“The color of servitude to God” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversations on Race Unity and Challenging Racism

“Today I am most happy, for I see here a gathering of the servants of God. I see white and black sitting together. There are no whites and blacks before God. All colors are one, and that is the color of servitude to God. Scent and color are not important. The heart is important. If the heart is pure, white or black or any color makes no difference. God does not look at colors; He looks at the hearts.He whose heart is pure is better. He whose character is better is more pleasing. He who turns more to the Abha Kingdom is more advanced.”
~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 23 April 1912, Talk at Howard University, Washington, D.C.

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversations, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace and sweetened with organic honey, home-made banana bread baked with love and shared with smile?

Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiring conversations with friends and befriended strangers alike gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

"The color of servitude to God" Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversations on Challenging Racism

“The color of servitude to God” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversations on Challenging Racism

“The color of servitude to God” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversations on Race Unity and Challenging Racism

In honor of Black History Month, the weekly Interfaith Prayer Stations and Spiritual Conversations during the remainder of February will be dedicated to the theme of Race Unity and Challenging Racism.

The first one of these conversations, on February 15th, 2016 will be called “The color of servitude to God”.

We’ll start at 7:00 pm with a healthy dinner followed by segments from the thought provoking documentary “The Fear of Color”. We will use the viewing of this movie as a springboard for our discussion.  This a topic of greatest importance that affects anyone in American society and we will aim to address it through the lenses of the oneness of humanity.

We will also have readings of selected Holy Writings and Prayers on the theme of race unity. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers — or if you need directions — please contact me.

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” ~ Confucius

“Ye who are servants of the human race, strive ye with all your heart to deliver mankind out of this darkness and these prejudices that belong to the human condition and the world of nature, so that humanity may find its way into the light of the world of God.” ~ Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

As we approach the Chinese New Year, celebrated by some 1.4 billions of people, let us reflect on what would take to make the world a better place for all — not just materially but spiritually?

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, spiritual conversations, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace and sweetened with organic honey, home-made banana bread baked with love and shared with smile?

Whatever the answer might be, sharing prayers and inspiring conversations with friends and befriended strangers alike gets us all closer to the Creator and recharges us for the week ahead.

“With All Your Heart” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation. Photo taken by me during my pilgrimage to the Baha'i Holy Places in 2008.

“With All Your Heart” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation. Photo taken by me during my pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Places in 2008.

“With All Your Heart” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation

In honor of Chinese New Year, join us this Monday, February 8th, 2016, for an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation.

We’ll start at 7:00 pm with a healthy dinner followed by readings of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers — or if you need directions — please contact me.

Until we meet, enjoy the joyous song “中国, 中国, 中国 / China, China, China” performed by Red Grammer and Cheng Lin.

“China, China, China, Chinaward the Cause of Baha’u’llah must march! Where is that holy sanctified Baha’i to become the teacher of China! China has most great capability. The Chinese people are most simple hearted and truth seeking. The Baha’i teacher of the Chinese people must first be imbued with their spirit; know their sacred literature; study their national customs and speak to them from their own standpoint, and their own terminologies. He must entertain no thought of his own, but ever think of their spiritual welfare. In China one can teach many souls and train and educate such divine personages each one of whom may become the bright candle of the world of humanity. Truly, I say they are free from. deceit and hypocrisies and are prompted with ideal motives.

“Had I been feeling well, I would have taken a journey to China myself! China is the country of the future. I hope the right kind of teacher will be inspired to go to that vast empire to lay the foundation of the Kingdom of God, to promote the principles of divine civilization, to unfurl the banner of the Cause of Baha’u’llah, and to invite the people to the Banquet of the Lord!”

~ Abdu’l Baha, Star of the West Vol. 21, p. 261

“The Color of Fear” – Spiritual Conversations on Challenging Racism

Following this Monday, the remainder of February would be dedicated to Race Unity. February 15th, 21st, and 28th we will watch the thought-provoking documentary “The Fear of Color” and use it as a springboard for our discussion.  This a topic of greatest importance that affects anyone in American society and we will aim to address it through the lenses of the oneness of humanity.

Turn you thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. and you cannot avoid the theme of tolerance and respect for others. During the recent commemoration of his birthday, Sofia and I sang with the Metropolitan Washington Bahá’í Chorale at three different celebrations — in Alexandria VA, College Park MD, and Mt. Vernon VA.

The Metropolitan Washington Baha'i Chorale before a recent performance

The Metropolitan Washington Baha’i Chorale before a recent performance

Following these performances, tonight we will be joining a concert and program celebrating tolerance and respect for others worldwide.

“World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrates the principles of tolerance and respect for the other that are deeply rooted in the world’s major religions. The observance is also a summons to solidarity in the face of those who spread misunderstanding and mistrust.”
~ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for World Interfaith Harmony Week
Tonight, instead of hosting an Interfaith Prayer Station, Sofia and I will sing with the Metropolitan Washington Bahá’í Chorale at “One Humankind In Music”, an interfaith celebration of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week taking place tonight, Monday, February 1st, 2016 from 7:00pm until 8:30pm at
Unity of Fairfax
2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton VA 22124

In addition to the interfaith Mosaic Harmony choir, whose director David North soloed with us in College Park, we will share stage with the chorale from the Olam Tikvah Jewish Congregation in Fairfax, VA.

Hope you can join and celebrate our oneness through music!

“We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high.” ~ Baha’u’llah

 

The snow that brought the neighbors closer, kept the friends apart…

As anticipated, the Snowzilla brought the neighbors together. Muslims from Eritrea, Catholics from Bolivia and Baha’is from Bulgaria and the USA worked together, helping each other to dig out cars and walkways from the historic snowfall.

Muslims from Eritrea, Catholics from Bolivia and Baha'is from Bulgaria and the USA working together!

Muslims from Eritrea, Catholics from
Bolivia and Baha’is from Bulgaria and the USA working together!

More importantly, by getting to know each other, we all felt a deeper human connection which is so needed to make a community feel authentic. Now, whenever I see Abdullah or Felicidad on the street, I can offer more than an smile — I can actually converse meaningfully with my neighbors.

And prayers brought us all together!

“Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.”
~ Baha’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf”

While I invited my neighbors to the Monday Prayer Station “The Trust of Thy Neighbors”, I wanted to make sure those who were unable to drive had an opportunity to participate in the devotional. So, I embarked on texting friends near and far, inquiring how they were dealing with the aftermath of the snow storm and inviting their prayer requests.  33 souls from as close as a few streets away to as far as Sri Lanka and Italy shared their thoughts and ask for prayers.

From simple prayers for the good things of life to prayers behind which you could sense a whole spectrum of human emotions: from pain through hope, from fear through yearning, from despair to determination.

Prayers to lift up the pain of losing a son-in-law, or a friend’s brother, or the 6-year old son of a friend, or watching an old friend lose the battle against cancer;  and prayers for strength for those surviving the departed…

Prayers carrying the hope of healing for an infant or for an adult struggling with addiction or fighting a cancer or a whole host of diseases…

Prayers expressing the concern for those left homeless or the elderly left home alone, and for those displaced by ongoing, ravaging war…

Prayers of deep yearning for God’s guidance in making life-impacting decisions – from applying for a Ph.D. program or simply choosing what to study, to prayers for steadfastness and the removal of fear.

Prayers for help and assistance, for protection and safety, for success and service, for removal of economic difficulties or the loneliness of single life, for new career transitions or retirement transitions.

Prayers of praise and gratitude for the blessings and tests in one’s life.

Prayers for physical and spiritual healing of sons and daughters, of parents and grandparents, of individuals, communities, nations and the planet.

And prayers for the institutions — from nascent to fully established — doing their best to change the course of an ailing humanity.

It was a humbling Prayer Station, one that reminded me of the true purpose of a devotional gathering, whether a well or sparsely attended one…

Let us cling together!

 

“Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.”
~ Baha’i Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf”

“Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him: and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: for Allah loveth not the arrogant, the vainglorious.”
~ Islam, Quran, 4:36

The Washington, DC area is bracing itself for the first major snow storm of 2016. The anticipation can take different shapes — from the excitement of children eagerly awaiting the chance to play in the snow, through the anxiety of adults having to stockpile on food and batteries, to the preparation of county workers in keeping the streets clean and safe, and the premonition of office workers awaiting the mixed blessings of having to telecommute.

For me, a storm is a chance to get to know my neighbors, whether through pushing a car stuck on an icy road or through helping each other to clean the sidewalks from snow.

“The Trust of Thy Neighbor” Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation

Join us on Monday, January 25th, 2016, hopefully after all the snow has been cleared from the roads, for an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation on the theme “The Trust of Thy Neighbor”. 

"Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face." ~ Bahá'u'lláh / Photo of a Muslim and Christian women in a friendly conversation, taken during my 2015 trip to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria

“Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.” ~ Bahá’u’lláh / Photo of two women – a Muslim and a Christian – in a friendly conversation, taken during my 2015 trip to the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria

We’ll start at 7:00 pm with a healthy dinner followed by readings of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers — or if you need directions — please contact me.

Until we meet, enjoy the joyous song “One Heart, One Love, One Soul, One World” by Kajessa & Heidi D.

“Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self”
~ Bahá’u’lláh

There is hardly a thing more fulfilling than witnessing your child share a passion of yours. Soon after she was born, 12 years ago, Sofia was carried by her mom and me in a carseat to weekly rehearsals of the Metropolitan Washington Bahá’í Chorale in the Washington DC Baha’i Center. I am not sure if it was the regular listening of the chorale practice or me singing to her “Blessed Is The Spot” every night while putting her to bed but somehow Sofia ended up being passionate about singing (and drumming on the kitchen table the same way I was driving my own mom nuts…).

Last year, Sofia and I shared stage at a couple of the performances of the Washington Metropolitan Baha’i Chorale which confirmed her joy of singing she had been experiencing at school choirs but also gave her an additional perspective of joining a group of singers diverse not only racially but also in age.

Chorale Diversity

Chorale Diversity

I am delighted beyond words that this year Sofia and I will be singing together not only at the three performances of the Washington Metropolitan Baha’i Chorale commemorating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. but also later in May, at the 10th Bahá’í Chorale Festival in Wilmette, Illinois!

I hope you can join us, support us, and share the joy of music uniting hearts one spiritual song at a time!

Three performances with Metropolitan Washington Bahá’í Chorale honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

January 15, 2016

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Third Baptist Church
917 Princess St.
Alexandria, VA, 22314

The City of Alexandria will honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a community program. The program, Our World, His Dream! Make it Happen!, presented by the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Planning Committee, will include welcome remarks by City of Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg, a keynote address by former Washington, D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, and music by the Metropolitan Washington Baha’i’ Chorale.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Time: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Location: Kay Theater, The Clarice Performing Arts Center
University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
University Blvd and Stadium Drive

The City of College Park 25th Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

The Time is Always Right…to do what is right
Keynote Address: Maryland Delegate Talmadge Branch, 45th District
Mistress of Ceremonies: Tracee Wilkins, WNBC4-Washington
Musical, dance and literary reflections
Call 240-487-3573 for additional information
Parking is Free in Lots 1b & Z
Stadium Drive Garage Parking is available at $3 per hour

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Time: Doors open at 3:45pm, concert starts at 4:30pm

Ventures in Community (VIC) chorale festival in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday
Location: Good Shepherd Catholic Church
8710 Mt. Vernon Memorial Hwy, Alexandria, 22309
Free Admission

You can read more about the Washington Metropolitan Baha’i Chorale on its newly launched website http://bahaichorale.org for which Sofia’s younger sister, Juliet, has designed a logo!

Until then, enjoy this unedited video of the chorale rehearsing for the first time James Taylor’s “Shed A Little Light” brightened by a powerful, passionate solo by David North of ‘Mosaic Harmony’!

“Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King
and recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood, that we are bound together
in our desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong.
We are bound together by the task that stands before us and the road that lies ahead.”
~ James Taylor, “Shed A Little Light”

Dear friends,

As we bid farewell to 2015 and welcome 2016, let us reflect with gratitude on the lessons from past mistakes and embrace with faith the opportunities the future offers. Let us nurture the seeds we have sown, reflect mindfully on the weeds we need to continue pulling out and labor to bring a bountiful harvest to fruition. Let us lift up our “hearts above the present and look with eyes of faith into the future.”

Lift up your hearts above the present and look with eyes of faith into the future! Today the seed is sown, the grain falls upon the earth, but behold the day will come when it shall rise a glorious tree and the branches thereof shall be laden with fruit. Rejoice and be glad that this day has dawned, try to realize its power, for it is indeed wonderful! God has crowned you with honour and in your hearts has He set a radiant star; verily the light thereof shall brighten the whole world!”
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, “Paris Talks”

“Today The Seed is Sown: Above the Present and into the Future” Interfaith Prayer Station

Join us this Monday, January 4th, 2016, for an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation on the theme “Today The Seed is Sown: Above the Present and into the Future”. 

"The Seed is Sown: Above the Present and into the Future" Interfaith Prayer Station

“The Seed is Sown: Above the Present and into the Future” Interfaith Prayer Station

We’ll start at 7:00 pm with a healthy dinner followed by readings of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers — or if you need directions — please contact me.

Until we meet, enjoy the beautiful song “One Woman” inviting us all to unite in creating a better world for every woman of the world.

 

Dear friends,

As the Christian world prepares to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, let us reflect on the role of women in the life of that Manifestation of God — His mother Mary for giving Him life, and Mary Magdalene, for saving the Faith of His disciples — and the role of women in the world of today.

“The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment.

When the two wings . . . become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary.” (Baha’i Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

“Gender Equality and the Global Challenges of Today” Interfaith Prayer Station

Join us this Monday, December 28th, 2015, for an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation on the theme “Gender Equality and the Global Challenges of Today“. 

"Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment." ~ 'Abdu'l-Bahá

“Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment.” ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

We’ll start at 7:00 pm with a healthy dinner and continue with an engaging discussion lead by Vasu Mohan who explores five unique teachings in the Bahai Faith on the equality of women & men that are extraordinarily powerful and critical to addressing global challenges. Whether you are a long-time Baha’i, a new believers or just curious about the Baha’i Faith, you will find these less-discussed facets of the Baha’i teachings absolutely fascinating and even life changing.

We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets. We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers — or if you need directions — please contact me.

Until then, enjoy the inspiring talk given by the actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson during the HeForShe Special Event at United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 20, 2014, and consider adding your voice and deeds to the movement for gender equality.

When a few days ago the New York Times published a piece on the absence of women around the Syria negotiations table, my friend Vasu Mohan quipped in a Facebook post:

“She [woman] will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration.” – Baha’i Writings. And SHE is absent at the table! How many more negotiations do we have to go through before understanding this vital point.

Vasu, who has decades of experience in democracy, governance and human rights programming with a focus on post-conflict elections and democratic inclusion, and a host of other fascinating talents and interests, will talk this Sunday at the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center on a very important topic:

Five radical teachings on gender equality that will transform the world

Vasu Mohan’s talk explores five unique teachings in the Bahai Faith on the equality of women & men that are extraordinarily powerful and critical to addressing global challenges. Whether you are a long-time Baha’i, a new believers or just curious about the Baha’i Faith, you will find these less-discussed facets of the Baha’i teachings absolutely fascinating and even life changing.

Date: December 20, 2015
Time: 10.30 a.m
Northern Virginia Bahá’í Center
21415 Cardinal Glen Circle Sterling, Virginia 20164
(703) 444-0019

Five radical teachings on gender equality that will transform the world.

Five radical teachings on gender equality that will transform the world.

If you are unable to attend Vasu’s talk at the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center, you will have another chance in a more intimate settings — he will be our guest at the Interfaith Prayer Station which I will host on Monday, December 28, 2015.

Until then, enjoy this interpretive dance on gender equality:

 

Dear friends,

I am currently taking an online course called The Badi (Baha’i) Calendar, Reshaping Our Material, Social, and Spiritual Reality. But I am also reading about the history, traditions, and calendar of the ancient Bulgarians and find intriguing the similarities of these calendar systems separated by millennia. Whatever calendar we use, it is a reminder of our relationship with time. When a new spiritual era is ushered in, a new calendar calls us to reset our clocks not only physically but spiritually as well.

The Bahá’í year, in accordance with the Badi’ calendar, consists of nineteen months of nineteen days each, with the addition of certain intercalary days (four in an ordinary year and five in a leap year) between the eighteenth and nineteenth months in order to adjust the calendar to the solar year. The Báb named the months after certain attributes of God. The Bahá’í New Year, Naw-Ruz, is astronomically fixed, coinciding with the March equinox.
Bahá’u’lláhThe Kitáb-i-Aqdas, / Notes : Note 147

As we approach the Winter Equinox, let us reflect on the concept of time and the calendars as metaphors for the cycles of nature and the numbered days of our physical lives.

Time and the Baha'i Calendar - Interfaith Prayer Station

Time and the Baha’i Calendar – Interfaith Prayer Station

“Time and the Bahá’í Calendar” Interfaith Prayer Station

What nurtures your soul? What makes your heart tender? Prayer, music, fellowship, tea poured in peace, homemade banana bread baked with love and shared with a smile? Whatever the answer might be, sharing music and prayers with friends gets us all closer to the Creator.

Join us this Monday, December 21st, 2015, for an Interfaith Prayer Station and Spiritual Conversation on the theme “Time and the Baha’i Calendar“. 

We’ll start at 7:00 pm with a healthy dinner followed by a brief presentation on the Baha’i Calendar and readings of selected Holy Writings and Prayers. We have many books of prayers from different faith traditions but if you wish, feel free to bring your own prayers or inspiring writings. We will uplift and refresh our souls with inspiring musical selections and we’ll conclude with tea and sweets.

We’ll also say prayers for anyone in need, so if you can’t join us and would like to request prayers — or if you need directions — please contact me.

Until we meet, enjoy this informative video of the Badí Calendar:

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