junior youth and younger youth, entitled “Agents of Change in a Challenging World”, which was run by Thenna Abbas and Tessa Roche-Saunders from Wales. Though the vast majority of other courses at the Arts Academy were focused around developing skills in a single chosen form of art, this one was unusual in that throughout the course of the week various different arts were covered. I thoroughly enjoyed contributing my point of view in the deep and meaningful group discussions that took place (including, at one point, a formally conducted debate!). We even began to develop the skills required to animate a junior y
There was also an evening programme every night, and I very much enjoyed performing in the Open Mic Nights whenever possible!

Above all, the brilliant atmosphere created by the Arts Academy served to renew my spiritual energy. It created in me a spirit of service; it left me uplifted; it helped me to gain the willingness to teach the Faith. And, of course, I had a fantastic time while learning in class, while attending and being in various activities, and while being with my friends. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincerest thanks to its organisers for making it all happen, and I would highly recommend it as an excellent experience for anyone who attends.outh group.

The age of spiritual maturity

Roshan Forouhi reflects on turning 15: For the average schoolboy the fifteenth birthday is merely a regular birthday, but for me as a Bahá’í it was extra special, for reasons besides simply receiving greater material gifts than normal! It was a major milestone in the progression of my life so far. Turning fifteen as a Bahá’í meant that I had reached the age of spiritual maturity, and I had the right and privilege to officially declare as a Bahá’í. Previously, I barely had to think about the idea of declaring. Having been brought up in a Bahá’í family all my life and already living by the Bahá’í teachings, I had always felt myself a Bahá’í at heart. On the very day that I turned fifteen I sent an email to the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly informing them of my decision to declare my faith in Bahá’u’lláh. By the following day I had received confirmation of the NSA’s reception and acknowledgement of this email, and within a few days I received a beautiful card congratulating me on reaching the age of spiritual maturity, signed by each of the nine members of the NSA individually.
For this special occasion, our own Local Spiritual Assembly of Cambridge very kindly invited me to attend part of one of their meetings in order that they might discuss the meaning of spiritual maturity with me. I was presented with a thoughtful gift, and given an encouraging and inspiring insight into the years of my life as a Bahá’í that are to follow (as well as a short briefing on the new responsibilities that go with it!). Physically, as I had expected, I felt just the same as before, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually it was the beginning of a new era. I am very grateful to the LSA for helping to make the transition so smooth and easy for me.