Saturday, October 11, 2003
Valley Baha'i community small but strong
By KAFIA HOSH
When Bob Rogers' college-age daughter told him she was declaring her faith as a Baha'i, the devout Presbyterian was surprised because he had provided his daughter with a Christian upbringing.
But he noticed how committed his daughter was to her new faith and decided to accompany her to several Baha'i events.
Rogers, of Blacksburg, had been dissatisfied with his inner spirituality and felt as though he was missing something. After his daughter declared her faith, he felt compelled to research the Baha'i faith in his quest to become more spiritually fulfilled. About nine months later, in January 2000, he declared his faith as a Baha'i.
"My daughter is my spiritual parent because she triggered an interest and a desire for me to learn more about this. She's been an inspiration to me," Rogers said.
Rogers' view of the world changed, and he gained an interest in learning about other cultures. "It puts me in a bigger context of the world. It's helping people understand there are other ways of looking at the world," he said.
The Baha'i religion is a widely dispersed faith with more than 7 million adherents, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia.
Blacksburg resident and Baha'i Patty Mostaghimi said there were 65 Baha'i adults in the New River Valley about 15 years ago. However, at least 40 of them were either faculty members or students of Virginia Tech and have left the area.
Today there are about 15 Baha'is in the valley. The presence of Baha'is in the community dates back to 1976 through the Baha'i organization at Virginia Tech, Mostaghimi said.
Service is a form of worship for Baha'is, and when the Baha'i community was larger, Mostaghimi said, they were able to collectively participate in community service projects such as organizing food drives. It is harder to perform community service on a larger scale now, she said. Instead, local Baha'is individually participate in community service projects.
"Right now, we have low numbers, but we are very active regardless of numbers," she said. "We don't feel that we have to have our own place or people to feel comfortable. We have to do our best to help the people of the community to be the best they can be."
The Baha'i faith does not have a clergy. Instead, there are assemblies, each with nine members that handle administrative functions and monitor the progress of the faith. The Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel, is the world assembly. Each country has a National Spiritual Assembly, and there is the Local Spiritual Assembly for each community within a country.
The faith has its roots in Persia, where in 1844, a merchant named Siyyid Ali-Muhammad, otherwise known as the Bab, heralded the faith by proclaiming that he wanted to alert the world of the arrival of a new prophet. Mirza Husayn Ali, known as Baha'u'llah, was one of the Bab's followers and announced that he was the messenger of God predicted by the Bab. Baha'u'llah helped to establish the faith, and his teachings aimed to encompass all of the world's religions for the purpose of uniting the world.
Baha'is believe in all of the world faiths and incorporate the principles taught in religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam into their own faith. They believe in the validity of religious figures such as Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha, but they regard Baha'u'llah to be the most recent messenger of God. "The way we know God is by his teachers," said Christiansburg resident and Baha'i Ruth Leeb. "It's a very common thing that God chooses one person and makes him his mouthpiece."
The Baha'i religion is progressive and its values are applicable to the current state of the world. "The faith is evolving, it isn't a rigid set of rules," Rogers said.
"What I found in the Baha'i faith is that all of the pieces fit together in a plan, the concept of progressive revelation explained how it all fit together," said Rick Parrish, a Christiansburg resident who declared his faith as a Baha'i only a few months ago.
Rogers said Baha'is do believe in life after death, but in the spiritual sense. Death is a passageway that takes us in to another form of being, he said. "Eternal life is not something that happens after death, it's an idea that we are living in eternity right now," he said.
The religion does not have any rituals, and there is no communal prayer. However, each Baha'i must choose to recite one prayer from three obligatory prayers a day. They can share prayers and the holy writings of various religions at spiritual gatherings. The Baha'is also hold a feast on every 19th day of the Baha'i calendar.
The Baha'i community of the New River Valley does not have a Local Spiritual Assembly. But they hold devotional classes, usually at a community member's house, on Sunday mornings and Monday evenings. They also hold monthly spiritual gatherings, which consist of prayer and meditation. The gatherings are open to all members of the community, and people are encouraged to share the writings of other religions. "It's an expanding experience for people. It's all inclusive and people are happy with that," Leeb said.
The Baha'i community will hold a Spiritual Gathering open to everyone Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Blacksburg Library. For more information, visit www.bahai-va.org/nrv
The Blacksburg Friends Meeting will collect infant care kits on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee for new mothers in Iraq. The kits will be distributed to clinics and maternity wards. Donations of receiving blankets, baby washcloths, bars of baby soap and baby hairbrushes are welcome on or before Oct. 18 and can be dropped off at Cooper House, 305 Washington St. in Blacksburg.
Monetary donations to defray shipping costs and purchase additional items can be sent to Blacksburg Friends Meeting, c/o Phoebe Crofts, 1205 Westover Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060.
Upcoming religious events:
Dig free perennials. Today, 9-11 a.m., Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren, 950 Heater Drive, Blacksburg. Please bring your own shovel and containers. 961-0353.
Gospel singing. Today, 7 p.m., OCAW union hall, Fairlawn. Gospel singing featuring the Lighthouse Quartet and Nancy Smith. George or Neil Epperly, 382-4203 or Dave Hall, 382-5513.
Singles Alive Ministry. Sunday, 9:15 a.m., and Wednesday, 7 p.m., Radford Worship Center, 1820 Second St. Support group serving social, personal and spiritual needs of single people in the New River Valley. Gary Rapp, firstname.lastname@example.org or 639-6287, ext. 5.
Homecoming. Sunday, 11 a.m., Gateway Baptist Church, Harding Road, Blacksburg. Morning worship with special guest speaker the Rev. Russell Gordon, a missionary from Brazil. Pot-luck lunch will follow. 552-2184.
Cantata. Sunday, 5 p.m., St. Edwards Catholic Church, Washington and Seventh streets, Pulaski. Cantata about Peter's reawakening from reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Potluck dinner will follow. Debbie Grubb, 980-6327, or Gail Tutt, 552-2952.
Spiritual unity. Sunday, 3 p.m., Blacksburg Library, 200 Miller St. Gathering for Spiritual Unity including world music and sharing of the world's sacred writings. Please bring your favorite writings. 552-8246.
NRV Christian Motorcyclist Association. Sunday, 2 p.m., McDonald's parking lot, Dublin. Mountain Curve Riders In His Service Christian Motorcyclist Association Chapter will meet for a long ride. All bikes and riders welcome. Chapter meets first Saturday of every month at 9 a.m. at Pace Union Hall, Fairlawn. Jim Palmer, 674-4478 or www.mcrihscma.org.
End of life discussion. Sunday, 4-6 p.m., Christ Episcopal Church, Blacksburg. A consideration of the end of life issues from the Anglican perspective with a presentation by the Rev. Karin Howard, associate rector of St. John's in Roanoke and a former hospice nurse. 552-2411.
Gospel singing. Sunday, 6 p.m., Lighthouse Family Ministries, 365 Union Valley Road, Riner. Gospel singing with Southern Cross.
Benedictine prayer group. Tuesday, noon, Newman Community chapel, 203 Otey St., Blacksburg. Participants enter the chapel in silence, pray the Liturgy of the Hours for 20-25 minutes, then depart in silence. 552-2473 or 951-0032.
Contemplative and healing prayer. Tuesday, 7 p.m., Christ Episcopal Church, Blacksburg. Guided meditation, chant, candlelight and silence. Healing prayer offered the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. 552-2411. Lecture. Thursday, 7 p.m., Newman House, Catholic Campus Ministry, Virginia Tech. Dr. Frederic Baumgartner, a Virginia Tech professor of history, will give a lecture based on his new book, "Behind Locked Doors: A History of Papal Elections." A reception will follow. 951-0032.
Revival. Oct. 16-18, 7 p.m., 802 Elliot Road, Blacksburg. Special singing prayer for the sick with the Rev. Harvey Anders. Pastor Jerry Buckner, 381-9721.
Islamic activities. Friday, 12:20 p.m., Brush Mountain Room, Squires Student Center, Virginia Tech and 1:30 p.m., Islamic Center of Blacksburg, 106 S. Park Drive. Islamic khotba followed by prayer service. On Saturday Maghreb prayer is at 7:15 p.m., Halaqa (lecture) will follow. Attendees are asked to bring refreshments. Adults and children memorizing Halaqas should contact the imam at email@example.com or ICB@islamway.net. Events are open to the public, but visitors are asked to follow a dress code and code of etiquette. Details: 953-4622 or www.islamview.
Kafia Hosh: 381-1664,
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