October 20, 2011

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s first public talk in the West -- City Temple, London, England, Sunday, September 10th, 1911

‘Abdul-Baha attended the evening service at the City Temple on Sunday. No announcement of the visit was made, and, although the sight of the Persians and other members of the suite in the congregation excited curiosity, very few people were aware that the Baha’i leader was expected. The service proceeded as usual until the hymn immediately preceding the sermon. Whilst this was being sung a venerable figure, clad in Persian robes, was seen slowly ascending the stairs of the pulpit. When the hymn was finished Mr. Campbell placed the distinguished visitor in his own chair, and then, addressing the crowded congregation, said:

"I propose to shorten my sermon this evening, because we have a visitor in the pulpit whose presence is somewhat significant of the spiritual drawing-together of East and West, as well as of the material drawing-together which has long been going on, and I think you would like to hear his voice, if only for a few moments."

Mr. Campbell spoke on "The Use of the Will in Prayer," (Luke xviii. 1) He then said: "This evening we have in the pulpit of the City Temple the leader of one of the most remarkable religious movements of this or any age, a movement which includes, I understand, at least three million souls. The Baha’i movement, as it is called, in Hither Asia rose on that soil just as spontaneously as Christianity rose in the middle territories adjoining, and that faith -- which, by the way, is very closely akin to, I think I might say identical with, the spiritual purpose of Christianity -- that movement stands for the spiritual unity of mankind; it stands for universal peace among the nations. These are good things, and the man who teaches them and commends them to three millions of followers must be a good man as well as a great. ‘Abdul Baha is on a visit to this country -- a private visit -- but be wished to see the City Temple; and I think I am right in saying for the first time In his life he has consented to lift up his voice in public. He does not address public meetings, he does not preach sermons; he is just a religious teacher. He spent forty years in prison for his faith, and from his prison directed the efforts of his followers. There is not much in the way of organization, but simple trust in the Spirit of God. We, a followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is to us and always will be the Light of the World, view with sympathy and respect every movement of the Spirit of God in the experience of mankind, and therefore we give greeting to ‘Abu’l-Baha – I do not know whether I could say in the name the whole Christian enmity -- that may be too much -- but I think in the name of all who share the spirit our Master, and are trying to live their lives in that spirit. ‘Abdul-Baha, I think, intends to say a word or two in response to this greeting that I address to him in your name."

‘Abdul-Baha then advanced to the front of the pulpit, and addressed the congregation. He spoke for eight minutes in Persian, with considerable animation, his voice rising and falling as in a rhythmic chant. Towards the close he placed the palms of his hands together as in prayer. The translation was afterwards read by Mr. W. Tudor Pole. (Star of the West, Vol. 2, No. 10, September 27, 1911) For a transcript of this historic talk please visit Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha