Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays


B’hey there, Bab’y. B’how YOU doin?

posted by Amanda P. Westmont

I know I’m way behind on my posts and fully intend to catch up here soon, but I felt like getting something up today. Why not beg’in with Beaverton Baha’i?

On paper, Baha’i is not only quite the challenge to SPELL, but quite the religion. Their basic belief is that all faiths are one in the same. That all gods are really just ONE god and that all religions are ultimately working to achieve the same objectives. They have their own scriptures, which were written in Iran in the 1800′s by the founder of the religion, a prolific punctuator named Abdu’l Baha’i.  Specifically Baha’is believe in:

•    One God
•    One Religion
•    One Human Family
•    Prayer, Meditation, and Fasting
•    Equality of Men and Women
•    Harmony of Science and Religion
•    Elimination of all forms of Prejudice
•    Universal Peace
•    Universal Education
•    Consultation
•    Administration and Elections
•    Independent Investigation
•    Respect the Environment
•    Spiritual Solutions to Humanity’s Problems

Sounds great, right? Not much there worth disagreeing over. But unfortunately, in reality, this philosophy translated into a devotional meeting that was so hyper focused on diversity that it was devoid of any real meaning.

Of course, I’m speaking entirely for myself here. I wasn’t exactly in the best place to for a church service that morning, if you want the brutal truth. Joel and I were in the middle of a Mexican stand-off, which is par for the course for any real-life romance, but it doesn’t always put you in the right space to be open to God.

It was a tough morning.

So trying to puzzle together a religion that tried to be every religion all at once? It didn’t go so well for me. The service, rather than focusing on a single message, started with a Baha’i Faith prayer and then skipped from reading to reading and from religion to religion. Apparently, they only recognize certain main religions as being part of the ONE RELIGION of Baha’i and they really aren’t all that clear about how those religions were chosen.

The readings themselves, however, were chosen by committee and read aloud by lay people, since they have no official clergy. Here’s how they broke it down:

FIRST READING:
Sikhism
Christianity
Baha’i

MUSICAL INTERLUDE  (Which was a lovely, six-part a cappella group that sang so perfectly in unison that I couldn’t tell the voices apart.)

SECOND READING:
Hinduism
B’ack to Baha’i

MORE MUSIC

THIRD READING:
Christianity
Sikhism
M’ore Baha’i

MUSIC

FOURTH READING:
Judaism
Buddhism

FIFTH READING:
I’ll be d’amned, m’ore Baha’i!

M’ORE M’USIC

The hard thing about the Baha’i readings themselves is, and I say this with nothing but openness and affection in my heart, but seriously, THEY ARE TERRIBLE.

Please enjoy the first few lines of the opening prayer by Abdu’l Baha’i:

“O Thou merciful God!
O Thou who art mighty and powerful! O Thou most kind Father!
These servants have gathered together, turning to Thee, supplicating Thy threshold, desiring Thine endless bounties from Thy great assurance. They have no purpose save Thy good pleasure. They have no intention save service to the world of humanity. O God! Make this assemblage radiant!”

It sounded like something translated from Klingon. Only harder to understand.

After the readings, it was time for open prayers, which was the part of the service where anyone can speak from their chair. The prayers came from different people in different languages for different purposes and with different (although usually political) intentions. Again, diversity was the menu’s main course and I briefly felt like I was back amongst the Proletariat, wait, I mean the Unitarians.

The only part of the service that got to me was a prayer offered in Arabic and dedicated to the prisoners of Iran. A woman sang this prayer from her seat, reading the words from a prayer book, and her voice was so filled with melancholy and pain that I felt privileged to have heard it. It stuck with me.

Of course, it was followed by a prayer in Spanish that was dedicated to President Obama and his family. Hello g’ag reflex, where’ve you be’en hi’ding the last few Sundays?

After the open prayers, there was another song and then a closing prayer, again written by Abdu’l Baha’i and unfortunately no more intelligible than the first:

“Make [us] lamps of guidance, lights glistening in the supreme apex, sparkling stars in heaven, holy angels moving on earth and thriving trees bearing delicious and fragrant fruits. O Lord!”

Oh barf!

Throughout the service, I kept thinking it was a good thing we hadn’t been to a Christian church that day because I was so broken, I couldn’t even see myself in the mirror. I was the perfect candidate for a good SAVING. But the Baha’i faith strips away so much of the dogma, that there’s almost nothing left. Certainly nothing you can sink your teeth into. The only thing that ended up saving me was talking things out with Joel and knowing we were going to be okay. Because, God or not, we always are.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(4)
post a comment
kara nelson

posted October 2, 2011 at 7:30 am


I didn’t know the writings on this site were not intended to be complimentary. I have been a Baha’i for 25 years and it’s odd to read something written about my faith that was done in such a sarcastic, demeaning manner. It doesn’t seem to be responsible to report about a topic you know little about with a variety of errors that could give the reader a wrong impression. I see a previous post did point out the founder of the Baha’i Faith was Baha’u’llah not Abdu’l Baha’i. Over the years I’ve encountered people who didn’t understand or respectfully disagreed, but I have never encountered anyone who belittled the Faith or made malicious statements about the Baha’i Prayers. Words like “oh barf” or “no more intelligent” really crosses the line when referring to what prayers someone chooses in their practice of worship.
Within the Baha’i Faith there is no form of political practice and diversity is something that brings us together as one human family. We are a faith that intentionally chooses unity over conflict and we pray for the nations, prisoners, leaders, etc. We believe in one God and one religion and we believe in abolishing the extremes of poverty and wealth and all forms of prejudice. In this dispensation we are responsible for investigating the truth for ourselves and therefore have no clergy. We pray and consult one another for solutions to situations that challenge us. We are a global religion that concerns itself with all the inhabitants of the earth to include present-day martyrs from the Baha’i Faith living in Iran who are being persecuted, imprisoned, killed, just because they are Bahai’s. Our Faith originated in 19th Century Persia, which is present day Iran as Baha’u’llah, “Glory of God,” was born in Tehran.
If you ever want to learn and understand more about the Baha’i Faith you can visit the national website http://www.bahai.us/ . You just may want to take another look into what it was you didn’t understand; this faith is magnificent and glorious and the fact you were moved by the Persian chant and it “stuck with you” says a lot. See for yourself how beautiful and spiritually uplifting the readings and the prayers really are, I pray you do but in the meantime here is another source of inspiration and insight – http://www.abc.net.au/rn/rhythmdivine/stories/2011/3315623.htm.



report abuse
 

Candace Hill

posted September 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm


Abdu’l Baha’i?

Who is that?

I can understand that you may not have been in the best of moods for a devotional service on a Sunday morning. And Baha’is really do understand that when first encountered that Arabic and Persian terms and names can be unfamiliar and somewhat foreboding. Trust me, we have all been there.

However, there are standards. And getting names right is one of them.

The founder of the Baha’i Faith is called Baha’u’llah, it is his title, meaning the Glory of God. His son, and also an important figure in the Baha’i Faith is called Abdu’l-Baha meaning the Servant of Baha. The prayer that was read during the service, was probably by Abdu’l-Baha and was translated from Persian into English. The Persian that was used in prayers was the most formal and metaphorical in the language, making the English translations very elaborate and formal. It’s one of those things you also learn along the way.

Baha’is don’t have an Order of Service, or a designation of which prayers to say on which day, so the host of the meeting you attended would have made a very personal choice of readings, prayers, songs, and excerpts from the world’s holy books. Next week, might be a completely different kind of devotional program. You might be surprised.



report abuse
 

Adam

posted September 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm


Very nice that they would think of the prisoners in Iran. How many times in a religious service, in the United States no less, are those people included in the prayers of parishioners?

Oh, and you misspelled “b’arf”.



report abuse
 

Dan

posted September 7, 2011 at 1:24 am


Oh thou poignant author,

Your penetrating observations blend harmoniously with your buoyant wit, offering this poor soul relief from the imperious and weighty presentations of ordinary religious thought.

Pray, thee, persist this annum enlightening your followers. Leave us not without diversion from the mundane, but offer us entrance into your wise and jocular perceptions of religious experience.

Your faithful devotee!



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting A Year of Sundays page. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Religion 101 Fellowship of Saints and Sinners Happy Reading!!!

posted 8:38:43am Jul. 10, 2012 | read full post »

Gnock Gnock Gnocking on the Gnostics' Door
When Amanda and I started our church tour, I'd had it up to here with vanilla religion. I wanted to take a walk on the wild side (read: nothing Christian), but it turns out that, for a city that prides itself on "keeping weird," Portland doesn't have much to offer in that regard. And then I heard

posted 1:39:14am Feb. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Home PDX: A Church By Any Other Name
Yesterday, we went downtown to check out Home PDX. If you want to make head honcho Bruce Arnold, squirm, call their community a church.  The word has so many negative connotations, they'd just as soon not use it. Then again, the PDX Homeys have a different word for everything. Take the word "hom

posted 6:54:51pm Feb. 06, 2012 | read full post »

Full-On Faith
It's been almost a year since the inspiration for this blog began with a trip to the First A.M.E. Zion Church in North Portland. It was a predominantly black church in a predominantly black neighborhood and what I wrote about it ended up being our most controversial post to date. To this day, it's a

posted 7:25:08pm Jan. 26, 2012 | read full post »

Happy Anniversary from Emmanuel Temple Church
One year ago, Amanda and I embarked on our Year of Sundays tour of the Portland church scene. To celebrate, we decided to head back to my roots in North Portland and visit a full gospel church, just like we did in our first week of blogging. That's how we landed at Emmanuel Temple Church. Can I have

posted 12:40:57am Jan. 23, 2012 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.