Problem: Many Communities have no Centers, or very small Centers that are too small for growing Communities. Many Communities cannot afford to build or rent Centers. Groups cannot use Centers even when they are close because they do not belong to Communities. Very large Communities (such as Los Angeles) find it impossible to "consult" (i.e. over 400 people in a room at a time with dozens trying to speak).
Solution: Wards and Ward Servants. Each Cluster should have one Center. Each Center should be divided into "Wards" (groups). Each Ward consists of 9 to 19 Members. A "Member" is an adult (18+) who is active (goes to Feast), and is a contributor (pays to the Funds). A Ward meets at the Center every 19 days. The Wards are named after the day they meet: 1st Ward, 2nd Ward, 3rd Ward....19th Ward. Large Centers need only be large enough to up to 19 Members and their children to meet. Smaller Centers need only be large enough for 9 Members and their children to meet.
Large Centers: 1 to 19 Wards with up to 19 Members per Ward.
Small Centers: 1 to 19 Wards with up to 9 Members per Ward.
Each Ward would have a Ward Servant. This is not Priesthood. This is Servanthood. The Ward Servants would meet with the LSA one evening per month for consultation. The Ward Servants would consult with the Ward Members on their Feast-Day and bring up problems, solutions, and concerns with their monthly meeting with the LSA. This is the only way that large Communities can consult with Members; via representatives (Ward Servants). Ward Servants should be elected yearly by the Ward Members. Believers who are not active and who do not contribute to the Funds are not Members of the Ward.
Clusters, not Communities, should be responsible to provide at least one Large Center, and perhaps several small centers, per Cluster; depending upon factors should as distance, availability etc.
In areas with low Bahá'í populations, and no prospects for any Centers, the Friends should be directed to the local UU Church (if there is one) via the Unitarian Agreement.
Question: Can the Friends meet for Feast on nights other than the first day of the Badi month?
It is "tradition" (not divine law) that says that Feast days must be on the first day of the Badi month!
It is not "mandatory" in the Faith that Bahá'ís meet on the first of every Badi month for Feast! Hand of the Cause Agnes Alexander asked this of the Guardian on April 23rd, 1937, and he replied:
"There is nothing in the teachings that the Nineteen Day Feast should be held on the first Day of the Bahá'í month. It is only the custom. Give freedom in non-essentials. In essentials, unity; in non-essentials diversity and in all things, charity." (Haifa Notes of Agnes Alexander, p.2)The Secretary of the Guardian wrote:
"Your third question concerns the day on which the Feast should be held every month. The Guardian stated in reply that no special day has been fixed, but it would be preferable and most suitable if the gathering of the friends should be held on the first day of each Baha'i month." (In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 1 December 1936 to an individual believer-- translated from the Persian)I interpret that to mean that if a Community has only one Ward, they should meet on the first day of the Badi Month, but "no special day has been fixed". Any day is open for the Feast. If a Center has 19 Wards; then 19 Days should be Feast-days at that Center.
If a Center is shared by a Cluster, and the Cluster has 5 Communities and 7 Groups: then it should be divided into Wards of up to 9 or 19 Members; depending upon the size of the Center. If a large Community has 100 Members, then they should be divided into 5 Wards (or 10 Wards if the Center is small), and each Bahá'í Group would be it's own Wards, and two Groups can be combined into one Ward, etc. The Ward Servants would be under the authority of the LSA over their Ward.
Most Bahá'í Centers sit idle, or nearly so, for 18 evenings out of 19 in every Badi month. If Wards were created, then every Center would have 1 to 19 Wards with 9 to 19 Members in each Ward. This is the most practical and effective use of Centers. Potentially, there could be a Feast every night of the Badi Month at a Center.
Inactives (Believers who do not come to Feast and do not contribute to the Funds) are not counted in these calculations; because they are not active and thus are not counted as "Members". If they attend and contribute, they are Members of a Ward and are counted as such.
A Center that can be used for Feast only one evening per Badi Month is extremely expensive and impractical. A Center than can fit 19 Believers and their children comfortably, and no more than this, and sits idle for 18 days of each Badi month, is a waste. That Center can fit 19X19 (361) Members and their children if used to capacity--if Wards are created and used.
Regarding "Standard Baha'i Centers"--I recommend that in the future, for Clusters who wish to build Centers instead of renting facilities, that they look to the 9-sided Center of Las Vegas as a "standard" for new Centers built in North America in the future. Places where it snows must have modified roofs, but the floor plan for the Las Vegas Center is excellent.