Service in Bahai Temples
Category: Bahá’í
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Service in Bahai Temples is compiled by the Research Department from Extracts from the Writings of Shoghi Effendi and on his behalf.

Service in Bahá’í Temples


Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi

© Bahá’í International Community

From Letters and Cables Written by and on Behalf of Shoghi Effendi

— 1 —

As to the character of the meetings in the auditorium of the Temple, he feels that they should be purely devotional in character, Bahá’í addresses and lectures should be strictly excluded. For the present he feels that there would be no objection to having Bahá’í meetings, including addresses and the business sessions of the Convention, held in the Foundation Hall. Shoghi Effendi would urge that ‘choir’ singing by men, women and children be encouraged in the auditorium and that rigidity in the Bahá’í service be scrupulously avoided. The more universal and informal the character of Bahá’í worship in the Temple the better. Images and pictures, with the exception of the Greatest Name, should be strictly excluded. Prayers revealed by Bahá’u’lláh and the Master, as well as the sacred writings of the Prophets, should be read or chanted, as well as hymns based upon Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í sacred writings.

From a letter 11 April 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to
the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada

— 2 —

Slight alterations in the text of the prayers are permissible, and I would advise you to give a musical form to the revealed word itself which I feel will be exceedingly effective…

In the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter written
on his behalf to an individual believer, 8 April 1931

— 3 —

He sincerely hopes that now that the Temple is completed it will be filled to the full with pure seeking souls. It should be different from the other houses of worship which even if they are filled, their source of attraction is the music heard. Here the spirit should be so powerful as to awaken the heart of everyone that enters it to the glory of Bahá’u’lláh…

From a letter 31 May 1931 written on behalf of Shoghi
Effendi to an individual believer, cited in
“Bahá’í News 55, May 1931, p. 4

— 4 —

As regards the chanting of Tablets in the Temple, Shoghi Effendi wishes in this connection to urge the friends to avoid all forms of rigidity and uniformity in matters of worship. There is no objection to the recital or chanting of prayers in the Oriental language, but there is also no obligation whatever of adopting such a form of prayer at any devotional service in the auditorium of the Temple. It should neither be required nor prohibited. The important thing that should always be borne in mind is that with the exception of certain specific obligatory prayers, Bahá’u’lláh has given us no strict or special rulings in matters of worship, whether in the Temple or elsewhere.

On behalf of Shoghi Effendi

— 5 —

Prayer is essentially a communion between man and God, and as such transcends all ritualistic forms and formulae.

From a letter 15 June 1935 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi
to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States

— 6 —


From a cable 1 July 1946 sent by Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States

— 7 —

He is not sufficiently informed about western musical composition to give you any guidance on this subject; all he can tell you is that from the Master’s instructions it seems there will be no use of any kind of musical instruments in the Bahá’í Temples. Chanting or singing will be the only sound (aside from reading) and what forms this will take must depend on the artists who create the music itself.

No doubt prayers and parts of the Tablets, “Hidden Words”, etc., will be suitable, but he does not feel it would be advisable to abridge any given part, in other words to leave out parts of a paragraph or a meditation and foreshorten it in this manner.

From a letter 3 July 1949 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer

— 8 —


From a cable 10 February 1953 sent by Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States

— 9 —

It is permissible and satisfactory to use the Prayers of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the devotional services in the Temple. His public talks and Tablets should not be used, but His prayers may be used.

It is understood of course that there is to be no talking in the auditorium of the Temple. However, the Guardian does feel that in an emergency it may be necessary to carry on a conversation for a very limited period, in a subdued tone of voice. The Guardian feels that in matters of this type, careful judgment must be used.

From a letter 3 October 1953 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi
to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States

— 10 —

As regards producing a book of Bahá’í songs, your understanding that there is no cultural expression which could be called Bahá’í at this time (distinctive music, literature, art, architecture, etc., being the flower of the civilization and not coming at the beginning of a new Revelation), is correct. However, that does not mean that we haven’t Bahá’í songs, in other words, songs written by Bahá’ís on Bahá’í subjects. There is no objection to getting out a compilation of these, but he does not think money should be spent in printing it, in view of the state of the National Fund, and the much more important work in the teaching field which needs to be undertaken this year. If you can get out such a book in a mimeographed form, he feels this would be sufficient to meet the needs at this time.

From a letter 21 September 1957 written on behalf of the Guardian
to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States

From an Article Based on Instructions of the Guardian

Directives concerning the Temple

Questions Submitted to the Guardian and His Replies (to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States)

— 11 —

Question: On what schedule are meetings of public worship to be held in the auditorium: daily, weekly, or at other intervals, or at stated periods during the day?

Reply: Weekly, or more often, if your Assembly deems advisable.

Question: Are such meetings, if weekly, to be held on Sunday and if so noon?

Reply: Left to your discretion.

Question: Should the auditorium be open daily from dawn for individual prayer and meditation?

Reply: Yes.

Question: Can photographs be taken, for historic record or publicity, of any meeting of worship held for Bahá’ís only, and of any meeting open to the public?

Reply: Yes.

Question: The present plan is to hold a meeting of dedication for Bahá’ís only, followed by a public dedication on the same day. Is this plan approved?

Reply: Yes.

Question: Should an order of service or program be printed with the list of readings selected for each service?

Reply: Left to your discretion.

Question: Are the present weekly public lectures to be continued in Foundation Hall?

Reply: There is no objection to this until such time as we have a suitable meeting place at our disposal.

Question: As there is no trained Bahá’í choir or chorus for singing, shall we begin to train a choir? Can non-Bahá’ís be included among the singers? Are soloists permitted, Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í?

Reply: By all means prepare a choir. There is not objection to non-Bahá’í singers or to soloists, Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í.

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