Here is a beautiful story from Montevideo, MN (C), which shows a small, dedicated group of believers putting into practice Bahá’u’lláh’s exhortation to “consort with the followers of all religions”, aka an “outward looking orientation”. And look--Bahá’í songs and prayers are incorporated not only into a church’s children’s class but also another important event (read on). One sees yet another example of the receptivity and openness that are present in communities of all types in every corner of the country.
We live in a town of 5000 people in western Minnesota. Approximately 99% of the people here are Christian, and of those, about 80% are Lutheran. There are 6 Bahá’ís in our town and 5 of them are in my immediate family. We have lived here for four years. We have been invited to read prayers at inter faith services at a few of the area churches and have been asked to give presentations about the Bahá’í Faith to two churches. . . .
I lead music for the preschool children at the neighborhood church and have taught them the “Hawaiian Unity Song”, “Blessed is the Spot”, and “O God Educate These Children.” We have also held interfaith dialogue gatherings at the local library and in our home, as well as study circles and devotional gatherings, with the help and support of the other believer in town, who teaches at the high school, and friends from the Minneapolis area.
About a month ago one of the seniors, who has come to many of our dialogues, and even led a few of them, asked if I would give him a recording of “Blessed is the Spot.” He wanted to see if the senior class would sing it at their high school Baccalaureate Ceremony. In Montevideo, the Baccalaureate takes place about one week before the official school graduation, and is filled with readings from the Bible and songs of worship from various hymn books from local churches. A minister delivers a homily and a few of the seniors give reflections on their spiritual journey. There is a student committee that is in charge of the ceremony and a minister from one of the Lutheran Churches is their spiritual advisor.
__, who is the senior who approached me, told me that this year he wanted the ceremony to include more than one faith tradition. He felt it was important to recognize the diversity of religion in the world. So we made a recording of the prayer set to music. I wrote out the notes and on the piece of music wrote, “Prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, music by __, arranged by __.”
Last night I was asked if I was singing or reading at the Baccalaureate and I said “No, why?” and this person told me that a Bahá’í prayer was in the program. So I called __ and he told me that the senior class had loved the prayer and they had all learned it, had added a piano part and turned it into a round and that they had voted it onto the program. (They had to vote on the songs to include, and they chose “Blessed is the Spot”!)
So off we went to the Baccalaureate.
In the middle of the program the students stood up, and on a big screen for the whole audience to see, was written: “Blessed is the Spot. Prayer revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, music by __, arranged by __.”—as well as the complete text of the prayer, which the audience was invited to sing. The group sang it three times.
Then __ stood up to give his message. He said, “Friends, when you go out into the world and leave this place, you will meet people of different faith traditions. It is very important that you look for the common themes in all the religions. It is important to learn about your own faith, too. Then he quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama and read a passage from the Bible, and then said, “Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, was imprisoned His whole life for His beliefs. Bahá’u’lláh said, ‘Consort with the followers of all religions in the spirit of utmost unity and fellowship.’”
Then, another senior, in his closing remarks said, “Let us pray for the people who are imprisoned and persecuted because of their faith.” There were approximately 500 people in the audience tonight, singing and reading the words revealed to us by Bahá’u’lláh. Because of one student, who asked for our help, one-tenth of this town had now heard the words of Bahá’u’lláh and spoken them, too. And they voted Bahá’u’lláh’s prayer onto their program! God is great!