Baltimore: Devotional lends continuity to neighborhood initiatives

March 27, 2019
Baltimore: Devotional lends continuity to neighborhood initiatives

Ann Beasley reads to children while they engage in an activity. Photo courtesy of Allen Eghrari

Ann Beasley’s devotional gathering in a Baltimore, Maryland, neighborhood was the template for Baha’i-initiated community building in East Baltimore. It began in 2005 and ran continuously for nearly 14 years until Beasley relocated with her daughter to North Carolina. The first regular attendees were three “devout church ladies,” but soon other residents and some local Baha’is who were involved in the core activities there joined in.

How the devotional gathering began:

“I had typed up invitations to give to my neighbors to invite them to a devotional — I called it a prayer gathering — but I was procrastinating. My elderly neighbor, who is now deceased, called me one day. And just before she hung up something told me, ‘Why don’t you say something about the prayer gathering?’ She was so excited. She said, ‘Just down my alley. When are you going to start?’ So I thought, ‘OK.’ She gave me the impetus to go out and start inviting my neighbors to the prayer gathering.”

How the gatherings were conducted:

“I tried to make everybody feel welcome. We would always greet each other with a hug. It was a joyful, happy occasion and everybody felt loved, at least while they were here. I used devotions that were already printed up, along with other prayers. One neighbor lady just loved the scriptures, and most of the times the ones that she really liked and would repeat would be from the Baha’i writings or from Islam, which I thought was really interesting. One neighbor loved to say the Lord’s Prayer during closing prayers, and even after her passing we continued to say the Lord’s Prayer in her honor. After the devotions we would have music, of course — one of the ladies had a beautiful soprano voice and sometimes would share a song. [Then] everyone would sit around my dining room table and have refreshments.”

How friendships are critical to community building:

“We’ve got to build those friendships. I mean, really be a part of the community that we are in. Get to know the people, what’s going on in their lives, and be concerned about what’s going on. We can’t be on the periphery. Once you’ve built those friendships, you are able to express any kind of differences there may be without any hard feelings. And you will be able to bring about that oneness of mankind.”

How the devotional makes an impact:

“We built such camaraderie with each other that we would also participate in each other’s activities outside of the prayer gatherings. We were like a big family.”

Longtime homefront pioneer Allen Eghrari adds that Ann Beasley’s experience highlights the value of thinking about the effect of community activities over time. “What is it like when you have a devotional for 14 years? How does that affect all the people in that devotional gathering? And I personally feel like I grew up together with all the friends because 14 years is over a third of my life.”

We would love to hear from you

© 2023 National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. | Privacy Policy | Terms and conditions | Site Credits


Contact Us

Whether you are exploring the Bahá'í Faith or looking to become an active member, there are various ways you can connect with our community.

Please ensure that all the Required Fields* are completed before submitting.

Please choose one or more options below*:
Meet Bahá’ís near you or schedule a time to speak with a Bahá’í by phone or video chat.
Have introductory material mailed to you.
Receive a monthly round-up of new content on the site and other features.
I would like to find Bahá’ís in my area
First Name*
Last Name*
Contact Information:
ZIP Code*
E-mail *
Do you have any questions or comments you would like to share with us?

characters available