Baha’i Population Data for the United States

In a recent discussion we looked at the question of growth in Baha’i communities. While it may be relatively easy to calculate the size and growth rate of an individual Baha’i community from the regular annual reports which show new enrollments, resignations, and deaths, coming up with an accurate aggregate national number is not so easy.

I know of no National Spiritual Assembly which shares this information in their annual reports. An alternative source is the government census data, as Steve pointed out in the comments section of that previous article.

In the US unfortunately we do not have access to census data because Public Law 94-521 prevents the US Census Bureau from collecting such information. So we must rely on third party or academic sources.

One such source is the Religious Congregations & Membership Study. The 2010 results of this study are shown below:

From it we can learn a few interesting facts: Most Baha’i communities are located in large cities or metropolitan areas. There is an almost complete penetration of US geographically with very few counties without a Baha’i presence. The West and East coast has high concentrations of Baha’is with central US states having less concentration. And for the most part there has been no major decadal change in Baha’i US population, with new declarants balancing losses.

South Carolina along with Arizona and New Mexico seem to be ‘hotspots’. Another source confirms South Carolina as the state with the highest per capita Baha’i population:
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Abdul-Baha in America Centenary Celebrations

The international Baha’i community has been preparing for the centenary celebration of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the West for more than two years. Every single community, large or small, will in some way observe the historic visit.

abdulbaha lincoln park chicago 1912

Not surprisingly, the largest celebrations are happening in the US. Below is a list of some of these:

The US Baha’i community has created a beautiful new website to aggregate and organize information on these events: Abdu’l-Baha in America 1912-2012

From there you can follow the city by city travels of the Master, read press clippings and see photos of the people and places. Here’s a gallery of photos of Abdu’l-Baha. They also have a list of events commemorating the centenary in major cities (Chicago, Washington, New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia).

239 Days in AmericaThere are also several multi-media and social media initiatives. One of the most intriguing is called “239 Days in America” which will chronicle Abdu’l-Baha’s itinerary on an hour by hour basis through twitter (@239Days) and using facebook‘s new timeline feature. Their website will also feature more in depth feature article.

239 Days in Ameica is the collaborative effort of Rob Sockett, Jonathan Menon and Caitlin Shayda Jones. Follow the Master along 100 years in the past using either twitter, facebook or their own website.

Kathleen Holmlund has created another website to document Abdu’l-Baha’s travel to the West. It too will feature daily reports of the activities of the Master and His travels. You can view the entries based on the country: US, UK, France, and other countries.

journey west abdulbaha

The Journey West” is another group initiative with the same purpose as the other projects mentioned already. As well as stories and pictures of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the West, it also features a podcast reading of the many talks Abdu’l-Baha gave in churches, halls and people’s homes.

The blog “Abdu’l-Baha’s Journey in America” may be stylistically simpler and more humble than the previous online projects but it makes up for that by the sheer volume and quality of its content. Anne Perry has been writing consistently since April 2011 and has done a fantastic job describing the visit on a daily basis as well as showcasing the many individuals that Abdu’l-Baha came in contact with.

To complement the online travel journal, along with her husband Tim Perry and Bahram Jalalizadeh, Anne has also been working on a film documentary titled Luminous Journey. It has yet to be released but you can watch a short trailer at the previous link.

luminous journey documentary

Another great resource to learn more about Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the West (it involved much more than just the US!) is from wikipedia. Rainn Wilson has also published an interesting article: The Titanic’s Forgotten Survivor.

Finally, to finish off the list, I wanted to share with you an article written by Sen McGlinn which addresses the often misunderstood and therefore controversial quote of Abdu’l-Baha from one of His talks in America: Abdu’l-Baha and the African tribe.

And don’t forget, Kalimat Press is celebrating the event by providing their customers with a special gift on Baha’i books.

100 Year Anniversary Abdu’l-Baha’s US Visit – Special from Kalimat Press

In honor of the 100 year anniversary of Abdu’l-Baha’s historic visit to the US in 1912, Kalimat Press will gift a book to you with the purchase of any two or more books from their catalogue.

Here you can see a large collection of rare pictures of Abdu’l-Baha during that trip to the US.

written in lightKalimat Press has a wide catalogue of books which includes many historical and academic works on the Babi and Baha’i Faiths. For example, R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram’s “Written in Light: Abdu’l-Baha and the American Baha’i Community, 1898-1921″

Browse through the history of the American B??h??’?­ community with this delightful collection of photo- graphs and text. Several new photos of ‘Abdu’l-Bah?? are included which show his intimate relationship with the American believers. Other photos give a glimpse of early American B??h??’?­s at work and at play, in B??h??’?­ meetings and in each others homes. These pictures– some serious, some playful–include children, youth, and adults. They demonstrate the strength, the depth, and the remarkable racial diversity of the early B??ha’?­s. Get this “family album” and discover the rich heritage left by our spiritual ancestors.
A beautiful, coffee-table sized book with sixty-two unique photographs. Perfect as a gift!

Kalimat Press

Who Owns the Expanding Lakeshore at the Wilmette Temple ?

An interesting development on the Lake Michigan shoreline adjacent to the Baha’i Temple at Wilmette is presenting a challenge to the Wilmette Park District and the Baha’is of the United States.

Over the past 40 years what used to be merely a thin sandy beachfront has grown to become about two acres of land. That’s large enough to fit two football fields or more than 87,000 square feet.

The issue hinges on whether the new land was created as a result of natural processes or whether it was man-made. If it is deemed to be natural, then the Baha’is will continue to have ownership of it. If it is shown to be a result of artificial origin, then the it will default to the state of Illinois.

To view a larger aerial view of the area with the disputed lakefront area marked by a red rectangle, click the image below:

Wilmette Beachfront Dispute

What complicates the situation further is that the Army Corps of Engineers dredged up sand from the lake and deposited on the south beach in 1976 and 1978 with the express purpose of expanding the beach area. Another similar project was done in 1980.

The size and location of the new real estate makes it very valuable. Especially as a de facto expansion of the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club. There has been no official move by the Wilmette Park District to claim ownership. That would most probably begin a lengthy legal dispute.

Wilmette Lake Michigan

For more information, see this recent Chicago Tribune article.

Baha’i Fast: Sunrise, Sunset Hours at High Altitude

northern lights

Baha’is who are at high elevations might have a tough time fasting from sunrise to sunset. Of course, this is because when you are far, far away from the equator, the usual day night cycle is skewed.

To clarify this issue, the Universal House of Justice has explained that in such cases, Baha’is are free to depend on the clock to set the time of prayer and fasting.

For more see this letter from the NSA of Canada which contains the quote from the House of Justice:

9 March 2012 / 8 Loftiness 168

Dear Baha’i Friends,

As you may be aware, in high latitudes where there is great variation in sunrise and sunset times during the course of the year, the times of prayer and fasting can be determined by the clock. The National Spiritual Assembly’s policy is that the hours for sunrise and sunset in communities north of 60 degrees latitude will, year-round, be 0630h and 1800h respectively.

The National Assembly received an inquiry from an individual believer regarding whether it is mandatory for the friends living north of 60 degrees latitude to follow the clock during the Fast or whether they may choose to follow the sun. The National Assembly sought the guidance of the Universal House of Justice and we are happy to share the following reply:

“As you are aware, Baha’u’llah states that it is permissible in high latitudes to observe the laws of prayer and fasting in accordance with the clock rather than with the rising and setting of the sun. The House of Justice has left it to National Spiritual Assemblies to make the decision as to which areas of their countries and for which months of the year the beginning and ending of the Baha’i day are to be reckoned by the clock rather than by the sun and to fix the times to be observed for fasting, bearing in mind that the daily period of fasting lasts about twelve hours. By this ruling it is possible for the believers in the high latitudes to use the same standard for both prayer and fasting as well as for fixing the ending of each day in the Baha’i calendar, in determining the time for the starting of each Holy Day, and the holding of the Nineteen Day Feasts.

“The friends will, naturally, abide by the decision of the National Assembly. However, there can be no objection if a person chooses to fast for a longer period according to the hours of actual daylight. The decision of the National Assembly determines when the friends may apply the special provision for high latitudes; it does not compel them to do so.”
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada dated 5 September 2011)

We send you the National Assembly’s best wishes during these special days of fasting.

With loving Baha’i greetings,
NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY OF THE BAHA’IS OF CANADA