The Lamp, volume 4 Number 3
A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute
Volume 4, Number 3, September 1999
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Institute Completes its First Four-Year Cycle of
The Wilmette Institute's fourth annual residential session ran
from July 17 to August 6, completing a cycle that began in July 1996. The
twenty students attending studied from a Bahá'í perspective a
variety of subjects relating to the establishment of a global civilization:
economics and its impact on prosperity; the historical factors that shaped the
creation of global society and international governance; an analysis of efforts
to establish international security mechanisms since 1600; the oneness of
humanity and its ancillary principles of race unity and equality of men and
women; education and literacy; the harmony of science and religion;
agriculture; and nature and the environment. They also studied
Bahá'í scriptures focusing on world order and
Bahá'í history since 1957. In addition, they took a workshop on
conflict resolution and a series of seminars on teaching the Faith.
Classes were not the only activity of the residential session. Students
provided volunteer service one afternoon a week at the Bahá'í
National Center and its offices and agencies, particularly at the House of
Worship, where they served as guides. They held a weekly "Feast" designed to
provide each week with a spiritual high point and to model ways to improve
devotional programs at home. The students and staff made a field trip to a
Zoroastrian firetemple in the Chicago area, exposing them to the beliefs and
practices of a little-known, divinely revealed faith.
Kendall College, a small four-year college located in Evanston, less than a
mile from the House of Worship, provided all dormitory facilities, a private
classroom, and meals. While students were not required to take a meal
contract, most were glad to do so, since Kendall College is a premier cooking
school and the cafeteria usually served a variety of gourmet meals. Whereas in
two previous years the major difficulty faced by Wilmette Institute students
was driving between their dorm rooms and a classroom two miles away, the major
issue this year was overeating! Kendall College proved to be a friendly host,
and future Wilmette Institute sessions will probably be held there.
The three-week session ended Friday evening, August 6, with a Farewell
Dinner attended by eighty, including Mr. Hushmand Fatheazam, a member of the
Universal House of Justice, and Mrs. Fatheazam; Dr. David Ruhe, a former member
of the Universal House of Justice, and his wife, Margaret, both of whom have
served as Institute faculty members; Ms. Juana Conrad, Assistant Secretary of
the National Spiritual Assembly; Dr. William Roberts, Treasurer of the National
Spiritual Assembly; various special guests; current and former Wilmette
Institute Board members, faculty, and staff; the students and some family
members; and a number of participants from a conference on spirituality that
started the next day. Dr. Ruhe gave the keynote address, "Highlights from the
Greatest Life," an account of Bahá'u'lláh's life and His impact
on the world. After the students received their certificates of attendance,
four came forward to thank the Institute for their experience and share aspects
of it with the audience. A highlight of their program was the reading of a
poem by Robert White, one of this year's summer faculty, which included a
stanza describing each student. Everyone went home inspired to continue their
efforts to strengthen Bahá'í education.
This year's students came from eleven states in all regions of the United
States and from one province of Canada; Florida contributed the most students,
four. Several brought teenaged children, who did volunteer service at the
Bahá'í National Center. The Chicago area contributed four
auditors to the Institute's residential sessions. Six participants were
fourth-year students and were completing their residential requirements for a
certificate in the four-year program.
Soon after returning home, the students began their home study, which
involves further reading, reflection about their summer classes, and projects
to apply their learning to local needs through firesides, deepenings, and local
institute classes. This year the home study has five modules:
Bahá'í history, 1957-99; economics; Bahá'í writings
on global civilization; statements and readings on global civilization; and
science, nature, and agriculture. The modules end March 31, 2000.
The 1999 Residential Session:
When the Universal House of Justice called for the establishment
of training institutes during the Four Year Plan, the Wilmette Institute had
already completed its first year as a national training institute under the
direct supervision of the National Spiritual Assembly. The close association
with the National Spiritual Assembly provides unique opportunities for
students. Retired Universal House of Justice member Dr. David Ruhe and his
wonderful wife spent a few days with the class, talking about the development
of the Bahá'í World Center. Faculty members for this year's
summer session included members from the National Spiritual Assembly, the
Regional Council for the Central States, the Auxiliary Board, and distinguished
Bahá'í educators from various universities.
A Student Perspective
From July 17 to August 7, fifteen students from Canada and the United
States lived in dorm facilities at Kendall College. The small class size
indicates that the Wilmette Institute is one of the best kept secrets in the
Bahá'í community! This is expected
to change next year as the summer residential program is streamlined to two
weeks as well as begins a new cycle. Next year's main theme, module A, focuses
on comparative religion and the first years of Bahá'í history and
Living in a Bahá'í community within walking distance of the
Holiest House of Worship created an atmosphere that carried over into the
classroom. Students often began the day at the Temple with prayers. Mornings
were devoted to class and designated afternoons were reserved for service such
as guiding at the House of Worship or assisting in the National Center or its
dependencies. Evenings included informal time with faculty members or special
events. Following the annual tradition to visit various religions the class
had an unusual opportunity to visit a Zoroastrian Fire Temple. This year we
had the distinct privilege of listening to Universal House of Justice member,
Six students from across the United States have the distinction of being
the first graduating class of Wilmette Institute. Carol Bardin, Alice Ferro,
Shar Gardella, Sandra Miles, Perla Talebi, and Nancy Turner are the first
individuals to complete the first three years and the fourth residential
Our six prospective graduates had many opportunities to use the knowledge
and skills from the courses. Three of them met to teach in Oklahoma focusing
on the Cherokee Nation. Their diversity (Asian, African American and White)
attracted the attention of the local KKK, but undaunted they carried on their
The class celebrated the completion of the residential session with dinner
and an address by Dr. Ruhe. Special guests included Mr. Fatheazam and two
members of the National Spiritual Assembly, Juana Conrad and Billy Roberts.
The Wilmette Institute provides a unique opportunity for the
Bahá'í student who may not have local access to training
institutes or is ready for a broadened perspective of a variety of subjects and
their relation to the Writings. Global issues such as agriculture, the
environment, and economics were presented along with the principles found in
the Writings. Students felt they were given a rare opportunity to truly see
the "big picture."
Christianity Distance-Learning Course Begins
The fall began with a new Wilmette Institute distance-learning
course, "Christianity for Deepening and Dialogue." The course covers the life
of Jesus of Nazareth, the rise of Christianity, the formation of Christian
scriptures, traditional Christian teachings, Christian prophecy, and the
diversity of Christian groups. The subjects are studied for the purposes of
deepening and dialogue, that is, understanding the basics of Christianity as a
divinely revealed religion (and by comparison, the tenets of the
Bahá'í Faith) and sharing one's faith perspective with the full
variety of Christians in an informed and respectful manner. The twenty
students taking the course will benefit from the advice and assistance of four
Mr. Ted Brownstein is of Jewish background but became a Jehovah's Witness
and served that community in a full- or part-time capacity for twenty-seven
years. His interest in studying the Bible and its prophecies resulted in his
earning a Master's degree in Hebrew Studies from the University of Wisconsin in
1984. Since becoming a Bahá'í in February 1997 he has authored
and facilitated a course on the Bahá'í Faith and Christianity at
the Magdalene Carney Bahá'í Institute in Florida.
Mr. Dann May received his Master's degree in philosophy from Northern
Texas University in 1993. He has taught classes in philosophy, logic, ethics,
Christian ethics, the philosophy of religion, Asian religions, the history of
religion, and religious dialogue at various universities in Texas and Oklahoma.
He has considerable familiarity with Christian theology. Currently he teaches
at Oklahoma City University.
Mr. Michael Sours is the author of a three-book series titled Toward a
Bahá'í-Christian Dialogue, has published a commentary on
h-i-Aqdas (also called the
Tablet to the Christians), and has published several articles on
Bahá'í scripture. He is also an accomplished graphic
Dr. Robert Stockman received his doctorate in the history of religion in
the United States from Harvard University in 1990. He is an instructor of
religious studies at DePaul University, where he teaches world religion. He is
also Coordinator of the Institute for Bahá'í Studies in Wilmette
and Administrator of the Wilmette Institute. He has lectured and published on
the relationship between the Bahá'í Faith and Christianity and
the Bahá'í approach to the Old and New Testaments.
In addition to the faculty, the students benefit from the assistance of
Jonah Winters in his capacity as the Wilmette Institute's webmaster. Students
are reading a chapter on Christianity in a world religions textbook; a chapter
on Christian scripture from a book of sacred texts; and a compilation of
Bahá'í writings on Christianity. They will discuss the texts on
a listserver and in conferences calls and complete two learning projects, one
of which must be a fireside, a deepening, or a dialogue with Christians. The
course is already experiencing some of the liveliest discussions of any
Wilmette Institute course yet held.
Upcoming Distance-Learning Courses
The Wilmette Institute is registering students for two more
distance-learning courses beginning in November amnd December.
"The Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Related Texts" will begin on November 1,
1999, and will run for six months. The course involves reading the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas from beginning to end, then studying the text and related
texts topically. Among the faculty will be Dr. Iraj Ayman, a former university
professor, international consultant, a former member of the Continental Board
of Counsellors for Asia, and an experienced student of the Bahá'í
texts; Mr. Jonah Winters, who has a Master's degree in Middle East Studies from
the University of Toronto; Mr. Brent Poirier, an Auxiliary Board member who has
published several articles about the Bahá'í writings; and Dr.
Robert Stockman (whose biography may be found in the Christianity article). As
this issue of The Lamp goes to press, 12 students were registered for
the course. Registration will remain open during the month of
"Chinese Religion and Philosophy for Deepening and Dialogue," originally
scheduled to start on November 1, 1999, has been shifted to December 1 to give
students taking the Christianity course a one-month rest before taking another
course. It will look at both the Confucian and Taoist traditions and consider
Chinese Buddhism briefly. The course should be very useful for
Bahá'ís planning to visit China or interact with Chinese people.
Among the faculty will be Phyllis Chew, author of Chinese Religion and the
Bahá'í Faith, a text that will be used in the course, and
Albert Cheung, who has had a long-standing interest in relating the
Bahá'í teachings to traditional Chinese values.
Students in both courses will have the opportunity to interact with each
other and with students taking other Wilmette Institute courses and programs
via monthly "all courses conference calls." Students in any Wilmette Institute
course can sign up for a conference call to hear about the experiences of
students taking other distance-learning courses. Since the courses have
similar structures and logistics, questions about logistical matters usually
apply to all courses and thus will be relevant to all listeners. Students will
also enjoy hearing about the topics covered in the other courses, encourage
them to persist in their studies and to consider studying other
More information about the courses is available at the Institute's
New Website Up and Running
The Wilmette Institute has set up a new website:
http://wilmetteinstitute.org. It continues to maintain its website at
http://usbnc.org/wilmette, an institutional website that will help people find
the Institute via the Bahá'í National Center. A separate
website, however, has already conveyed numerous advantages:
- Many search engines have now "indexed" the Wilmette Institute website,
which they were unable or unwilling to do when it was part of another site.
One can now find the Institute via Yahoo.
- Many more private Bahá'í websites have linked to the
Wilmette Institute, making it easier for Bahá'ís to find.
- Traffic has increased noticeably, making the Wilmette Institute number
one, in terms of "hits," among websites for Bahá'í schools as
measured by the "Bahá'í Top Nineteen"
http://www.forgetit.com/top19." We have also consistently placed ninth or
tenth among the 104 websites listed with the Bahá'í Top
- Because of a relationship between our new internet service provider and
a major credit card service company, it will be easier for the Wilmette
Institute to accept credit card information at its new site.
The new site has some new features, such as a page that allows students to
sign up for conference calls. The page has already proved its use, and
participation in conference calls has increased. The site also has its own
e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The old informational address,
email@example.com, will remain in use as well. With two
complementary web addresses, the Institute hopes to reach out to as many
audiences as possible and continue its expansion.
Goodbye Heather; Hello Pam
After a vahid (nineteen) of months of selfless service to the
Wilmette Institute, Heather Gorman has taken a position in the National
Spiritual Assembly's Office of the Secretary, where she will help serve the
National Spiritual Assembly in their correspondence, files, and meetings.
Heather's cheerful voice and friendly telephone manner will be long remembered
with appreciation by Wilmette Institute students. Behind the scenes, she wrote
many letters; drafted and edited many articles for The Lamp; conceived
or rewrote publicity materials; and edited the catalogue several times. She
also produced all issues of The Lamp. Her contributions were numerous
A week after Heather's departure, Mrs. Pamela Mondschein came into the
office to begin her part-time volunteer service to the Institute. Pam has been
a pioneer and has served at the Bahá'í World Center. Currently
she is secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of
Wilmette and is a member of the Greater Chicago Bahá'í Training
Institute. The Wilmette Institute is very fortunate to have someone with her
experience serving in the office.
Coincidentally, Mr. Jonah Winters was in Wilmette for several days when Pam
began, allowing extensive consultation on ways to divide Heather's former
duties between them. Jonah will handle all e-mail inquiries about the
Institute and its courses, while Pam will handle inquiries coming by the mail,
fax, and telephone. Jonah will serve as registrar for the distance-learning
program--maintaining and updating the course rosters--while Pam will serve as
bursar, tracking tuition payments and financial aid.
Summer Fund-raising Surprises
In June the Wilmette Institute sent out a letter stating its
ongoing need for financial support. The Institute sends out such a letter
twice a year, usually in June and December.
The results far exceeded expectations. Ninety percent of the donations
came from current students--especially those in the Spiritual Foundations for a
Global Civilization program--who are already paying tuition to the Institute.
The $24,000 received exceeded almost five-fold the Institute's previous
semiannual contributions. The Wilmette Institute's Board was impressed and
gratified by this vote of confidence from its students.
The Board is determined to use the contributions to strenghten and
diversify the Institute. It plans to increase financial aid assistance to
enable more students to take its courses. It will also build up its endowment,
which gives the Institute a cushion against unexpected shocks and flexibility
in expanding and adapting its programs. The Board wishes to thank everyone who
has supported the Institute and expresses its gratitude for their continued
assistance, which allows the Institute to fulfil the National Spiritual
Assembly's request that it remain independent from direct support by the
National Bahá'í Fund.
Letter of Appreciation by Shelley Rastall of Evanston, IL:
Most of you know that I have just completed the residency program of the
Wilmette Institute as a first year student. Allow me to take this opportunity
to tell you that the Wilmette Institute is one of the most incredible
experiences I have had as a Bahá'í and I highly encourage each of
you and your loved ones to consider joining the Spiritual Foundations for a
Global Civilization program, participate in a distance-learning course or
become involved in supporting the institute in some way. Some of you have
already heard me rave about the Wilmette Institute, but I must say again what a
faculty member stated during our residency program that "the Wilmette Institute
is like 20 years of Bahá'í summer school in three weeks." And
next summer the residency program will be reduced to two weeks to make it
easier for folks to join.
So, I'd like to share with you a couple of reasons why the experience was
so meaningful. First, the theme for this year was "An Ever-advancing
civilization." (Each year covers a different module.) The subjects were so
interesting and were taught by excellent faculty members who did not just
lecture but who actively participated in our learning process. Many of the
subjects we studied were ones that are not usually covered in
Bahá'í community deepenings or institutes such as agriculture,
conflict resolution, literacy, environment, economics, politics, harmony of
science and religion, universal auxiliary language, divine justice or the
evolving role of the Universal House of Justice (taught this year by Dr. Ruhe).
Other subjects covered were ones we are more familiar with studying such as the
oneness of humanity, world peace, equality of women and men, and the sacred
texts. All of which were covered in such depth that I gleaned new insights
into these basic teachings. We also took a field trip to a Zoroastrian Temple.
The other beautiful aspect of the Wilmette Institute was the spiritual
atmosphere of learning and community that was created over the three weeks. We
were completely immersed in study of the Faith in a friendly and relaxed
environment that was not intimidating. Every evening we would have a student
gathering such as an arts night or games night and we would also have evenings
of informal time with faculty where we could ask the expert faculty members
questions on any aspect relating to the Faith. It was truly a privilege to
spend such quality time with each of the faculty and to build strong bonds of
community with the students.
In addition, we also had the opportunity to pray together at the Holiest
House of Worship and offer service at the Bahá'í National Center.
We were very determined as a group not just to study the Faith but to put our
learning into concrete expressions of service, teaching and action.
I hope that you too will benefit from the gifts that the Wilmette
Institute, or any training institute, has to offer. I hope that it will change
your life and help you to integrate the Faith more deeply into your personal
lives, as it has mine.
Comments by Deborah Hobbs, a distance-learning student:
I addressed our Unit Convention last weekend [about the Institute], handed
out many flyers, and spoke privately to several people later on. As I spoke, I
came to realize myself what the Institute has meant to me, that it has brought
me closer to Bahá'u'lláh. Even though I have not turned in much
homework, and am always behind in my studies, the point is that I am studying
and learning with people I have never met, and at the same time, supporting an
embryonic Bahá'í University. It has had a profound effect on me.
My only regret is that you can't see this because you rarely hear from me.
Please know that, in spite of this, I am always promoting the Institute, and
struggling with my homework - with Bahá'u'lláh at my
Letter from Fourth-Year Students of the Spiritual Foundations Program to
the National Spiritual Assembly:
To: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United
From: Students of the Wilmette Institute Spiritual Foundations Program,
It is with profound gratitude that we express our appreciation for the
fourth year of the four years of study of the Wilmette Institute.
The sixteen instructors and an intimate class of fifteen students were
augmented by visitors coming to audit sessions and lectures on topics of
specifically intense interest to them. One instructor rescheduled his
departing flight to leave three days later in order to continue attending
Wilmette Institute sessions.
Topics covered in depth included economics, the United Nations, the
national media campaign, individual teaching, nature and the environment,
agriculture, literacy, the philosophy of science and religion, new political
order, conflict resolution, Bahá'í history, the Great Peace,
universal language, and oneness of mankind, issues which were presented by
gifted and remarkable instructors who presented ideas of depth in a way all
could understand. There was also time with Dr. David Ruhe and Margaret
The fourth year students have demonstrated how their lives have been
changed to increase their service to the Cause, especially through teaching.
All have been touched as their expanded experiences have motivated them to
become devoted Bahá'í teachers, and dedicated ambassadors for the
We are grateful for the long-range vision of the National Spiritual
Assembly combined with the dedicated efforts of the Board of the Wilmette
Institute for the quality of this year's organization of and preparation for
the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program.
We truly believe we can help foster the eventual flowering of a world
society with justice for all. With hearts full of joy, we offer our
(signed by all students)
The Lamp is the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute, established in
January 1995 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of
the United States to offer academic, professional, and service-oriented courses
related to the Bahá'í Faith. In addition to offering
university-level courses on Bahá'í topics, the Wilmette Institute
fosters Bahá'í scholarship; develops new, innovative curricular
materials; creates high-quality courses on teaching the Faith; and refines
Bahá'í concepts of pedagogy. It aims to produce teachers and
administrators of the Bahá'í Faith of great capacity, capable of
sharing and demonstrating Bahá'í truths in their lives and
For more information about the Bahá'í Faith, the Wilmette
Institute, or its courses, contact:
536 Sheridan Road
Wilmette, IL 60091 USA
24-hour info line: 847-733-3595
The Lamp is produced quarterly by the Wilmette Institute. All
material is copyrighted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of the United States and is subject to the applicable
copyright laws. Articles from the newsletter may be copied or reproduced,
provided that the following crediy is given: "Reprinted from The Lamp,
the newsletter of the Wilmette Institute," followed by the issue's
Copyright 1999 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the
Bahá'ís of the United States.