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Woman loves diversity of Baha'i faith

Joyce Jackson, at Nashville Baha'i Center, says, ''Baha'is work constantly on developing the qualities of God, virtues such as mercy, compassion, love, justice, patience. I definitely have to work on patience.''

Joyce Jackson

Vocation: Managing editor for School Age Notes, a publishing company specializing in materials for day-care centers.

Place of worship: Nashville Baha'i Center (Baha'i faith)

Age: 49

What do you like most about your place of worship? The diversity the Baha'i community is made up of people from every walk of life and all races and nationalities. To walk into a Baha'i Unity Feast is like seeing a microcosm of the world. There is tremendous love, peace and hope in the Baha'i community, and it feels like a safe haven from the troubles of the world at large.

What is a favorite place of worship to visit? In Nashville, the Hindu temple on Old Hickory Boulevard is so beautiful and offers such serenity. In Mt. Juliet, the Celebration Lutheran Church because the pastor there works hard to bring unifying principles to the congregation through his sermons.

In the United States, the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Ill., for its beauty, serenity and openness to all. Likewise the Baha'i Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India, which is a feat of architectural engineering.

How does your faith relate to your job? I am very lucky to work in a job where I can live the principles of the Baha'i faith. The owner of the company strongly believes in the same principles of racial unity, gender equity, equality of all humanity just as Baha'is believe. So in the work that we publish we promote these ideals. Plus, my employer treats me as an equal, asking my opinion during consultation, which makes me feel that he recognizes the validity of the equality of women and men.

Who is a spiritual role model? Tahirih was an early follower of the Bab, who came in 1844 to Persia to announce the coming of Baha'u'llah. She was a woman of intellect and beauty, as well as an esteemed poet. In spite of the restrictions placed on Persian women during those times, she managed to get an education and she was a devoted follower of the new revelation brought by the Bab and Baha'u'llah. She did some very daring things on behalf of women and so is considered one of the first world suffragettes. At one point she deliberately appeared in public without her veil covering her face to proclaim the equality of women. She was arrested and imprisoned and eventually put to death because of her beliefs. But her final words before her execution were ''You may put me to death as soon as you like, but you will never stop the emancipation of women.''

Favorite prayer: This prayer from 'Abdu'l-Baha helps me remember that ultimately God protects and aids us at all times:

''O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in thy hand. Thou art my guide and my refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to thee, O Lord.''

Have you ever changed your religion? I was raised Southern Baptist here in Nashville. I learned about and became a Baha'i in 1973 when I was 19 years old. The primary reason I did this was, contrary to what people might think, because I longed for a closer connection to Christ and his teachings. I felt that I wasn't getting what I needed from Christianity in general and found the answers I was looking for in the principles of the Baha'i faith.

Describe a time when faith helped you: My son Hayden sustained a critical brain injury when he was just 9 years old. He was in a persistent vegetative state for 4 years before he died in 1994. The only way I survived the difficulties of the loss of my son, as well as helping my other son and members of the family cope with our loss, was through the reassurances the Baha'i scriptures offer on the immortality of the soul.

How is your faith now different from your childhood faith? I don't consider the fact that I became a Baha'i after being raised a Baptist as doing anything different. Rather I see it as the next step. Christ told his disciples, ''I have many things to say to you but you cannot bear it now. When he, the spirit of truth comes, he will lead you unto all truth.'' I believe that Baha'u'llah is that spirit of truth that Christ promised and that he offers what God wants for us. 

©Copyright 2003, The Tennessean (TN, USA)

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