Bicentenary stories: Belleville, Ontario

Posted: 2018/01/11

Mary Vander Dussen and Kathy Hayman sing a prayer to open the bicentenary celebration held in Belleville, Ont. Photo: Juliet deWal

The friends in Belleville, Ont., found their efforts confirmed many times over as they connected friends with the Person of Bahá’u’lláh.

For our community, the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh opened up opportunities to reflect on what we have learned so far about connecting with new friends of the Faith. We had created bonds with people by working with like-minded organizations: volunteering with the Syrian refugee support group, the spiritual health services committee and the interfaith Quinte group. We became regulars at our local coffee shop, where we engaged others in meaningful conversations. Through these outlets we have regularly invited people to firesides, devotional gatherings and, more recently, a children’s class. Inviting these friends to come celebrate the life of Bahá’u’lláh with us was a natural next step.

Opportunities to teach the Faith increased during this potent time. While we were setting up for our bicentenary event, my husband, Steve, went outside. He ran into a woman we hadn’t seen for several years and she asked what we were doing. Steve provided a short explanation of the bicentenary and asked her to come see our preparations. They ended up having a two hour discussion about the Faith as Steve took her through each of the Bahá’í principles posters we had put up, speaking with her about each one. That evening she came back to celebrate with us. Since then she has come to two devotional gatherings and we recently showed her our pilgrimage photos.

The evening itself was filled with happiness. We watched the film Light to the World and participants talked about how much it touched their hearts. One friend, our volunteer photographer, borrowed the DVD and told us she’s watched it twice since the event. Afterwards, there was a devotional program with music. One of our friends brought his tabla drums and played alongside us while the words were shown on a screen so everyone could join in.

Our celebration brought so many friends together who all found different ways of recognizing the bounty of having Bahá’u’lláh in all of our lives. Right after the bicentenary, we hosted two devotional gatherings and a fireside. Every community member is now being encouraged to host their own devotional or fireside with the friends that they know.

We are very pleased with how well the event turned out and by the response of our friends. It was the biggest event that this community has ever planned and it was amazing to see the results of the unified effort put forth by the whole cluster. We definitely feel a new spiritual energy has been released.

– Kathy Hayman