The Lamp, volume 4 Number 4

The Lamp

A Newsletter Produced by the Wilmette Institute

Volume 4, Number 4, December 1999

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In this issue:
    Major Changes in Spiritual Foundations Program
    Wilmette Institute Launches New Distance-Learning Courses
    Wilmette Institute Introduces New Logo
    Notable Successes for Christianity and Kitab-i-Aqdas Courses
    Chinese Religions Course Now Starting
    Fund Raising Efforts in 1999

Major Changes in Spiritual Foundations Program

In the last few months the Wilmette Institute Board approved some major changes in the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program.

The annual summer residential session, which is required of all students, will be shortened from three weeks to two. The residential session is required of all students. Many people have only two weeks vacation, or, if they have more, they are hesitant to devote all of it to Bahá'í study. A shorter residential session should allow more to benefit from the program.

The shortened session will include thirty hours of classes per week, only ten percent more than in previous years. The tentative schedule calls for the session to begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, with students arriving Friday evening or Saturday morning. It will end on Saturday, August 12, at noon. The Institute is making arrangements to hold the program at Kendall College, where last year's extremely successful session was held.

The continued maturation of the distance-learning program has allowed another important change: redesign of the Spiritual Foundation's home study component to allow its students to take distance-learning courses. Previously, the home study component had two sessions: May through July, when students read texts to prepare for the summer classes; and September through March, when they completed additional readings, writing assignments, and presentations to integrate and assimilation the information they had learned. Students were free only the month of April and the last half of August.

The new home study component will retain the May through July preparatory study period, but the follow-up session will be shortened to six weeks (mid-August through the end of September). During that time the students will complete a take-home exam or final project. The resulting arrangement will be closer to that of a standard college course. Students will have October through April to give firesides, deepenings, and study classes about their learning and will be able to take distance-learning courses for free. With the permission of the Wilmette Institute, they will be able to postpone parts of their home study in order to accommodate the schedule of courses they want to take. The new arrangement will allow Spiritual Foundations students to focus and specialize their four years of study of the Faith on areas of special interest to them.

Applications for the 2000 academic year of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program are now available from the Institute. Tuition will be $700, a decrease from last year's $825. Lodging at Kendall College will be about $308 for fourteen nights and an optional meal plan will add about $210 more to a student's costs. The session will examine the major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and their relationship to the Bahá'í Faith; will briefly introduce philosophy; will survey Bahá'í theology (concepts of God, revelation, Manifestation, humanity, creation, Covenant, and afterlife); will explore Bahá'í history through 1863, including the life of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh; and will study the Kitáb-i-Íqán.

Wilmette Institute Launches New Distance-Learning Courses

The Wilmette Institute is pleased to announce three new series of courses. "Exploring the Writings of Shoghi Effendi" will be inaugurated in April 2000 by a two-month course on The Advent of Divine Justice. The course represents a response to the National Spiritual Assembly's request that the American Bahá'í community study that work during the second quarter of 2000. A course on The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh will run during July, August, and September 2000 to prepare Bahá'ís for study of that work during the latter half of 2000. Other courses on Shoghi Effendi's life and writings will be offered from May 2000 to April 2004 in relation to the themes of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program.

A series on "'Abdu'l-Bahá's Life, Writings, and Talks" will begin in October 2001 with a three-month course on "'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Exemplar." The course, focusing on His life and example, will be followed over the next four years by courses on His various books.

"An Evolving Community" is the title of a series of four courses on Bahá'í history to begin in 2001. They will cover the Bábí community, the development of the Bahá'í community from 1863 to 1921, the organization and consolidation of the Bahá'í community from 1921 to 1957, and the emergence of a global Bahá'í community from 1957 to 2000. The courses will complement others being planned on the lives of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi.

The Wilmette Institute is also planning distance-learning courses to cover the major topics of the Spiritual Foundations for a Global Civilization program. These courses will enable students to acquire some of the knowledge and experience the program offers even though they may be unable to attend the annual two-week residential session in Wilmette. The courses will be offered in the same year as the subjects are covered in the Spiritual Foundations program. The first will be a course on the Covenant scheduled for January 2001.

The Institute currently offers thirteen courses in two series, "Exploring Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation" and "World Religions for Deepening and Dialogue."

Wilmette Institute Introduces New Logo

The last issue of THE LAMP included the Wilmette Institute's new logo, a beautiful calligraphic W in light blue against a darker blue background, with the words "Wilmette Institute" in white against a black background below(see image at right). The logo also includes "est. 1995," reminding everyone of the year the Institute was founded. It was designed by Susan Peterson, a successful graphics artist and a longtime friend of the Institute.

The logo has already been used on stationery, envelopes, mailing labels, and name tags. Two large banners bearing it have been produced for use in conferences. The logo should help give Wilmette Institute materials an "identity" and make them stand out. The seal, which often appears next to the logo in some Institute materials, will be used on certificates of completion and other official documents.

Notable Successes for Christianity and Kitáb-i-Aqdas Courses

The two most recent distance-learning courses of the Institute have had notable successes.

The course "Christianity for Deepening and Dialogue," which ran in September and October, included four faculty and twenty-two students (including one in New Zealand and one in South Africa) in what proved to be a very lively and informative electronic discussion of many aspects of Christianity as they relate to the Bahá'í Faith. Two faculty provided a friendly "debate" about how to regard modern biblical scholarship and its scepticism about what we can know about Jesus Christ's life and teachings. Students asked questions about such wide-ranging topics as grace versus works, the virgin birth, the feeding of the 4,000, the dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament texts about the relationship between Jesus and the Father, biblical parallels to some of the Hidden Words, how to explain Muhammad to Christians, and the possible interpretations of Jesus's statement on the cross "My God, my God, why hast Thou foresaken me?" and many others. In two months over 200 e-mails were exchanged via the course's listserver, and the traffic has continued throughout November even though the course officially has ended. The discussion was a model for a successful distance-learning course.

The Kitáb-i-Aqdas course, which began November 1, appears to be starting with equal success. Its twenty-six students live in twelve states of the United States, Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, and Samoa, a far greater international spread than any previous course. Students have already posted comments on Bahá'u'lláh's statement that the Aqdas was "the source of true felicity," the issue of what laws are for the future versus the present day, and Bahá'u'lláh's use of body metaphors in describing the importance of obeying the laws. It appears that the six-month course will generate many insights.

Chinese Religions Course Now Starting

The Wilmette Institute's course on "Chinese Religions and Philosophy for Deepening and Dialogue" began December 15, 1999 and will run for two months. Among the faculty are Phyllis G. L. Chew, author of The Chinese Religion and the Baha'i Faith; Mr. Albert Cheung, who has authored an article on Chinese values as they compare to the Bahá'í teachings; and Mr. Dann May, who teaches Chinese religion and philosophy at Oklahoma City University. In addition to Dr. Chew's text, students will read chapters on Confucianism and Taoism in two religious studies textbooks, one a text about the religions, the other an anthology of their scriptures.

The course should be particularly useful for Bahá'ís wishing to understand Confucianism, Taoism, and their relationship to the culture and society of modern China. Part of a series on world religions, the course will be followed by a separate two-month course examining Zoroastrianism, the ancestral religion of Iran, which will run March 1, 2000, through April 30, 2000. During June, July, and August 2000, a course on Islam will be offered as well, and then the cycle of comparative religion courses will repeat.

Registration for the Chinese religions course will remain open until the end of December. It will cost $100 ($80 if registering as a member of a local study group of three or more).

Fund Raising Efforts in 1999

The Wilmette Institute has set a goal of raising $30,000 in 1999 to support its programs and provide scholarships for needy students.

To date it has raised some $25,000. The Institute is extremely grateful to its donors, especially those who are students and who have contributed in addition to paying tuition for Institute courses. Students have provided the bulk of the contributions. With help from its friends and supporters in the remaining weeks of 1999, the Institute hopes to meet and even exceed its annual goal. Contributions--mailed to the Institute, made out to "National Bahá'í Fund," and earmarked for the Wilmette Institute--will greatly assist the Institute to begin the year 2000 increasingly able to meet the needs of a growing and diverse student body.

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 speech.
For more information about the Bahá'í Faith, the Wilmette Institute, or its courses, contact:
Wilmette Institute
536 Sheridan Road
Wilmette, IL 60091 USA

Phone: 847-733-3415
Fax: 847-733-3563
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 date. Recipients of the electronic version are encouraged to forward it to friends.

Copyright 1999 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States.

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