Sharon Marnell

Sharon Marnell

Well….. are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin……

Star Trek. Yes I can honestly say that it was Star Trek and a few chance remarks that led me to the Bahá’í Faith.

I was a new Entertainments Manager at my first management meeting. Before I attended, an old friend told me, “You will meet a chap called Duncan, you and he will get along well, he has a weird religion.” Of course, with the newness of the position, I promptly forgot this comment.

As we discussed our venues and the challenges we faced within the entertainment and leisure industry I noticed that one young man spoke with eloquence and respect, without disparaging anyone’s ideas and with a very positive outlook. He stood out. (He also looked like Jesus – although I don’t think that had any real bearing on his behaviour!)

I decided to find out why he was so different in his approach. So, as I’m a shy sort of gal, I walked up to him at the bar and said. “Hi my name is Sharon and I want to know what makes you think and speak so differently to all the other managers, can I get you a drink?” (I’m known for my subtlety 🙂 ). He told me he didn’t drink. “Me neither”, I replied.

We talked about positivity and education, and then I realised that I should return to my room (Star Trek was about to begin on TV). But he was so engaging. When I told him I was leaving and the reason why, he asked me what was it that attracted me to Star Trek. I expounded my favourite philosophy!

“Well…. Before Man invented anything, he had to imagine it first, right? The wheel, the motor car, the moon landing. So it seems to me that if Man can imagine something it can come true. Star Trek created the communicator, now we have mobile phones. They also had laser treatment and injections that don’t need a needle. We have them now. So…. if Star Trek can show all the different species living in harmony on a spaceship, with men and women in positions of power, all speaking one language (albeit through a ‘universal translator’), working for service, not for money (their needs are taken care of and poverty has been eliminated – you’ll never hear anyone say “I’m not fighting that alien, I don’t get paid enough for that!”)  Then… there is hope for the human race after all!

His reply to this was, “You should be a Bahá’í then.” “A Ba-what?” I asked. (At this point I remembered the comment made to me by my friend – “Duncan – weird religion”). Then he told me about the principles of the Faith and Progressive Revelation. “Well, that seems logical,” I thought, as I accepted that Bahá’u’lláh was the latest messenger from God. “How come I’ve never heard of the Bahá’í Faith before?”  Then I learned how it is forbidden to proselytise.

This was an important revelation to me as I’d been brought up in the Catholic religion and had decided that you shouldn’t demand that people believe what you believe. The ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ attitude had driven me away from organised religion. I’d come to the conclusion that you could take a little from each religion, mix it up and be who you wanted to be.

To cut a long story short, we talked until four in the morning and the next day I drove the four hours home texting him on my mobile phone with the many questions I had. When I arrived home I got two books from the library on the history of the Faith, read them, ordered two more, looked it up on the internet and found the name of a Bahá’í in my area. Without meeting me they brought a copy of The Gleanings to my workplace and invited me to lunch the next week. Then to a picnic that weekend….

Everything was going so fast…. it was so easy…. so obvious. I wanted to meet some more Bahá’ís so it was suggested I should go to a summer school. I was about to book a two-week vacation in Barbados but I found there was a summer school in Northern Ireland (what a choice). Well, should I go to sunny Barbados or not so rainy, sometimes dangerous Northern Ireland? Northern Ireland won the day. (I’ve always thrived on excitement!)

Whilst at the summer school I heard about the Year of Service programme. “How do I do that?… I can do that….. Who do I see?….Where do I sign up?……” only to find out that I had to be a Bahá’í.

At this point I didn’t feel it necessary to ‘join’ the faith by ‘signing up’, but on being told about the obligation to vote for the Local Spiritual Assembly each year, I learned that I could not fulfill that obligation until I had registered myself with the national body.

Well, I’d already decided I was a Bahá’í in my first conversation with Duncan, but if it meant signing a card I could do that too! So I signed in Belfast and the rest is history!…

Ten months later I started my first Year of Service at Maxwell International Bahá’í School on Vancouver Island, Canada. Whilst there I had access to a large Bahá’í library and was able to read to my heart’s content. It was an amazing time of growth in knowledge and understanding. I was fortunate to be selected by the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada to partake of a month-long Ruhi program, where the 24 participants completed Ruhi Books 3-7, intensively, 7 days a week. Whilst completing Ruhi book 7, I received a phone call from the Bahá’í World Centre. I had filled in an application form for service at the BWC whilst at Maxwell, as I had been advised to do by friends. I have to admit that I wasn’t even sure where it was at that time; my reading was still in the history stages of the Faith. After the telephone interview I was offered a position at the BWC in the Office of Accommodation. After completing my year at Maxwell, I had the bounty of serving for 20 months in Haifa, and what an amazing time that was for a baby Bahá’í. 

It seemed that Bahá’u’lláh wanted me to have a thorough Bahá’í education, so I ended up serving, once again, at Maxwell, followed by a few months at the New York Children’s Theatre Company – a Bahá’í Social and Economic Development project run out of the New York Bahá’í Centre by the talented Mehr Mansuri. Since then I have worked for eight years at Eaglearts Academy Summer Arts Camp  – a Bahá’í inspired SED project offering the study of the arts as service to humanity to children and youth aged from 4-18. To bring things totally up-to-date I now work at Brilliant Stars International Kindergarten, in Slovakia (owned and managed by the wonderfully dedicated Bahá’ís Venus and Omeed Jahanpour). I have been here for just over three years and am wondering what other adventures Bahá’u’lláh has in store for me. For certain, my feet have not touched the ground since I heard about the Faith.

I have had the bounty of holding Children’s Classes as well as Devotional Meetings and Ruhi Study Circles in my home in Canada, UK, Slovakia and in Haifa. Even though I have only been a Bahá’í for 13 years, I have had the immense privilege of being on Pilgrimage twice, as well as being blessed with a three day visit to the Holy Land. Being part of the Bahá’í community means that no matter where I land on this planet, I have friends and family; I am never alone. I have purpose and meaning and a reason to navigate this world’s current atmosphere of materialism and hopelessness. The Bahá’í Writings have supported me through trials and illness, and I cannot imagine my life without this gift. Who knows where the next 13 years will find me……

Sharon Marnell

Bratislava, 2012-13