Outward Facing Orientation

The Bahá'í community in Minneapolis is made up of approximately 200 official members. To become an official member, an individual signs a declaration card at or after the age of fifteen, that says, “I declare my belief in Baha’u’llah, the Promised One of God. I also recognize the Báb, His Forerunner, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the Center of His Covenant.”

The number of people involved in the Bahá'í community in Minneapolis goes beyond its official members. As Anisa, a member of the Minneapolis Baha'i community, said:

“we really make an effort that everything we do is open for Bahá'ís, and for people who are not Baha’i, or people who are kind of Baha’i or don’t really know. We really try to blur these lines between us.”

This sentiment was echoed by several members of the community; many discussed an “outward-looking orientation,” a term used by the Universal House of Justice, the governing institution of the Baha’i faith, when describing the activities of the Baha'i community. Benjamin, a Bahá'í in the Minneapolis community, says that having this orientation allows Bahá'ís "to be able to see the world as human resources to build community." 

The primary activities are called "core activities," a term used by the Universal House of Justice, in an attempt to "build spiritual communities," as said by one Baha’i in the community. Currently, there are four core activities: children's classes, which consist of spiritual education for elementary school students; junior youth groups, which provide spiritual education for middle school students; study circles, which serve as spiritual education for members older than 14; and devotionals, which are  a place for communal prayer.

The Baha'i youth, considered as members ages fifteen to thirty, are especially engaged in these outward-looking activities, blurring the lines by engaging the entire neighborhood. For example, the Junior Youth Groups in the Central Neighborhood in Minneapolis are made up entirely of junior youth, considered as those community members who are ages twelve to fourteen. A youth devotional in the community welcomes everyone, and often friends or faith seekers come, so that half of the participants officially Bahá'í and the other half are friends of the Faith.

In general, there is less fluidity among the adults in the community, although adults who are Bahá'í are often actively involved in the administrative aspects, in study circles, in hosting devotionals open to all, and in providing support to the junior youth groups.

The Bahá'í Center in Minneapolis, designed to hold bigger gatherings, such as Baha’i Holy Day celebrations. Since many activities are held at people’s houses, the center serves to hold more people. A Junior Youth Celebration, with junior youth and their parents, recently took place at the Baha’i Center in Minneapolis, and a weekly devotional is held every Sunday at the center. Because the Bahá'í community is so small and Bahá'ís have often lived in places where they are the only Bahá'í family in the area--perhaps an after effect of the pioneering efforts that took place in the 1930-60s--one community member described having the Center as “really lovely to have a large number of people getting together to celebrate.” The Nineteen Day feast, a meeting for the entire Bahá'í community to come together and discuss what is happening in the community, is generally held in smaller numbers in several homes. Every four years, the whole community meets at the Center and fifty to sitxty people often attend. 

The Center is located in the Central neighborhood of Minneapolis, where the Bahá'í community has decided to focus their community building activities and efforts. Many Bahá'ís live in the neighborhood or nearby, and activities are abundant: in this specific neighborhood, there are five junior youth groups, a youth devotional, several study circles, and a devotional for all ages. There are other activities in Minneapolis outside of this neighborhood, but most energy and time are being spent in this twelve-block area.