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March 28, 2017

A Lofty Devotional
A Lofty DevotionalEditor’s Note - Devotional gatherings are an important part of Baha’i community life in Ottawa and around the world. There are no set formulas for how such devotional gatherings are run and much room for creativity and learning. It is in this spirit, we are very pleased to feature a special relection from Ottawa Baha’i Hayley Miloff, sharing her personal experience hosting devotionals.

When my brothers and I got an apartment in Centretown four and a half years ago, we knew we wanted to make our home a haven for people from all walks of life. We wanted to create a space where people would feel comfortable, would be able to build meaningful friendships and would always leave feeling better than when they arrived. We also wanted to create opportunities for friends to express their love for the Creator, whatever their faith or lack thereof, and to have open conversations about life’s big questions. We decided to host a gathering, which we affectionately called Lofty. And so it began.

Like many things worth doing, Lofty took some effort. It started out as a brunch, so my brothers and I would wake up early Sunday mornings and run around buying cheese and bagels and orange juice. Over time, we realized the gatherings were just as sweet when they were simple. In fact, going crazy over the food sometimes took away from the real reason we were all there: to share prayers and writings from all the world religions, and to praise the one same God. So Lofty evolved over time, sometimes bringing people together for meals and other times simply for prayer, upliftment and enjoying each other’s company.

A Lofty DevotionalLofty became an experiment in how to foster spiritual connection. We hosted Lofty in our living room, as well as under a tree in the Arboretum and in parks in downtown Ottawa. We had morning Lofties and evening Lofties. We had some gatherings with people of all ages, others focused on youth, and some specifically for parents and babies. We paired Lofty with arts and crafts in the afternoons (lovingly coined ‘crafternoons’), board game nights and soccer games. We hosted it weekly when we could, and less frequently when work and school got crazy. At times, we asked for help organizing the program, bringing snacks, and reflecting on how we could make it better, and people always came through with tremendous support.

Lofty has been blessed by a diverse array of enthusiastic guests, people from Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist backgrounds, exploring ideas of inner transformation and social change together. Sometimes we would have rich conversations with one guest and other times had to move to a larger home to accommodate some 50 people. Participants made Lofty their own by contributing poems, songs, prayers and quotes from their favourite spiritual teachers, philosophers and writers. We discussed dozens of themes picked by the group, from joy, contentment, and relationships, to nature and sustainability, the spiritual education of children, mothers and mentors, and the harmony of science and religion. We even had a special Lofty to inaugurate the opening of the Baha’i temple in Santiago, Chile in October. When one brother moved to Stockholm, and the other to Arizona, a series of different roommates added to Lofty’s energy and vitality. At the end of the day, I came to realize that a devotional is not about the venue or the hosts, but has achieved its goal “where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.” And so it continues. If you ever want to join our ever-expanding group of eclectic friends for prayers, feel free to be in touch ( We’d love to meet you!

1 Bahá’u’lláh

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