Baha’i Community of Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont

 

In the mid-1840s the Baha’i faith began to take shape in Iran but has since grown into a global religion with over seven million followers. The Baha’i faith was founded by Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri, more commonly known as Baha’u’llah, born in 1817 in Tehran. Baha’u’llah is regarded as the central Manifestation of God with Baha’u’llah (an educator-prophet appointed by God with a message for humanity in the form of a book).  Baha’u’llah translates as “Glory of God” in Arabic. Baha’is believe all religions are ultimately one religion. Based on this notion, each messiah and prophet provides another chapter in a never-ending book on the journey toward God.

The Baha’i faith is most closely linked to Islam, as Islam is often referenced as its “parent faith.” [1] Baha’i teachings have an origin in Sufi Islam, but it functions as its own religion, rather than a sect of Islam. Members of the faith are required to pray at least once daily. They also participate in a number of holy days, such as the Nineteen Day Feast that takes place at the start of each Baha’i month. Many in the Baha’i community take pilgrimage to holy sites, including the Shrine of the Bab. The Baha’i faith functions under an overarching governing body called the Universal House of Justice. This body enacts the laws provided by the Kitab-i Aqdas. [2] One of the most important aspects of the Baha’i faith is the emphasis on unity in diversity, meaning that all people are seen as equal, regardless of “race, ethnicity, gender, religious background, or social standing.” [3] The Baha’i Faith began widely circulating in the United States during the turn of the twentieth century. The Baha’i Faith got its start in Massachusetts in 1895 when a native of Springfield, Thornton Chase, converted to the faith. Today, there are around 175,000 adherents of the Baha’i faith in the United States. [4]

Today, the Baha’i Community of Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont meets online over zoom due to the pandemic with participants joining from around the world, reaching as far as Russia. However, even before March 2020, the community did not have a permanent meeting location. Instead meetings were held in the homes of community members with some members calling in via video conferencing. Services are quite casual, and are usually conducted in a round-about format with volunteers reading the writings of Baha-u-llah or external prayers. Due to their flexibility, this community has been able to stay active through the trials of a pandemic. 

 

[1] Pete Sayer, Jeff Coley, Rodney Richards, Lory Gustafson, Brett Zamir, Greg Hodges, and Brent Poirier. “What’s the Relationship between Islam and the Baha’i Faith?” bahaiteachings.org/, July 28, 2021. https://bahaiteachings.org/is-the-bahai-faith-islam-lite/.

[2] William Garlington, The Baha’i Faith in America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 37.

[3] William Garlington, The Baha’i Faith in America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), 45.

[4] Kolodner, Alex. “The Baha’i Faith Compared to Race in American Counties.” Tufts University, 2010. https://sites.tufts.edu/gis/files/2014/11/Kolodner_Alex.pdf.