David Burgess on pilgrimage in 2008

Did I find the Faith or did it find me?  To be honest I am not sure which is true.

I was born in 1945 in Walthamstow, which in spite of its London postal address is actually in South West Essex.  This was my home town throughout my school years.

As most Christians I was christened in the very early months of my life.  Then at the age of five sent off to school.  I did not receive any religious education from my parents.  The reason for this I have only recently learnt.   It seemed that my Mum was forced to go to church as a young girl, and this turned her against religion, hence my sister and I were not taken to church.  One regret that I have from this, is that I did not give my children any religious education either!

In school we learnt about Jesus; this was fine, and I did believe in Jesus as a Manifestation from God.  That has never changed. However I started to question the church while still at school.  I could not come to terms with the Bible and the Crusades.  These two things seemed to be contradictory!

Seeing as I had managed without the church in the early years of my life, I continued through life with my faith in Jesus and God, but kept my distance from the church.  And this seemed to work quite well for many years.

In the late nineties I opened a small shop in Holt, Norfolk.

I found that while sitting waiting for customers I needed something to do!  So I started to build a web site designed to aid peace in this world.  One of the pages was devoted to religions, with the hope that people reading it might be tempted to take a look at the different religions, and see that there is not much difference between them!

At this time a Jehovah’s Witness called into the shop on a regular basis.  On seeing what I was working on she decided that I was in fact searching for God.  To be honest nothing was further from my mind.  However she brought a book in for me to read called The Search for God.  A strange book that looked at all the world’s major religions.

What you start to realise as you read this book is that it is telling you what they are all doing wrong, until the last chapter when you learn that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing it all correctly!

This was my first introduction to the Bahá’í Faith, which apparently sees all the religions as coming from the one God.  As this is what I had decided many years ago it seemed worth looking at this Faith to see what it was all about.

So a search on Google soon turned up plenty of information about the Bahá’í Faith and gave me the contact details for the Faith at 27 Rutland Gate in London.  Following my contact with the London office I received a copy of The Bahá’ís magazine, and the contact details for the Norwich Local Spiritual Assembly.  These were then left sitting on a shelf for about eighteen months!  One day, while having a clear out, I found the magazine and decided to actually read it.

Reading through The Bahá’ís magazine it seemed to awaken something in me!  I decided that this religion was worth looking further into.  This is a new religion, so my thought was, is it a genuine religion from God?  How do I find out?

I decided to make contact with the Norwich Assembly.  The thought going through my mind was one of little old ladies, sitting by a fire sipping tea. The LSA secretary, Tony McCarthy invited me to attend a devotional at the home of Erfan and Mojgan Yeganeh-Arani.  Well nothing could have been further from little old ladies sipping tea.  There were lots of Bahá’is as inquisitive about me as I was about them.

On that evening Erfan seemed to take me under his wing, and started to teach me about the Faith. He lent me books about the Faith.  The first one was The Bahá’í Faith- An Emerging Global Religion.  This tells of the early days of the Faith in Persia. After reading this book it seemed to me that there was something special about the Bahá’í Faith.  The second book that Erfan lent me was Some Answered Questions by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Erfan and Mojgan invited me back to their home many times.  They would answer my questions about the Faith.

I understood that the world was ‘one country’, the human race ‘one race’ with equality and education for all.  When I learnt that these basic principles of the Bahá’í Faith were the same things that I believed in, it made me feel that I was no longer alone; that there were others who wanted to see the same changes that I longed to see.

Two months after my first encounter with members of the Faith, I reached the conclusion that this was a genuine faith from God, and one that is actively working for the betterment of the world and mankind.  That was enough for me to declare and become a Bahá’í, and hope I could contribute in some small way to make our world a better place.  That was in November 2002.  Soon after this, Erfan had me doing Ruhi Book 1.  Since then I have completed the sequence of Ruhi books including part 1 of Book 8.

On one visit to Erfan and Mojgan’s home they showed me a video of the work on Mount Carmel.  At that time I could not see any way that I would ever be able to visit there.  As I got to know more members of the Faith, and learnt more about it, and about pilgrimage, it seemed that this was something that I must do, so I sent off my application to Haifa.

Then in 2008 I had the bounty of going to Haifa on a nine day pilgrimage.  I know that many say they are not ready.  To be honest I do not think any of us ever are, but we should still go.  When you are able to read prayers in the Shrines, they seem to take on a new meaning. You see things you had never seen before.  Also being able to visit the places in Haifa and Akká where Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had lived is very special.

I find that attending Bahá’í events is always uplifting, being with so many others who genuinely want to see our world improve. The first large gathering that I attended was in Scarborough. This was the first time that I met Barney Leith.  At that time I had no idea who he was!  I have now completed the training with Barney Leith and Pete Hulme to work as a volunteer Bahá’i chaplain.  This training is aimed at the NHS, and I started working at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.  Not long after I started this work my mother was taken ill, and became a patient at the hospital.  Sadly her life ended whilst she was there.

I have not returned to working at the hospital.  My faith in Bahá’u’lláh helped me during this time as I know that my Mum has now gone onto the next stage of life in the Abhá Kingdom.  However I am hopeful that my training will not be wasted as I have applied to be a volunteer chaplain in the prison service.

I try to be an active member of our Faith as we should help others to learn about Bahá’u’lláh, so as one day we will see large numbers of ‘entry by troops’.

With others here in Norfolk I have been out on ‘door to door’ campaigns; manning a stand in Norwich Forum where we could meet and speak with members of the public; as well as hosting devotionals in Norwich.  So far we have not seen large numbers joining the Faith, but we have sown lots of seeds that one day may spring forth.

Has becoming a Bahá’í changed my life? This must be yes in so many ways. I now have friends who think as I do about our world, and the things we need to change in it.

The Ruhi Books make you think about your life and about how you react with others around you. Being able to attend large events like the London Conference is so inspiring. Reading the Holy Writings of The Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only guide you in this life, they help prepare you for the life to come. Something I had never given thought to before.

We are all different, but we all have something that we can give back to the Faith.  The letters from the Universal House of Justice help us to find what we can give.  I have spent many hours studying these letters with friends as we each learn how we can contribute to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

Becoming a member of the Bahá’í Faith is the best thing I have ever done in my life.

——————

David Burgess

Norfolk, September 2012

 

David in 2012

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