Biographical note by Joyce’s daughter: Joyce grew up in Norfolk. The villages of Bowthorpe and Bawburgh and the seaside town of Great Yarmouth are among those connected with her family. Her father was a teamster – the owner of a pair of shire horses. He hired himself out to farmers. On 21 April 1942 she married Carl Card and moved to Cardiff, a journey that involved crossing London during the blitz.
I imagine that I, along with many others, owe my belief in God and interest in religion to my early upbringing and environment. My first memory connected, as I think, with religion is of a black iron gateway and a gravel path along which I walked from the church on the occasion of my brother’s christening. My mother was a member of the mother’s union. The card denoting her a member used to hang on her bedroom wall. Printed on the card was the whole of the hymn, “I heard the voice of Jesus say ‘Come unto me and rest'”. Thus I learned, by so often reading it, that hymn. Every year the vicar used to bring us the church almanac which was duly pinned on the wall in the living room. It was quite a large work of art, in colour, composed of one large and two smaller Bible pictures, plus the date and daily Bible readings. By looking constantly at this I learned to spell the word “church”. The great day came when the day school teacher asked if anyone could spell “church”. I was the only one in the class who could do so. In the sitting room there was a set of three pictures; “Faith”, “Hope” and “Charity”; also “Rock of Ages”. These pictures used to fascinate me; I must have spent hours looking at them. They and the pictures in my mother’s Bible became imprinted on my memory. I used to attend the church Sunday school but it was at the day school that I learned such hymns as “There’s a home for little children”, “There is a happy land”, and “Jerusalem the golden”. Thus I built up in my mind the picture of a wonderful heaven-world. My parents used to take a weekly magazine, The Sunday Companion which, as soon as I was able, I used to read right through. As well as a complete story and two serials, it always contained a sermon, texts for each day, and some lovely religious verses. I can well remember the titles of two books, Jessica’s First Prayer and Teddy’s Button – so you see, I must have been influenced by this reading matter. Our Sunday School superintendant was a lady. She was very much interested in Dr Grenfell’s work in Newfoundland; so much so that she went out there to help in his mission. On returning she told us all about him and the work. I was about twelve years old and that incident created for me the beginning of independent thought. Although it seemed wicked of me to do so, I wondered did she really go out there to that icy country to work at the mission for God, or was she fond of Dr Grenfell?
At the age of fifteen I was confirmed, and took my first communion on Easter Sunday, 1927. Communion was never so impressive as it was that first time. I began gradually to lose interest in the Church of England and transferred my affection to the Wesleyan Church. I took part in all the activities: choir, guild, concerts, outings etcetera and I signed the pledge (a vow to not take alcohol). During the summer, in connection with this church, services were held on the beach after the Sunday Evening Communion Service. I found these services very inspiring. The atmosphere was so different out in the open: the sound of the sea, the lights coming on as it grew darker, and the moon coming up over the sea with a silver pathway. I could really feel the presence of Christ at those meetings, more than I had ever felt His presence in church.
The next highlight came when the Oxford group visited the town. They set a wonderful new standard for living the Christian life; absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute selflessness and absolute love. There was great enthusiasm for the Oxford group but unfortunately when the campaign came to an end the interest flagged and the whole venture fizzled out. But as far as I was concerned it did not fail completely – it caused me to do a lot of thinking. I began to see that there really was not much depth in the religion of either the church or the chapel. I was quite disillusioned when I heard the sick visitor say that she carried out those duties in the hope that if she were ill someone would do the same for her! After this I gave up regular attendance at church; I just went where and when I chose, but generally listened to the BBC Radio broadcast of church services. I still held fast to my belief in God and in prayer and would often read over this extract from Morte d’Arthur by Alfred Tennyson. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. Wherefore let thy voice rise like a fountain for me night and day. For what are men better than sheep or goats that nourish a blind life within the brain, if, knowing God they lift not hands of prayer both for themselves and those who call them friend? For so the whole round world is everywhere bound by gold chains about the feet of God.”
I met Carl, and we were married in the Church of England, according to the custom. He was a spiritualist. I just could not accept spiritualism at all, even after attending a materialisation. His idea of how a Sunday should be spent was so different from mine. He would often want to be working in the shed at woodwork and other tasks; in fact Sundays became the bane of my life. Occasionally I went to church by myself. Once I went to a service at the Royal Infirmary Chapel, but this was no inspiration at all. I could find no spiritual anchorage in this part of the world (Cardiff, where we were living). So we drifted on. The children went to the nearest Sunday School; they had both been christened at Llandaff Cathedral. As we realised we had no mutual interest in religion, we decided to join the Psychology Club and found it very interesting. We met Mrs Boley and Mr Fulstone, who was the chairman. Later he called on me and we had many serious talks. We met Miss Knowles. I liked her voice and enquired who she was. Hearing she was secretary of the Theosophical Society we decided to attend a meeting and found ourselves on a firm footing together at last and became members. We studied with the Theosophists for six years, but then became aware of growing disunity and insincerity.
Here I must break off and tell you about a dream I had a few months before hearing about the Bahá’í Faith. In this dream I saw in print the word Elam or Elim. I looked up the word in our Bible Concordance and found that it did not signify anything of importance. Since joining the Faith I have learned that it was the name in Old Testament days of part of Persia.
We debated whether or not to leave the Theosophical Society, but decided to continue attending until we found something to take its place. Mrs Boley came to the very next Theosophical Society meeting and invited us to a Bahá’í meeting. David Hofman addressed the meeting. I was very much impressed by his talk, by the sincerity of the members, the general atmosphere of the meeting and the fact that they did not accept money from non-Bahá’ís. Carl and I went to fireside meetings at the home of David and Barbara Lewis, to a one-day school in Caerphilly, and to meetings arranged for the visit of Mrs Meherangiz Munsiff. Carl joined the Bahá’í Faith within two weeks of our first meeting. I felt I had to think things over. It all seemed very confusing to me. I just could not sort out who was the Báb, who was Bahá’u’lláh, who was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and who was the Guardian. The evidence of prophecies fulfilled left me cold. I was unimpressed by the story of the martyrdom of the Báb and His followers. The thing that did impress me was the New World Order. Jack Tomlinson, a Bahá’í from Pontypridd, advised me to read The Renewal of Civilisation by David Hofman. After more consideration I finally declared, about six weeks after Carl and on the same evening as another new believer, Terry deLacy.*
I became a member because after surveying the whole scene of leaving the Theosophical Society I felt I had been led, called or even directed into the Faith by a power greater than any earthly power, and I just could not go any other way. I must admit that I did have some moments of doubt after I had declared, because there was quite a lot I couldn’t understand. If I had not studied Theosophy I doubt if I could have accepted the Faith so readily. I really feel that those six years of Theosophical study prepared my mind and spirit and when the right moment came I was led into the Bahá’í Faith. I have been surprised that when reading the prayers at the feasts I do not feel nervous as I did the few times I read at the Theosophical Society. In the year since becoming a Bahá’í I have been helped and inspired by attending a weekend school in Ogmore, a summer school in Harlech and a weekend school in Bangor. At these gatherings I realise the power of the Faith. It behoves us all to do our best to bring about a rapid growth in the Faith, particularly here in South Wales.
Joyce Roseanna Card
[Joyce’s daughter, Joy Sabour, believes that this account was written by her mother in late 1960.]
* Terry deLacy was a vision mixer at HTV (Harlech TV), the Welsh ITV channel based in Cardiff. He was at work when Meherangiz Munsiff was interviewed, and he was so impressed that he investigated and became a Bahá’í. He remained in the Faith for a number of years.