Hosts moving? No problem as Wyoming devotionals carry on
When Pam and Gary Wolfe announced that the next “Dessert, Devotions and Discussion” gathering in Green River, Wyoming, would be the last before their move to a community two hours away, they might have expected a crowd in their home.
But not 17 people. “People kept coming. And coming. And coming,” recalls the Wolfes’ daughter Kristen Blanding, who lives in Billings, Montana. “For some this was their first [Baha’i-hosted] devotional gathering.”
Then something even more magical happened. “Before the devotional started, one of the participants asked if they could discuss how to keep this going,” marvels Pam Wolfe. “They loved it and didn’t want to see it end just because we were leaving.”
A man who has participated for a year offered his home for future gatherings. After prayers, says Wolfe, “The buyer of our home said she had a wonderful time and she wanted to host as well!”
Since then, says Dru Hanich, a member of the Northern Plains Regional Baha’i Council, another attendee has offered his “magnificent” home, with a room that seats 40 guests, in nearby Rock Springs.
“Now I feel certain that community building and the need for elevated conversation is valued and becoming established,” says Hanich. “Three new homes will host devotions in Sweetwater County.”
The two remaining Baha’is in Green River will assist the new hosts with selecting prayers and readings.
And the Wolfes? Now settled into their new home in Lander near their son and his family, they began hosting a devotional gathering anew in May.
Hard to imagine the couple had trepidations when they launched their Green River gathering 15 years ago.
“We felt inadequate starting devotions but desired to make a beginning,” reflects Pam Wolfe. “I heard of ‘Dessert and Devotions’ held in Salt Lake City and recognized, ‘I can do this!’
“To encourage participation, we decided to honor our foreign exchange student. We asked her to select a topic and she chose ‘Courage.’ All our devotionals use world sacred Scriptures including the Baha’i Writings.”
A Baha’i from outside the area “drove 2½ hours one way to support the first attempt,” says Wolfe. “Ten people attended to honor our exchange student, and thus the pleasant beginning of ‘Dessert, Devotions and Discussion.’”
Over the years, the monthly gathering shifted from Thursday nights to Saturday afternoons. And lots of themes have been explored: for example, marriage, parenting, children’s education, joyfulness, patience, mindfulness and humility.
“Most of the time we had no idea how many to plan for, but it became easier to put it all in God’s hands,” says Wolfe. “Some of the strategies to keep enthusiasm for 15 years were to relate to the season, tap into world issues, honor an individual, and invite someone new monthly.”
Evidently attendees have responded positively. “People felt better after discussion and consulting on the hidden meanings” of topics, says Wolfe.
Blanding adds, “Everyone said that they love coming to devotions because they aren’t judged and they can ask questions without people questioning their faith.”
No wonder devotional gatherings will continue in Green River. And Rock Springs. And Lander.