After a two-year COVID-related hiatus, the Choral Festival made its triumphant return to the Baha’i House of Worship on Sunday July 10 in Wilmette, where participants commemorated the martyrdom of the founder of the Baha’i Faith , the Bab.
Jubilation and divine echoes enveloped the great white edifice as people of various religions, races, nationalities and sects reveled in celebrating the tenets of the Bahá’í Faith: unity, service to humanity and world peace.
Baha’i followers, or Babis, and community members from Chicago and as far away as St. Louis attended the concerts at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
During the one-hour afternoon gathering, 200 choir members pitched baritone belts and sang alto praises to form traditional hymns, folk songs and new compositions of Baha’i gospel. Led by the temple’s musical director, Van Gilmer, the songs extolled love, unity, trust in God and praise for their founder, and they are “offered as a prayer of sacred devotion”, according to the description of the Baha’i website.
“The 9:30 a.m. session was attended by 250 to 300 people,” said temple director George Davis. “This afternoon there were at least 1,000. There are a lot of people here today that I have never seen before.
More than 5,000 additional people viewed the live stream event on YouTube through Thursday, July 14.
Every other Sunday, visitors to the impressive national treasure are invited to meditate and pray. Without conferences or clergy, members can hear only the quiet sounds of the nine surrounding garden fountains.
“I’ve been coming here for generations. I love this place,” said visitor Peter Roy Thomas IV, who came from Chicago with his wife, Judge Sybil Thomas, and their 87-year-old friend.
There are only seven Baha’i temples in the world – one on each continent. Wilmette’s, built from 1912 to 1953, was the second.
Standing at the foot of the steps of the Visitor Center, Marcus Montgomery of the southern suburb of Calumet City saw the temple for the first time.
“It’s extremely deep,” he said. “When people say it’s made in the image of God, that’s exactly what I imagine.”
Norrhannah Carleton, a follower of the Baha’i faith and married to one of the choir’s singers, traveled from St. Louis with the family’s two children.
“I’m happy for my husband who has done this every year,” Carleton said. “This is our first time going up since COVID.”
Frank Azad, an active Baha’i event volunteer, attended the event and spoke about the natural peace of faith, which brings together the teachings of many communities.
“This is where the Baha’is perform,” Azad said, pointing to the dome’s magnificent interior. “What makes the Baha’is unique are the sacred writings of all religions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism.
He added, “The spiritual atmosphere leaves an impact on people. It is a place to accept unity and diversity. Unity can happen, it is not a mirage.
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