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There are no clergy or individuals with executive authority in the Baha'i Faith. Instead, the Baha'i community has an elected body to represent and administer the affairs of the community. This body is called the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the respective area.

Every year on April, all adult Bahá'ís in the given community gather for an election. After a period of prayer and meditation, each adult then writes down nine names: the names of those nine individuals that he or she feels are best qualified to administer the affairs of the community.

The qualities such individuals should possess are spelled out quite clearly in the Bahá'í writings. Those participating in the election should consider "the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience."

Members elected to this unpaid office have no special rank or privileges as this is viewed as a service provided to the community and authority rests with the body as a whole, not with individuals.

At the present time, Local Spiritual Assemblies oversee a wide variety of activities--activities that comprise the essence of Bahá'í community life. These activities include the education of children, devotional services, study classes, discussions, social events, the observance of holy days, marriages, divorces, and funeral services. Many local Spiritual Assemblies around the world also oversee ongoing small-scale educational, economic or environmental development projects.

Currently in Melville, the Spiritual Assembley meets every fortnight for consulation on the affairs of the community.

Consultation

"The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly free from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the Unity of God, for they are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one garden. Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be non-existent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught. The second condition: - They must when coming together turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and ask aid from the Realm of Glory. They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one's views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The honored members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth, and should differences of opinion arise a majority of voices must prevail, and all must obey and submit to the majority. It is again not permitted that any one of the honored members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness.... If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One. Discussions must all be confined to spiritual matters that pertain to the training of souls, the instruction of children, the relief of the poor, the help of the feeble throughout all classes in the world, kindness to all peoples, the diffusion of the fragrances of God and the exaltation of His Holy Word. Should they endeavor to fulfill these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become the center of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit."1

1`Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in Shoghi Effendi: Baha'i Administration, pp. 22-23 ×