Temple welcomes record-breaking numbers during ‘Open House Chicago’
A record-breaking 3,490 people visited the Baha’i House of Worship on Oct. 13-14 for the Chicago Architecture Center’s “Open House Chicago,” a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings. It was the second year the Temple was included in the annual weekend event.
According to Eric Rogers, manager of Open House Chicago, the attendance at the House of Worship was well above the average of 1,300 per site. “In fact, it looks like it was our busiest site outside of the immediate Loop area,” he notes.
Many first-time visitors said they didn’t know they were welcome inside the building until they read about it in the Open House guide.
One draw for many enthusiastic amateur photographers was that during the event they were given special permission to take pictures in the Temple Auditorium. Photography is generally not allowed inside, to preserve a serene atmosphere for those who are praying and meditating.
Except for the 20 minutes midday when prayers were read aloud, visitors could click away to their heart’s content. They captured images of the soaring 138-foot dome, where recently added lighting fixtures in the balconies cast gleaming highlights onto the lacy interior ornamentation. They used cell phones or video cameras to record the uplifting spiritual quotations that frame each of the nine doorways. People took selfies, too.
The clear, crisp fall weather was perfect for those who wanted to stroll in the gardens, which had been planted with hundreds of fuchsia, russet and ochre-colored chrysanthemums, deep purple ornamental cabbages and other fall foliage in time for the event.
From her sunny station near the main entrance, Jennifer Chapman served as a guide on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, answering questions and showing people into the Auditorium. Chapman cheerily estimates that she welcomed more than 1,200 people. What comments did she hear from visitors?
“People were amazed at the concept of a house of worship that is open to all religions,” Chapman says. “Many people asked about the symbolism above the entrances and the quotes inside the Auditorium, amazed that we are so inclusive.”
In the words of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, one quote advises: Consort with the followers of all religions with friendliness. Another: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. The symbols of other religions carved into the pillars of the temple illustrate the Baha’i Faith’s embrace of others.
“There was one lady from China who said she was excited to be in a place where she could worship freely, that she hadn’t been able to do that for many years,” Chapman said.
Several people who had lived in the area as children said they used to drive by the Temple with their parents and had always wanted to come in, so now they were happy to visit as adults. “And,” Chapman adds with a bright smile, “many people said they would come back.”