My childhood was spent living in Upper Norwood, London S.E.19. I was one of four girls, me being the baby of the quartet.
My family and I regularly used to attend St. John’s Church of England High Church where incense was used, and I would attend Sunday School. My sister, eight years older, was sort of in charge of me when we went to the various church services. During the sermons I would be asking her, ‘What does that mean?’ and, of course, I was told to shush!
I was always asking why?! That was about many things, and I continued to do so. I was confirmed in the church. I also remember making hassocks and giving up something for Lent.
I studied Dance, both ballet and tap, and took lessons from a local teacher. I also attended some classes in London, and took the appropriate R.A.D. and Imperial exams. I contacted an agent and from there on became a professional dancer and part of a troupe, touring all over the country in a variety of shows and pantomimes. During many tours I remember the Salvation Army coming to the theatre, trying to make contact with the company. I know I met with them, though I can’t remember exactly what was said. On looking back, I realise I was on my spiritual journey but then I wasn’t aware of it.
Many years elapsed, encountering numerous different people, and certainly not leading my life according to my childhood upbringing. In 1964 I emigrated to the U.S.A., living and working as a nanny in New York. Mid 1965 I moved to California. During my life there I explored different groups. I went to someone’s house – I cannot remember how I got the address – there were a lot of people, very friendly, sociable, and I had a chance to ask questions. I was given a book – don’t know the title – but I remember thinking that some of my ideas were the same as theirs.
Life went on, and in 1968 I was back in England. At some point during the next few years I met Marjorie Ward (no longer with us) and, during conversation, she invited me to a ‘fireside’. Ah! That is the same sort of meeting I attended in America. All the people I was meeting were Bahá’ís, followers of Bahá’u’lláh. This was the start of my exploration. I began reading books and asking questions. Then Evelyn Jerrard, who was very knowledgeable and friendly, used to visit me and take me to conferences, etc. I consider her to be my spiritual mother. Evelyn passed away some years ago.
I was weighing everything up in my mind, feeling that I might be disloyal to Christ. It was like standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to decide whether to take the step. Then I read the book, “Bahá’u’lláh” by H.M. Balyuzi and I realized that Bahá’u’lláh was not an impostor, that He was speaking the truth – so I took the step and signed the declaration card. This was on 27th April, 1974. As to the meaning of Christ and Bahá’u’lláh, I accepted Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for today, but also in my heart I completely understood that Christ had not been rejected.
I remember that my sister and her husband commented on a change in me. They couldn’t quite understand what had happened. I told them that I certainly hadn’t inherited any money! (I have always been poor financially speaking).
I told them that my Faith had brought about the change in me. It is still helping me to this day, and will do for ever.
My daughter, Maria, was six years old when I became a Bahá’í. I remember a summer school we attended in Tiverton, Devon (1975). Hand of the Cause Mr Faizi was there. He took one of the sessions for children, and the hall was packed. He was asking questions: My daughter put up her hand and gave a good answer. At the end of his talk, Mr Faizi asked who would like to come up and say a prayer? Up shot my daughter’s hand. She was invited up to the stage and she held Mr Faizi’s hand and recited the prayer The Remover of Difficulties.
So I have met Hands of the Cause Mr Faizi, Paul Haney, Mr Furutan, and I heard William Sears speak at one of the Thursday night gatherings at Rutland Gate.
My daughter went on a junior youth pilgrimage when she was about 14. I have a photo of her sitting on Mr Furutan’s lap. Many years later she took her three sons on pilgrimage and introduced them to Mr Furutan.
I went on a three day pilgrimage in 1977. At that time only the foundation of the seat of the Universal House of Justice was there. I travelled with Mrs Alaee and this trip included a visit to Haifa as well as to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. Both these occasions were memorable and awe inspiring, and only if you have been to the Holy Land, can you truly appreciate the atmosphere.
In 2009 I visited Haifa again but this time I was on Pilgrimage for nine days.
Of course I saw the wonderful terraces. Visiting the home and places where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had lived, walking along with hundreds of fellow Bahá’ís, feeling we were all on the same spiritual quest – the unity of all peoples – was just overwhelming, indescribable, and virtually impossible to relay to people on my return home.
I have served on the Local Spiritual Assembly in Sevenoaks, where I was secretary. Later I served on the Local Spiritual Assembly in High Wycombe, Bucks, where I have been living for the past 17 years. I was also an assistant to Talieh Mann, Auxiliary Board member, for two years.
Interestingly my daughter and I joined the Bahá’í Choir, many moons ago. We performed at many functions throughout England.
I have studied up to and including Ruhi Book 6. I hold regular devotionals – have done this since long before the community was asked to hold them.
I am a committee member of Sharing of Faiths (Inter-Faith) and I am always trying to find opportunities to teach.
And so I am continuing my spiritual journey. Becoming a Bahá’í has been transforming. I don’t know if I would still be here if I hadn’t accepted the Faith. Gradually becoming and feeling more connected to the spiritual realm is something I cannot adequately express.
I thank my mother for starting me on the journey, even though I didn’t really appreciate her efforts. Then, finding Bahá’u’lláh was such a reward and I’m sure my mother understands this now as well.
Marlow, November 2011