What is the Baha'i Nineteen Day Feast
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
A Blend of Worship, Fellowship, and Grassroots Democracy
The centrepiece of Bahá'í community life is the Nineteen Day Feast. Held once every 19 days, it is the local community's regular worship gathering-and more.
Open to both adults and children, the Nineteen Day Feast is the regular gathering that promotes and sustains the unity of the local Bahá'í community. Although its program is adaptable to a wide variety of cultural and social needs, the Feast always contains three elements: spiritual devotion, administrative consultation, and fellowship. As such, the Feast combines religious worship with grassroots governance and social enjoyment.
The use of the word "feast" might seem to imply that a large meal will be served. That is not necessarily the case. While food and beverages are usually served, the term itself is meant to suggest that the community should enjoy a "spiritual feast" of worship, companionship and unity. Bahá'u'lláh stressed the importance of gathering every nineteen days, "to bind your hearts together," even if nothing more than water is served.
"This feast is held to foster comradeship and love, to call God to mind and supplicate Him with contrite hearts, and to encourage benevolent pursuits.”
He writes in another passage:
“It rejoiceth mind and heart. If this feast be held in the proper fashion, the friends will, once in nineteen days, find themselves spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world.”
During the devotional program, selections from the Bahá'í writings, and often the scriptures from other religions, are read aloud. A general discussion follows, allowing every member a voice in community affairs and making the Feast an "arena of democracy at the very root of society." Consultation at these regular gatherings also creates a space for growing social consciousness to find constructive expression and often leads to the emergence of small groups engaged in action. In each instance the consultations are guided by the same vision of a better world, and the participants—men and women, young and old alike—evince a remarkable degree of unity, not only in their shared convictions about the fundamental principles that are to characterize this better world, but also in the methods and approaches that they adopt in their daily lives to contribute to its gradual realization. The Feast ends with a period for socializing.
On a given day every month, then, in tens of thousands of localities in virtually every territory on the planet, groups of friends gather together in a spirit of love to pray, to think about their own spiritual growth, and to consult about their individual and collective efforts—modest though they may be—to improve the life of their communities.