How I became a Bahá’í
…. Briefly, here is my story. How writing it down brings back the heart-rending time – the tremendous joy and upheaval of the spirit. It changed all our lives – how could we have gone on living and enduring without it!
It was on one evening in the month of November 1947 when three things happened to me – I met my first Bahá’í, I attended my first Bahá’í meeting and I stated my intention to become a follower of Bahá’u’lláh!
The war had ended but it had taken its toll of me. Kenneth, my husband, being a “boffin”, meant that we lived in a remote area of the Pennines, where he and later I were engaged in helping to keep aeroplanes in the sky. Both of us worked very hard and towards the end of the war my life was dogged with ill-health and my spirit shattered by what was happening in the world. Listening to news on the radio (no television for us then) became for me almost unbearable, and although I never stopped believing in God I found myself being severely tested.
At the end of the war and when the work we were doing was wound up, Kenneth returned to his parent company in Coventry and because housing was almost non-existent we moved in with my parents, Arthur and Jean Pitcher in Birmingham. At that time there was a Bahá’í called Dora Weeks living in the same road in Bristol as my mother’s sister May. Dora used to place in one of the Bristol newspapers a small insertion to the effect that anyone wishing to know more about the Bahá’í Faith should contact her. My Aunt May belonged to a women’s club in Bristol and someone had seen the advert and was curious so, without asking my mother or telling her, my Aunt wrote in my mother’s name and using her address in Birmingham requested literature. She then wrote to my mother telling her and asking her to send on anything that came. My mother was not at all pleased but agreed to do this and in due course the literature arrived and was dispatched to my aunt in Bristol.
But this was the time of the first Six Year Plan and Birmingham one of the goal towns! It can be imagined how the Bahá’ís in Birmingham felt when they were written to by Dora and told she had had an enquirer in Birmingham and giving them my mother’s name and address! The result was that quite soon mother was invited to a Public Meeting in the Imperial Hotel in Birmingham. Mother was furious, and she did not go. This happened several times and it began to cause mother some concern as she was always a very moral and upright person and she felt the Bahá’ís were going to the trouble of sending her invitations to meetings when she really had never been either interested or involved. One day she said to me that if another invitation came she would go to the meeting and explain the situation to the Bahá’ís and ask them not to trouble her again.
Sure enough, the day came when yet another invitation to a meeting was in the post, and this time mother went to the meeting. Presumably she explained the situation to the Bahá’ís there – but the speaker that evening was Richard (Dick) Backwell. It could not have been better because she related to him immediately and was very impressed with his talk. Marion and David Hofman, who were pioneers to Birmingham at that time, were also present and mother returned home saying that the Bahá’ís were such nice people, seemed “normal”, that a very nice lady in a fur coat (Marion) had welcomed her before the meeting started and that she very much liked what she had heard! In addition, mother “signed up” to attend a series of six study classes on the Faith to be held weekly at the home of the Hofmans. I remember how my father, my husband Kenneth and I had a really good laugh about it!
The first study class was to start in November and when the evening arrived my mother was not at all well. It was the severe winter of 1947 and weather conditions were appalling. We all told mother she was not to go for it meant travelling from one side of the city to the other and having several changes of bus. But mother was quite adamant – she had promised to go – and therefore she was going! We pleaded, argued and cajoled but nothing would change her mind so I decided that I must go with her for her safety.
As we got off the bus, there was a lady getting off the same bus (who turned out to be the Bahá’í, Evelyn Baxter – also in Birmingham at that time) and the three of us found ourselves heading for 10 Rotton Park Road, Edgbaston – the Hofmans’ home. At the door we formally met and so I met my first Bahá’í.
There is no doubt the Hofmans and the other Bahá’ís were very surprised to see me when they had only been expecting mother. The class commenced. What happened after that is not easy to describe. I heard the name Bahá’u’lláh for the first time. It was as if a great gale of wind blew. My whole being was shaken to its very core and my heart felt as though it would burst. I recalled as a child having a tremendous longing for something – and the realisation dawned – of course, this is what I was waiting for – it is the Truth! I was shattered! Towards the end of the evening I quietly mentioned that I would become a Bahá’í. David Hofman in his wisdom said that I should attend the next five study classes and see if I felt the same at the end of the course. I went home with mother. For the next few days I hardly ate or slept I was so shaken, and filled with such joy.
The journey home with my mother was also a memorable one. Mother was quite cross with me and she said that I had taken leave of my senses. She said how could I possibly consider Bahá’u’lláh – what about Jesus Christ? She said that she would never become a Bahá’í! I told her that she certainly would and that at the end of the course of study classes we would become Bahá’ís together. We did!
Footnote: Later both Kenneth and my father, Arthur Pitcher, became Bahá’ís.
Cornwall, 4 June 1991
Editor’s note: In 1993 Betty married Hassan Sabri.