Saturday, February 23, 2002
Baha'is prepare to celebrate New Year
THE ROANOKE TIMES
When childhood friends used to ask Patty Mostaghimi about the husband of her dreams, she always replied that she wanted to marry a human being. "A man is a human being!" they would snicker. No, no, she would explain, he must not drink or smoke, he must be kind, he must be decent ... he must be, in short, all the best to which a man can aspire .
Many years later, she found the human being she had dreamed of when they were both graduate students at the University of Illinois at Champagne Urbana. "It was as if God had packaged him up and sent him here for me," she said. Saied Mostaghimi was from Iran, like Patty, although they came from different cities and different religious backgrounds. "All these things I thought a human being should have, I found them in him. And when I learned that he was a Baha'i, I understood. ... If you know what is required of a Baha'i, you would know why."
Patty had been studying the Baha'i faith before she met her future husband. She was introduced to it while reading a book on Islam that she found particularly positive and thorough. What a surprise to discover it was written by two authors who were not Muslim, but Baha'is.
The Baha'i faith is based on a belief in the universality of the human experience and in the unity of all revealed religions. It teaches that there is one God, the creator, whose word has been embodied by the great prophets of history. Adherents consider the faith's founder, Persian nobleman Husayn Ali, called Baha'u'llah, the latest prophet in a line that includes Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
Although it is among the youngest of the world's religions, at something less than 150 years old, adherents consider the Baha'i faith an ancient tradition: "The changeless faith of God, eternal in the past and eternal in the future." In just a few generations, it has emerged from a somewhat obscure Middle Eastern sect into a well-established and widely spread religion. Today there are between 5 million and 6 million Baha'is in the world, living in more than 232 countries and representing 2,100 ethnic, racial and tribal groups.
Baha'is foresee a world community. They support gender equality, universal compulsory education, the establishment of a world court and of an international auxiliary language. There is an emphasis on good deeds as a demonstration of faith. "Your work done in the spirit of help is worship," explained Patty Mostaghimi, "so if you are even cleaning the bathroom with a smiling face, that is worship."
Saied Mostaghimi is the rare individual who can claim to be a fourth generation Baha'i. His great-grandfather carried on a personal correspondence with the founder's own son. But when Mostaghimi was growing up during the reign of the late Shah of Iran, his family's faith made them the subject of persecution. The family practiced in secrecy; other children taunted and threw sticks at Saied.
But in the New River Valley, a congregation of about 25 meets for regular fireside gatherings according to the Baha'i calendar of 19-day months. There are no clergy in the Baha'i faith, and so the gatherings are led by members, who rely on collaboration and consensus-building within the group.
The principles of the Baha'i faith are set forth in the voluminous writings of its founder, which have been translated into 800 languages. A typical meeting begins with prayer, followed by readings from Baha'u'llah and prayers or meditation. Commonly, there is a time to share information from the national Spiritual Assembly, as well as a time for food and fellowship.
On Tuesday, Baha'is around the world will observe a period of intercalary days, or "Ayyam-i-Ha." The four-day celebratory period ushers in the last month of the Baha'i calendar, the Fast, during which Baha'is refrain from water, food, smoking and the like from sunrise to sundown. The New Year begins March 21, the first day of spring.
At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, there will be a Baha'i fireside at the Mostaghimis' home in Blacksburg. The upcoming Fast will be the subject of prayer and discussion. There is never a charge or collection. For questions or directions, call 961-0611 or 552-1300.
Other news and activities this week:
Noah's Ark: Did it really exist? Has the ark been found? Guest speaker Jerry Bowen will address these and other questions this evening at 7, at the public library on Sheltman Street in Christiansburg. Bowen, a Floyd County native, traveled to Turkey in 2000 to examine a site that is reputed to be the final resting place of Noah's ark. Video, photos, Q&A. To register, call 552-6874, or visit www.nrvbiz.com/noah.
Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, on Walton Road in Christiansburg, will have a dinner fund-raiser at 5:30 p.m. today. Proceeds will go for a new roof. Call 639-0212 for more information.
The Christiansburg Pentecostal Holiness Church, Third and Phlegar streets, is holding a fund-raiser meal at noon Sunday. Grilled hot dogs, baked beans, desserts and drinks. Eat in or carry out; pay by donation only. Proceeds will go to the church's building fund. For more information, call 382-9429.
The Virginia Tech Campus Bible Fellowship will sponsor a debate on Creation vs. Evolution Sunday, 1:30-4:30 p.m., at Burruss Auditorium. Representing the creation perspective will be Randy Guliuzza, who is a licensed professional engineer in addition to being a flight surgeon at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Representing the evolution perspective will be Massimo Pigliucci, a geneticist and associate professor of botany and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. For more information, 552-5083.
The senior usher board of Zion Hill Baptist Church, 910 Rock Road, Radford, will host its annual Black History Month program at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Basil Gooden, president of the Montgomery-Radford-Floyd chapter of the NAACP, will be the guest speaker, with music by the Glorylanders. Call 639-6773 for more information.
Dublin United Methodist, 424 East Main St., is hosting the Emory & Henry College Chamber Singers at 7 p.m. Sunday. No cost; an offering will be received. Call 674-5128 for more information.
Christ Episcopal Church, 144 N. Washington Ave., Pulaski, is offering noon fellowship and education on Sundays and Mondays through Lent. On Sundays, brunch will accompany videos: "The Face: Jesus in Art" and "Amazing Grace with Bill Moyers." On Mondays, discussions will take place over lunch. Call 980-2413 for more information.
Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, Toms Creek and Prices Fork roads, Blacksburg, is offering noon worship on Wednesdays throughout Lent. Prayer, scripture reading and meditation, continuing through March 20.
St. Francis Anglican Church, 306 Progress St., Blacksburg, is holding Lenten evening prayer services on Wednesdays through March 20. Services will be followed by Bible study and a communal meal of soup and bread. No charge; reserve a space by calling 951-0482.
Three Blacksburg-area Lutheran churches are sponsoring Midweek Lenten Services. They begin at 6 p.m. with potluck dinner, followed by worship from 6:45-7:15 p.m. On Wednesday, St. Michael Lutheran, 2308 Merrimac Road, is the host.
Midweek ecumenical gatherings are planned in Blacksburg during four weeks of the Lenten season. Titled "Prayer, Penance and Almsgiving," the series will focus on scripture from Matthew 6:1-21. On Wednesday, the first of the gatherings will take place at St. Mary's Catholic Church, where the Rev. Don MacNicoll will speak of "Pious Habits." A simple evening meal will be served beginning at 5:45 p.m. Worship is 6:30-7:15 p.m. Call 552-1091 for further information.
The Christiansburg Ministerial Association is hosting Friday Lenten Luncheons. A light lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m.; worship follows and will conclude by 12:50 p.m. This Friday, the host church is Our Saviour Lutheran Church, 1845 Cambria St., Christiansburg. Call 382-2410 for more information.
"Challenged to Reconcile" is the theme for a World Day of Prayer observation Friday at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 706 Harding Ave., Blacksburg. Coffee at 9 a.m., with a program following. 552-1091.
In Radford, World Day of Prayer will be observed at Old Brick Presbyterian Church, 406 Rock Road, on Friday. Social time will begin at 10:30 a.m., followed by a program at 11 a.m. For more information, call Sibby McPeake at 639-5306.
Church Women United in Pulaski will observe World Day of Prayer at 11 a.m. Friday at the First Christian Church, 524 N. Jefferson Ave. Bring a dish to share; a fellowship luncheon follows the service. Call 980-5044 for more information.
Cambria Baptist Church, 1310 Cambria St., will host the Christiansburg-area World Day of Prayer service at 7 p.m. Friday . The international event is sponsored by Church Women United, and this year the liturgy was selected by women of Romania. Light refreshments will be served; child care provided. 382-2490.
The Edgemont Christian Church Men's Fellowship will meet at Stone's Cafeteria at 9 a.m. March 2 for Bible study, breakfast and fellowship. 651-6600.
Slussers Chapel Church of God, 1543 Mount Tabor Road, Blacksburg, will hold an Oyster & Ham dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. March 2. Adults, $7.50; children, $3.50. Children younger than 6 eat free. Tickets available through February ; call the church, 951-1757.
©Copyright 2002, Roanoke Times & World News