I grew up in Patcham, Brighton, with a short stay of about two years at my grandmother’s in Cumberland Road, Brighton at the end of world war II. My father died in 1946 when I was seven years old. We then returned to the bungalow at Patcham. My widowed mother was of no religion and when later I asked why we were not baptised she replied that when we were fifteen we would be able to choose for ourselves. I had a younger brother at that time of 4 and a half. We had visits at Christmas times from an aunt, three young cousins and an uncle who also delivered our coal for the open fire.
My C of E Secondary school was probably my first introduction to the Bible stories and a friend invited me to accompany him to a Methodist Church service, where I heard a minister talking about the afterlife. I remember the story even today, as he compared the change from a chrysalis to a butterfly.
Much later, I was searching through the local library in Brighton and exploring various ideologies.
One day, after praying inwardly for help, I went to a different set of books labelled ‘Biography’. I was drawn to a particular book called “The Valley of Search”. The author, Angela Anderson, a Bahá’í, had been a member of a group called Subud and described how she eventually became a Bahá’í. I was a Subud member myself at that time and it naturally resonated with me. I remember seeing an advertisement in the local newspaper ‘The Evening Argus’where I was working as a compositor.
This led me to a fireside in Hove (Abbas Mehrnoosh’s) and I declared after four hours of questions and discussion in January 1973. I was attracted by the universality of the principles.
My life changed dramatically in that I had found meaning and purpose through the direct and meaningful answers to my questions. I was living alone in a flat and had been a member of Subud for about 18 months, but had become disillusioned and dissatisfied generally.
I was also divorced and separated at the time and was living in a rented flat vacated by my brother and his family. I was aged 34 years and my three daughters were with my ex-wife.
I had access to them but it was naturally a very unsatisfactory position. I was very upset and sought solace in drinking and smoking and other ways like trying to find another partner. My work life continued but I found it frustrating in its routine and material object of earning a livelihood.
My Bahá’í life enabled me firstly to research more deeply into the Writings and, secondly, to enjoy the fellowship with others in the Faith.
I had the bounty of meeting Rúhíyyih Khánum when she visited the Isle of Mull, where I was on a two week holiday with a Bahá’í friend (Massoud Tahzib). She gave a talk in the hotel there and all the Bahá’ís spontaneously sang to her “Auld Lang Syne” when she finished.
I tried to teach others at work but found little response and then pioneered to Crawley to help form its first Local Assembly (1974/5). After about a year I returned to Brighton and served on the Brighton Assembly. I remarried and lived in Haywards Heath for a while (1975) but the marriage to a non-Bahá’í became difficult and some nine years later, in 1984, found myself remarried in Hove and my son was born in 1987 to a Kenyan lady, who returned to Kenya. This son (Samuel) lives with me at present and is now 24 years old.
I married again in 2002 to an Afro-American Bahá’í (Patricia Smith) which proved to be unhappy for her as she wanted to return to America where she had other family members. That was in May of 2005. A positive aspect was that it enabled me to accompany her and a friend to Haifa on a nine day pilgrimage in October/November of 2004.
I loved every aspect of the Pilgrimage, especially the visits to the holy places and the talks at the Reception Centre in the evenings. The sheer beauty of the gardens was a veritable heaven.
My response to being involved in the teaching plans was that I have tutored in several study circles with others as co-tutors and try to assist with printing a small local newsletter for each Feast.
Challenges and tests have come with more than one marriage and sadness over not being very involved with my now grown up daughters’ lives. However, my son seems to be strong and pursuing his own interests both intellectually and seeking work that he is able to accomplish for his own livelihood. He has recently shown an interest in prayer and Book1 of the Ruhi institute. He attended with me the Thomas Breakwell school in his early years but left when about 11 or 12 years old.
My work as a printer’s compositor demanded many moves to different areas of Sussex. I have finally realised that I am not suited to married life, having struggled in vain to find a partner that I could be compatible with. As I reflect on my 72 years of walking on this earth, I have come to appreciate just how much the Bahá’í Faith has been an anchor for my restless soul, and I am eternally grateful to those who have helped me on my path through life.
Brighton, September 2011
[Note: Subud is an international spiritual movement that began in Indonesia in the 1920s as a movement founded by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. (The name Subud was first used in the late 1940s when Subud was legally registered in Indonesia.) The basis of Subud is a spiritual exercise commonly referred to as the latihan kejiwaan, which was said by Muhammad Subuh to represent guidance from “the Power of God” or “the Great Life Force”.]
Michael passed away in Brighton on 26 July 2014 – Ed.