I knew I wanted to become a Bahá’í when it came to drafting my will……
I was born in Sunderland and grew up in Houghton-le-Spring in the North East of England. My sister came along three years later and we were brought up in a secure, loving family. I have many happy memories of family get-togethers, birthday parties, family holidays and weekends away.
We were christened as babies, attended Sunday school classes at the local church, went on to be confirmed and attended the church youth club. I used to attend church most Sundays but on going to University (Leeds) I got out of the habit.
After university I worked in a hotel for a year, then did a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) course at Durham University, and then was an au-pair in Paris for a year before finally starting work as a teacher in Staffordshire in January 1997. I enjoyed my job; the pupils were a pleasure to teach and the staff were very friendly. While living and working in Staffordshire I took up playing the saxophone and underwent training to become a volunteer at the local Samaritans branch. Unbeknown to me, my future husband, Robin, was also volunteering as a Samaritan at a different branch. We both attended a regional Samaritans training conference in July 1998 and that is where we met……
During a break, I took a stroll and a handsome man walking a dog caught my eye…
I had no idea at the time that I was looking at my future husband and that his dog was, in fact, a guide dog. When someone has a cute dog it’s very easy to engage in conversation as you start by fussing the dog and the next thing you know you’ve exchanged email addresses and telephone numbers!
During one of our telephone conversations several weeks later, Robin said he was going to a Bahá’í meeting. ‘A what?’ was my reaction. It was the first time I had heard the name ‘Bahá’í’. As soon as I put the phone down, my mum and I quickly got out the encyclopaedia (as that is what one did in 1998!) and looked up this unfamiliar name. It seemed harmless enough and nothing to be concerned about.
Anyway, Robin proposed in the January and we were married in the August, just over a year after we had first met. Our wedding ceremony was in the church in which I had attended Sunday school while growing up, and my mum was currently one of the church wardens. The vicar was a dear friend of the family and very open minded. He gladly agreed to have a joint Bahá’í and Church of England service, which was a beautiful combination of Bahá’í and Christian prayers, readings and songs. Our wedding was in 1999 and I did not declare myself as a Bahá’í until March 2005.
From the start of our married life I attended and hosted Nineteen Day Feasts and other Bahá’í events and met some lovely people. I never felt any pressure to become a Bahá’í and was never challenged about my beliefs; I was Church of England ‘non-practising’ I suppose. When we visited Robin’s family I happily joined in with prayers but didn’t really think too deeply about them.
Robin was (and still is) a very happy person and always thought the best of people. He knew the answers to the ‘big’ questions of life and was firm in his Faith. During one of our more deep conversations I was upset at a couple of things he said…. He asserted he would not renounce his Faith even if it meant being killed (‘but what about me?!’ I exclaimed) and he also said that he was looking forward to the next life (which I found very hard to understand).
Being married to someone who didn’t drink alcohol meant that I was drinking less, although I still enjoyed the odd glass of wine either when out socially (with my side of the family!) or at home. Also becoming pregnant for the first time meant I didn’t drink any alcohol (except half a glass of champagne at a friend’s wedding).
We were very blessed to have two healthy children – Sam, born in 2001 and Faith, born in 2003. I was a mathematics teacher and gave up teaching before giving birth to Sam (in fact I only went back to work in December 2013).
I must have been thinking more about becoming a Bahá’í when Faith was one year old as I remember, ‘trying it out’, i.e. I stopped drinking alcohol altogether and started saying the short obligatory prayer. I didn’t tell anyone this – I was just practising to see if I could do it (even though I know there’s much more to being a Bahá’í than those two things!).
Then my sister (who is a solicitor) said that, because we had children, it was important we had a Will and that she would gladly arrange it for us. We agreed this was a good idea and at the next convenient time we sat down and went through the details together. Of course, at this point, I had no idea this would be life-changing for me! As I found out, there are certain things that are ‘said’ in a Bahá’í Will and certain instructions that are required to be documented that make it different from a standard Will. When I realised that mine was not going to be a Bahá’í Will I had to state my religion. I didn’t want it on record that I wasn’t a Bahá’í, so I must have wanted to become one! So from that moment on, March 2005, I started my Bahá’í journey.
When our daughter Faith was four years old (2007) we started attending yearly summer schools. The first few were quite challenging, having young children, but we felt it was very important for their Baha’i identity. In April 2010 we started monthly Cultural Evenings at our house in Warwick, where we learn about a different country’s culture and share food from that country. These have very much become an institution and are a wonderful way to meet new people and talk about the Faith in a very informal setting. We are so lucky to have lots of friends nearby and through them we have found speakers to present at the Cultural Evenings.
In July 2013 our family of four went on Pilgrimage – it was a first for me and the children and a wonderful experience for us all. Robin had been on Pilgrimage twice before – once when he was a teenager and then again in 1998 where he prayed fervently at the Shrine of the Báb to meet someone and we met three months later…..
We are very much involved in community life in our neighbourhood, helped by the Junior Youth service projects. Junior Youth Groups have been running from our home for several years, starting in 2012 with Sam’s age group then in 2014 with Faith’s. We are planning to start another one in February 2017.
We also love hosting other events at our house to bring people together. On a couple of occasions we have held a devotional in October for the Week of Prayer for World Peace, and we try to commemorate World Religion Day every year in January at our home. We also hold weekly devotionals on Sunday evenings, primarily for the Warwick Baha’is but anyone is welcome.
I love being a Baha’i and I try to tell people about the Faith whenever I can. I know I still have a lot to learn but I am one hundred percent sure that this religion has all the answers and guidelines anyone needs to help them live a noble, fruitful life.
Warwick, December 2016