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Spiritual Life Council trip to the Baha’i House of Worship

In Elmhurst College, Faith, Interfaith on December 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

This guest post is written by Rachel Harley, Elmhurst College Sophomore and secretary of the Spiritual Life Council. She shares her comments about a November trip that Elmhurstians took to the North American Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette IL.

Elmhurst Students (and the Chaplain) at the Baha'i House of Worship

Recently the Elmhurst College Spiritual Life Council had the opportunity to visit America’s one and only Baha’i temple, conveniently located in Wilmette. Approaching the temple it was obvious that our group was in for something different. Located in a residential neighborhood, the giant white structure was hard to ignore. The temple itself looked like something that belonged in a fairy tale; the gardens and fountains that surrounded the nine-sided building and created an incredibly peaceful atmosphere for a Chicago suburb.

Our assembly, joined by interfaith groups from DePaul and University of Illinois, entered into the basement of the temple, which is set up like a museum. We took a small tour around the exhibits and were told about the Baha’i faith from a follower of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the faith. This temple is one of only 9 in the world, one of which has been destroyed, so we were very lucky to be able to attend this house of worship. The tour guide explained that because of the small number of temples many Baha’is practice the faith within their homes or in small groups in their communities. We also learned about the democratic system that governs Baha’i, councils that work on a local, national and international level. This system helps to govern the faith but mostly works to interpret and explain the teachings of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, or the Baha’i holy book.

After learning about some of the basics of Baha’i our group attended the prayer service in the upper level of the temple. This is the worship space for followers of Baha’i. The space was absolutely stunning and also wonderfully sterile of distractions, no noise is allowed in the temple aside from the choir and the readers. The space had wonderful acoustics for a wonderful choir, composed men and women who sang as an expression of their faith. Six readers intermittently read passages from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and other holy texts like the Bible and Koran. One of the greatest values of Baha’i is uniting all people and all faiths together; although this is an original monotheistic religion, followers believe in the teachings of many religions. They focus on unity and equality, something that was evident in their service. All people in the space had mutual respect for one another and remained quiet and meditative throughout the service, which lasted about 45 minutes.

After leaving the temple we had some time to walk around the grounds of the building, I highly recommend this for any architecture enthusiast because every angle of this structure was beautiful. Even with some of the gardens under construction it was impossible to ignore how lovely the white walls looked in the sunlight. After such a calming and quiet service the lap around the temple was a great release of energy. The building is really evocative of what the faith represents; unity, equality, removal of financial extremities, harmony. This was definitely a memorable place.

After our look around we had the pleasure of going out to lunch with our group. This was a great conclusion to the trip and a good debrief. The Baha’i temple trip was a great emulsion into a religion that holds many interfaith values. Fascinating and subtle, Baha’i is a great religion to learn about and I am glad SLC was able to take this trip.


Students and Faculty from Elmhurst College, University of Illinois Urbana Chapaign, and DePaul University. (Rachel, the author of this post, is in the middle of the third row, just beneath the man in the hat- Chaplain Scott Matheney.)

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