I spent seven happy years of my childhood in a boarding school with a strong Christian ethos. We had prayers in the boarding house before breakfast, a short service in the school chapel (with hymns) after breakfast and before lessons, and then prayed again in the boarding house in the evening. On Sundays there was compulsory chapel morning and evening and, if you were confirmed, optional Holy Communion at 8 am as well. Like most of the girls, I was confirmed by the Bishop of St. Albans when I was fourteen. I took the Christian faith for granted, thanking God for my good fortune in being born white, and English, and Christian – the “right” faith to which it was desirable to convert people of other faiths.
But as I grew older I began to think for myself and worry about parts of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, which were difficult to reconcile with the spirit of Christianity. In history lessons I learned of religious wars and persecutions, forced conversions and subjugation of nations and tribes to our own way of belief. I felt that parts of Jesus’ teaching had been slightly misinterpreted. Why, in particular, should His words at the Last Supper become a subject of passionate disagreement between Catholics and Protestants, so much so that people were sent to the stake for their belief in transubstantiation (or not) according to which religious group was in power? In my opinion, there was no magic in the communion service, Jesus’ words “Do this in remembrance of me” implying that we should remember His teachings in our everyday life. I still went to church because I love sacred music, and my sons were in the church choir, and I used to argue with our nice, tolerant vicar but we never agreed.
Then my youngest son, Simon, got a part-time job working in a small business with Hugh Blyth, a young Bahá’í in Epsom, who told Simon all about the Faith, and Simon told me. I began to go to Bahá’í meetings with him, and I found the Faith more sensible and less dogmatic than my previous Christian allegiance. The acceptance of the faiths of others was appealing and seemed to prevent the occurrence of religious wars. At one meeting there was a very persuasive speaker and when I was asked to “sign the card and declare”, I did so. This was probably in 1978 when Simon was about 19. I cannot remember who the person was who urged me to sign but it was after a very good talk by a nice young man who I don’t think I have seen since.
I have found the Bahá’ís to be a tolerant, understanding group of people, entirely devoid of any trace of prejudice, and I feel I am a member of the right faith.
Surrey, June 2011