Category Archives Interviews

Seeking a State of Heaven: A Book About the German Templers by Carolyn Sparey Fox

Carolyn Sparey Fox’s newest book is titled Seeking a State of Heaven and it tells the story of the German Templers who settled at the foot of Mount Carmel beneath the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel.

Their avenue of homes has become an iconic landmark of Haifa and for Baha’is they have become symbolic of those who are searching and yearning to hear about Baha’u’llah’s teachings of unity, equality and oneness. To be honest, that’s the extent of my knowledge of the German Templers so my curiosity was definitely piqued when I learned that a book about them has been written.

It was great to catch up with Carolyn Sparey Fox, who I had interviewed before, about her latest book. Here’s what she shared with me:

 Baha’i Blog: What was the inspiration for putting this book together?

Since writing my first book, The Half of it was Never Told, many Baha’is have spoken to me about the German Templers, wrongly believing that they settled at the foot of Mount Carmel because they believed that the return of Christ was about to take place there. I knew that this wasn’t entirely correct, but I didn’t really have the answer, so I started doing some research — it turns out that the Templers initially called themselves “Friends of Jerusalem” and Jerusalem was actually the focus, the goal of the German Templers’ spiritual journey, not Haifa. Initially my plan was to come up with a few sentences, but as I read more and more my sentences became paragraphs, my paragraphs became chapters, and before I knew it I was launched into writing a book, which describes all about how the Templers ended up in Haifa, instead of Jerusalem.

I was also fascinated by the connection between the German Templers in Haifa and the Baha’is living in Akka, and latterly Haifa. Abdu’l-Baha knew several of the Templers personally of course, and Baha’u’llah actually wrote a Tablet to David Hardegg, one of the two men who were behind the creation of the Templers.

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Rooftops and Sidewalks: An Album by Jose Maria Fierro

While I was visiting Green Acre Baha’i School in the US a couple of years ago, a young man came over to chat with me and to thank the Baha’i Blog team for all the work we had done in the online space, and to especially thank us for our dedication to encouraging Baha’i-inspired musicians. Little did I know that the young man was Jose Maria Fierro, a voice I had heard on numerous Baha’i-inspired songs over the years with the likes of artists such as Colby Jeffers, Karim Rushdy and Bass Adjustment. As fate would have it, about a year later, I was temporarily living in Phoenix, Arizona, and Jose Maria helped organize some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions there. We even recorded one of his songs called ‘In Thy Hands‘.

I’m excited to let everyone know that Jose Maria has just released an exciting new double album called Rooftops and Sidewalks so I decided to find out more about the album and his inspiration behind it: Continue reading

Launching 200 New Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith in Honor of the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab

The Baha’i Blog team is excited to announce that starting tomorrow, we’ll be launching another 200 portraits and personal reflections from people around the world as a part of our “Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World” initiative, and this time it’s in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Birth of the Bab.

Baha’i Blog’s “Personal Reflections” initiative started last year to honor the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, and approximately every 24 hours, we shared one of 200 photographs taken of Baha’is and their friends, each coupled with an extract taken from an interview about what the Baha’i Faith means to them personally, and how it has touched their lives. Continue reading

Educational Leadership – A Book Reflecting on 40 Years of Development Work in Guyana

In my travels I have had the privilege and honor of meeting incredible people who are doing incredible things in loving and humble ways. Brian O’Toole is one such person I recently met and I’m so grateful our paths crossed. Brian recently put out a book that offers some of his thoughts and honest reflections on the last four decades of development work that he’s been involved with in Guyana, where he has pioneered with his wife. The book is called Educational Leadership: A Guyanese Perspective, and I decided to ask Brian about his book and his work and here’s what Brian had to say:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the book? What’s it all about?

We have now been 40 years in Guyana having left the UK as a young married couple. Guyana has proven to be a very receptive country to the Faith with Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism well established in the country. By the early 1980s, Guyana had more than 7% of the population as declared Baha’is. My thinking was: if a significant percentage of the population embraces the Faith and nothing seems to change then what is the point? This led us to introduce a number of development projects in literacy, youth leadership, disability and education to see what it means to try and put the principles of the Faith into practice. The book is a reflection on these efforts.

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A Resource Website for Studying the ‘One Common Faith’ Document

Shahin Sobhani and a team of friends have put together a fantastic website for anyone who would like to study One Common Faith, a document released by the Universal House of Justice about unity and the role of religion in today’s societies.

It’s always useful and exciting when study materials are created to help us study Writings, guidance and letters from the Universal House of Justice (here is a short list of other materials you can find online to help you in your studies of the Baha’i Faith). Shahin and his friends took the initiative to create a website, onecommonfaith.net, dedicated to this profound document and I was eager to learn more about it. Here’s what Shahin shared with me:  Continue reading

Papua New Guinea Baha’i House of Worship: An Interview with the Architects

I grew up in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and it holds a special place in my heart. I was especially excited when the design of its Baha’i House of Worship was revealed several months ago, and you can read a news story all about the design here

This House of Worship will be one of two national Baha’i Houses of Worship (also often referred to as temples) to be constructed in the world in the coming years, signifying a new milestone for the Baha’i world community.

Henry Lape (left) and Saeed Granfar, Architects of the National Baha’i House of Worship of Papua New Guinea.

It’s incredible to see the uniqueness of the Houses of Worship around the world, and Papua New Guinea’s temple is no exception: it is unlike all the others, yet it is faithful to its surroundings.

Henry Lape and Saeed Granfar are the collaborating architects behind the temple’s stunning design, and I was so excited when these two dear friends agreed to chat with us about the temple. Here’s what they had to say:  Continue reading

Cloud9: A New Podcast Exploring the Baha’i Faith Through the Eyes of Artists

Our friends at Bahaiteachings.org have recently started a podcast called “Cloud9”, which shines a light on the artistry and creative process of artists around the world.

The host of the series is Shadi Toloui-Wallace, the Arts Editor of BahaiTeachings.org and an incredible artist in her own right. We’ve interviewed Shadi before about her music (such as her most recent album, Daughters of the Kingdom), and she was also a guest on the Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson. This time we wanted to hear more about Cloud9 and Shadi graciously obliged, so here’s what she shared with us:  Continue reading

Starting with Me: A Guidebook for Anyone Interested in Finding a Partner

A new resource for anyone thinking about finding a marriage partner is hot off the presses! Susanne Alexander, Johanna Merritt Wu, and Jeremy Lambshead teamed up to write a book called Starting with Me: Knowing Myself Before Finding a Partner. Its tagline is “9 transformative steps based on the Baha’i Faith’s teachings about relationships and marriage”. This fantastic book is inspired by the Baha’i Writings and draws on the authors’ collective experience as a marriage and relationship educator, psychologist, and writer respectively.

Susanne, Johanna, and Jeremy were happy to tell us how their book came together. Here’s what they shared with us:


Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

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Our Seven Families – A Book About Interwoven Social Worlds

In Our Seven FamiliesElaine McCreary describes invisible human worlds so clearly that you can see them for yourself. She does this with an easy-flowing narrative through scholarly content in a manner described by Dr. Janet Khan in the book’s forward:

Drawing on her experience as a social scientist and on insights derived from a deep study of the Baha’i Sacred Writings, Elaine McCreary offers a fresh perspective on human affairs, revealing new hope and opportunities for action.

This book strikes me as unique, not only in the content it offers, but also in the way it is structured as it moves through seven different worlds that we all live in. Doesn’t that sound fascinating? Elaine agreed to tell us all about her new book, what it explores and how she presents her ideas!

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

From earliest childhood I was aware of the reality of God, at first as Jesus, then as the presence of a Holy Spirit that was something beyond the Person of Jesus. This conviction about spiritual reality never left me, but as a young adult I stepped out to find God elsewhere and practiced a refined form of Raj Yoga (hatha, bhakti, jnana, and karma yogas) for 19 years, accepting Lord Krishna as an avatar in the same station as Lord Jesus, before finally accepting Baha’u’llah at the age of 42. A complete reading of Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah convinced me that He is indeed the Lord of the Age and His Revelation has indeed unveiled a completely new perception of the world.

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