March 26, 2005 – Each year Baha'i communities plan a retreat or "school" to study of different aspects of the Faith. The annual school also provides an opportunity to get together with other Baha'is and persons interested in the Faith. This year's Baha'i Spring School is being held March 25-27 at the Cinnamon Bay campground on St. John. The public is welcome.
The V.I. community includes the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands. The long Easter holiday weekend is one that both territories share and most people have time off from work. More than 50 U.S. and British V.I. Baha'is and friends, including about 20 children and youth, will join Baha'is from the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Barbados for a weekend of structured classes, music, prayer, art and dance, beach walks and sea baths. The annual school is considered a "vital and inseparable part of Baha'i community life." It is organized to "attract attention to the Faith and provides believers an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Baha'i Teachings through lectures, discussions and community life." The theme of this weekend's school is "Can I Please God and Please Myself?"
Presenters, children and youth teachers at this year's Spring School include Molly Crichton from Jamaica, Faranaz and Tommy Kavelin and Fernando and Emily Abreau from Puerto Rico, Kathy Penn from Lancaster, Pa., and Marie Sealy from Barbados. The Abreaus and Sealy will work with the children and youth program. Baha'is look forward to these annual schools because it is time to see old friends from different islands, make new friends from participants and persons who stop by over the weekend and just to get "away" and learn more about the Faith.
Classes for children, youth and pre-youth are divided by age group. The 2003 school was also held at Cinnamon Bay. Children from Baha'i families including Rahim and Roya Benjamin and Demetri Isaac attended. They said it was "a lot of fun." Rahim and Demetri were in a "junior youth class" with other teens from St. Croix, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. This group learned prayers and songs and sat in on some of the adult classes. The junior youth class developed a skit about dealing with problems of peer pressure and learned various aspects of dramatic presentation from "Antonio." Antonio has developed youth drama groups in several San Juan housing communities as method of delinquency prevention.
The 2003 Spring School was also memorable for Roya Benjamin who brought her friend Kandace Mitchell along for the weekend. They are both looking forward to attending this weekend's activities. They had children's classes with Sealy. They learned Baha'i quotes, songs, stories, did art work and worked on an artistic presentation about ways to say the daily obligatory prayers. The children enjoy meeting other children who attend the school and working together on the dramatic presentations. They all enjoy campground setting, being in rooms with friends, the outdoor meals, the beach walks and "going to the bathroom at night with flashlights." The annual school provides a relaxing setting with positive interaction between children and adults with lots to learn and regular "stretch and snack" breaks.
The school started on Friday with registration followed by dinner, a welcome by the Spring School Committee, a brief orientation and then fellowship. The School started on Saturday morning with prayers at the beach at 6 a.m. followed by breakfast. The first presentation is by Crichton on the "Three Core Activities" which are the study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes being used to expand and solidify the growth of the Baha'i community. Penn follows with a presentation on different ways to integrate the Arts with the Core Activities. Next was a talk on the Baha'i law of Huqu'u'qullah. The Kavelins closed the Saturday morning sessions with the topic "Baha'u'llah."
The Kavelins have been presenters at the V.I. Baha'i Schools on St. John and previously on St. Croix. Their presentations are always thoroughly researched and everyone learns a lot. The Kavelins are friendly, charming and captivating speakers. They lovingly distribute chocolates as incentives to students who can recall the details from their sessions (see photo).
Crichton is a former primary school teacher and has been described as "audacious" and a dynamic speaker. Penn worked in the fields of graphic design and advertising for more than 13 years. She had her own graphic design company before spending time at the Landegg International University in Switzerland then returning to the United States to receive certification in Montessori primary education. She currently teaches at a school in Lancaster, Pa. She has been a faculty member at the Louhelen Baha'i School in Davison, Mich., and a National Teacher Trainer and a member of the National Baha'i Education Task Force. She spent seven years in Bolivia and has taught English and Spanish as a second language.
Saturday afternoon class sessions provided more details on the topics by Molly Crichton and the Kavelins. The 7:30 evening presentation includes a quadrille presentation by the St. John Quadrille Dancers, a quadrille class and practice time by the school participants. There will also be a dramatic presentation by the youth and children's classes.
On Sunday, the school starts with prayers at the beach at 6 a.m. followed by breakfast at 7 a.m. Classes resume at 8:30 a.m. with Penn who will give 2 presentations on "Integrating the Arts into the Core Activities." After a break from 10:15-10:30 a.m. the Kavelins will present the final session of the school with a presentation on Baha'u'llah — the Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith. The public is invited to the Baha'i School and encouraged to spend Sunday with the Baha'is and friends. Meals can be provided at $20 per person, per day. For additional information and details on this weekend's activities call 998-6132, 776-6254 or 776-2029.
For more information on the Baha'i Faith and local activities including study circles, devotional meetings, Games Nights and children's classes call 340-774-3648 or visit the website www.bahai.org.
Editor's note:This article was provided to the Source by Tanya Ward Benjamin.