Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for November 2016

November 9, 2016

The bookclub met last month on November 9 and discussed several items presented by individual members. First up was a New York Times article written by Harry Belafonte about what was at stake in the election from his perspective. He made use of a poem by Langston Hughes about how people of color, specifically African-Americans, relate to America as a country and an ideal not yet realized (“Let America Be America Again”). Members shared the poem and their responses to it, information about Harry Belafonte and his obvious talents as a writer, and a discussion of his ideas as presented in the article.

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Why Me? by Justice St. Rain

A Spiritual Guide to Growing Through Tests — Life Lessons Gleaned from the Teachings of the Bahá’í Faith

Justice St. Rain’s short (104 pages) but compelling volume explores the meaning of difficulties encountered in life from the Bahá’í perspective. He makes rich use of the Writings, but also provides examples, analogies, and helpful analysis to assist in understanding. The book is well-organized, presenting topics in logical order, and provides a variety of possible views for the interpretation of tests and difficulties for individuals as well as for humanity in general. The tone is overwhelmingly positive, even when dealing with subjects such as grief, anger, and sadness. Why Me? can be a quick read, but it provides long-lasting food for thought and is an excellent book for deepening, individually or in a group.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for October 2016

October 12, 2016

At last month’s meeting on October 12, 2016, members discussed the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann. The book is a detailed exploration of the Americas before Europeans came on the scene, from both anthropological and archeological perspectives. Response to the book was overwhelmingly positive, although some members had not yet completed reading it. Several members mentioned that the depth of information presented required time to reflect on and process, especially as it was often quite different from history as presented in the typical American education experienced by many of those present. The general consensus was that although information was presented in almost a textbook format, the author was able to maintain interest and provide interesting as well as informative detail. The writer also presented various controversies and/or possible alternative explanations for data and discoveries that have been made up to the time of the book’s publication, and group members felt in general that this approach seemed fair and even-handed. The author seems to embody the best qualities of a teacher/writer, presenting information that is interesting and including scholarly detail, yet maintaining accessibility and providing appropriate context and explanations as needed. The overall discussion also included many individual observations of striking or unusual details noted by different members.

About the Book Club

The Life of the Báb

PHOTO: The Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel — one of the holiest places in the world for Bahá’ís, by BahaiPictures.com

On October 20th of each year, Baha’is commemorate the birth of the Báb, one of the three Central Figures of the Faith. The Báb, meaning “the Gate” is the title assumed by Siyyid ‘Ali-Muhammad, who was born on October 20, 1819 in Shiraz. The following article and photos from Bahá’í.org outline the life of this important figure.

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A Safe Place to Talk About Race by Sharon E. Davis

Sharon E. Davis is host of the VoiceAmerica radio show which shares the title with her book “A Safe Place to Talk About Race”. The main body of her book is composed of ten interviews from her radio show focusing on racial healing. Ms. Davis opens the book with a personal introduction which clearly conveys her in-depth understanding of racism and what she sees that the process of healing it entails. She also includes her ideas for what the reader should expect from the book, and suggestions for how best to use it.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for September 2016

September 14, 2016

Last month’s meeting on September 14, 2016, included engaging discussions of four books presented by individual members. The first book presented was Egypt in Africa by Theodore Celenko. It explores the nature of Egyptian art as it relates to the rest of the African continent, and draws parallels between the history of art in Egypt and that of other nations throughout Africa. Although art is the focus in this extensively illustrated book, it also explores connections through the views of many individual contributors with specialties in a variety of areas including physical anthropology, archeology, cultural studies, as well as art history.

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The Bahá’í Center of Washtenaw County: Past and Present

September 6, 2016, is the twelfth anniversary of the Dedication of the Baha’i Center of Washtenaw County. Since its dedication and opening, the Center has grown to be a true center of our community. Activities including devotions, children’s classes, Ruhi classes, coffee houses, and even a book club make up the regular monthly schedule at 5550 Morgan Road. The Center hosts a variety of special events, including Holy Day celebrations, weddings, and memorial services, and has continued its monthly International Dinners, a tradition begun as fund-raising for the Center before it was built. As the Center has grown in the years since its dedication, many amenities have been added, including a playground, finished warming kitchen and basement, and many beautiful decorations portraying the history and tenets of our Faith, as well as locations sacred to Baha’is around the globe.

During the Dedication ceremony opening the Center on September 6, 2004, we revisited the history of how the Center came to be. That history is repeated below in honor of this twelfth anniversary:

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The Divine Art of Living by Mabel Hyde Paine

Mabel Hyde Paine has collected and thematically arranged quotations from the Bab, Baha’u’llah, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha in this compilation that will be familiar to many Baha’i readers. First published in 1944, it has undergone numerous updates, and its enduring popularity testifies to its continuing relevance. The book is organized around a variety of meaningful topics including trust in God, prayer and meditation, health and healing, relationships (including marriage and children), death and loss, and coping with tests and difficulties. Each chapter topic is also divided into subtopics relevant to the chapter title, making it easy to find quotations for whatever guidance the reader is seeking. All quotations are referenced to their original sources with a key at the back of the book. The foreword at the beginning of the book includes a history of the book’s development and also a brief history of the Baha’i Faith.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for August 2016

August 10, 2016

Last month’s meeting on August 10, 2016, was devoted to a reflection about how the book club has progressed, and a discussion of ideas and suggestions for how we should proceed in the coming months. We talked about the books we have read, and exciting books yet to be discovered and shared with the group. Participants shared thoughts and ideas about book discussions, how best to structure our meetings, and how to invite new friends (both Baha’i and non-Baha’i) into our reading circle.

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