DEVOTIONAL GATHERING TO FEED BODY AND SOUL
As Wendy James
and Bernie Benoit warmly greet people at the door of their lovely and
inviting home, you can already feel the excitement and joy collecting
among the people in the living room. Delicious potluck foods are
filling up the counter in the kitchen, ready to regale the guests after
spiritual food by way of a themed devotional, which begins with
greetings and introductions. Wendy never ceases to amaze all those
present with her capacity to remember everyone’s name, either new or
regulars, which often runs to between 10 and 20 people.
writings are spontaneously read and shared, often interspersed with
recorded or live musical renditions of prayers. This is followed by a
collective reading of two pages of quotations from the Bahá’í writings
and other sources on a chosen topic, mostly in English with some
French, out of which a healthy debate takes place among the guests.
One year, they studied each of the attributes mentioned in the
following quotation from Bahá’u’lláh: “For the attributes of
the people of faith are justice and fair-mindedness; forbearance and
compassion and generosity; consideration for others; candor,
trustworthiness, and loyalty; love and loving-kindness; devotion and
determination and humanity.” In other years, topics for
discussion included such attributes as courtesy, the nature of the soul
and forgiveness, among many others.
For many years, Suzanne
Hébert, a dear member of the Bahá'í community
who lived in Gloucester, also regularly assisted in planning the
devotionals with Wendy and Bernie and provided music and loving
fellowship to the guests until, dealing with terminal cancer, she could
no longer continue. Her warmth, deep sense of service as well as her
beautiful voice and guitar music are sorely missed.
Wendy and Bernie’s long-time
devotionals are part of a worldwide pattern where members of the Bahá’í
community and their friends organize devotional gatherings in homes,
community centres and other venues - these gatherings bring people
together to focus on the sacred, to pray, and uplift our souls. In
2003, they began holding their popular devotional gatherings once a
month on Sunday morning. Currently, they are holding their devotional
gatherings about every two months.
About a week prior to the devotional, Bernie and Wendy usually send out
an invitation by email and also announce their upcoming gatherings
within their area of the Baháí Community. These gatherings are open to
all. Attendees include Baha’is and their friends from diverse cultural
and religious backgrounds.
The guests then remain for an informal potluck meal, where they
socialize over the table, the living room or in their lovely back
garden in the warmer weather. For some this is the first Bahá’í
activity they are attending. Many have since started to participate in
study circles or in other Bahá’í activities.