I was born and brought up in Abersychan, south Wales, where I lived with my parents and younger brother. Both my parents loved the Bible and Christ and I started my spiritual life in the Chapel next door, where the congregation were known as ‘Bible Christians’. Following that I went to a Congregational church, a Wesleyan chapel and, in my teens, to St Luke’s at Pontnewynydd. My father was in the choir; so was I, but I mostly mimed! I remember the vicar was very kind but that there were a few things about Christianity I couldn’t understand – such as the Trinity.
I was rather a ‘naughty’ child’, headstrong at times, so when I had, on one occasion, a dream, or nightmare, it affected me greatly. I seemed to be standing in the dock at court, with the judge and jury before me. The judge was condemning me, saying I was born in sin and would die in sin. Then the jury pointed at me and pronounced me ‘guilty’. In my child’s mind I wondered how this could be as my parents were married and, at that time, living in sin meant they were not married. I couldn’t go along with such a negative teaching. If I was doomed, what was the point in trying to be good? It was such a negative teaching and a doctrine which deprived people of reaching their potential. As I’d never been inside a court, it later occurred to me that the dream took place in a church setting. In my twenties I stopped going to church and drifted along fairly contentedly. Then I met and fell in love with a man who, after a year, abruptly and cruelly ended the relationship and I felt so bad that I knew I never wanted to feel that way again. I felt I needed to find something different in life that would give me more strength.
During one holiday I met a person who told me he was a Bahá’í and he mentioned some of the teachings. Back home I decided to search through the telephone directory and found the name of Christine and Rafi Abbas and they invited me to their home in Abertillery. Besides their fanning the flames of my interest in the Faith, I also enjoyed visits to their home, as they had a delightful newborn son, Thenna. I was quite surprised at how much he attracted me, as I’d never been interested in children, so the Faith certainly changed my attitude towards them. I spent those early years in the company of some one-hundred-percent dedicated Bahá’ís, Viv and Rita Bartlett and Mahnaz and Syrous Firoozmand in particular.
I had already had thoughts about a world order but Bahá’u’lláh’s vision was a thousand times better. I was also convinced that Christ would return and felt that this was the time we needed Him. My mother told me that I used to pray for His return.
Photos of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also affected me dramatically. I remember thinking that if I had seen ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the street in times of trouble, I would have run to him and been protected.
During my first visit to the Bahá’í Shrines, I noticed a Moroccan pilgrim praying, tears running down his cheeks. I wished that I could pray like that, he was so devout. My prayer book was not with me at the time so I thought I should say a prayer from memory. However, I couldn’t think of one and then I realised that I was concentrating on ‘I’ whilst my fellow pilgrim was not. He was only thinking of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. It was a great lesson in humility.
The sufferings of Navváb affected me too and the peacefulness of the Holy Places felt like paradise on earth. Leaving for home though, was fraught with quite a few challenges to the point of my being thankful to leave such a ‘God-forsaken county’, then I realised I’d just been to the Holy Land.
Back in Wales, over the years, I met some new friends who belonged to Elim Chapel, United Reformed Church, in Old Cwmbran, and I would go with them to coffee mornings. The building was dated 1844, which intrigued me. One of the friends was really close to the Faith. She was a spiritual person and lived a very Bahá’í-like life. She arranged for Rita to present The Peace Message to the minister and elders in the chapel. When I had a car I was able to bring these friends to some of our Holy Day events. I think the challenge for my Christian friends was feeling that they would be turning their backs on Christ in accepting Bahá’u’lláh. I felt completely the opposite, in that I was doing exactly as He wanted me to do.
South Wales, June 2015