London Bahá'í History

The first Bahá'í in Canada was Edith Magee. She became a Bahá'í while visiting her uncle in Chicago and returned to London, Ontario, Canada in September of 1898. Soon her sister, her mother and two of her mother's sisters became Bahá'ís. Later the Culver family would join their numbers. By 1907 the Magees had moved to New York and the Culvers to Ireland.
In year 100 of the Bahá'í Era (1943-44) London, Ontario again had at least one Bahá'í. London is listed in the Bahá'í directory in the "Bahá'í World Volume 9" as a locality were Bahá'ís live. The 1945-46 directory in volume 10 does not list London but in Volume 11, London is again listed in the 1949-50 directory as a place having at least one registered Bahá'í.
That status quickly changed in Volume 12 of the "Bahá'í World" where the 1953-54 directory lists London as having a Local Spiritual Assembly. Dorothy Smith of 179 Windsor Ave was the secretary. London became one of 26 Local Spiritual Assemblies in all of Canada and one of eleven in Ontario. Volume 13 shows a facsimile of the incorporation paper for London indicating that the LSA was incorporated in April of 1959. At the end of the 10 year crusade (1963) London is one of 19 incorporated Local Spiritual Assemblies in Canada.
A Local Spiritual Assembly is the administrative body for Local Bahá'í Activities. There is no clergy in the Bahá'í Faith and this annually elected Assembly looks after all the affairs of the Bahá'ís in that locality. There are also National Spiritual Assemblies to take care of national interests and the Universal House of Justice that administers and provides guidance to the world. The Canadian National Spiritual Assembly was first elected in 1948. The Universal House came into being in 1963.
On the local level, the Spiritual Assemblies have nine members and are formed when there are at least nine adult believers in the municipality. Therefore we know that there were at least nine adult Bahá'ís in London in 1954.
Mr. Keith Greenham became a Bahá'í in London in 1959. He recalls going to firesides at Bob and Dorothy Smith's house on Windsor Ave in 1956. There were about 12 Bahá'ís in London at that time. The Smith's pioneered to London from Hamilton.
Pioneering is a term used by Bahá'ís to indicate when a Bahá'í moves to another locality to fulfill a goal of the Bahá'í plan. It may be to open a new locality to the Faith, to strengthen a group or to form an Assembly.
Firesides are informal meetings were spiritual matters are discussed and have been the main form of spreading the Bahá'í message to seekers. When one becomes interested in the Faith, he or she is often invited to a fireside to meet other Bahá'ís and to learn more about the faith. Firesides take on many forms. Sometimes it is an open discussion where the Bahá'ís present will answer questions. Other times a speaker may speak on a specific subject and then a discussion will follow. Becoming more popular is the musical fireside which teaches principles of the Bahá'í Faith through song.
Keith reports that the London Bahá'í Community was very active in the 1950's. This likely led to steady growth and the building of a solid foundation for the Bahá'í Faith in London. Mr. John Cakarnis reports that when he joined the Bahá'í Faith in 1997 there was about 150 Bahá'ís in London. Monthly public meetings were being held with a great deal of success.
Today London boasts of a well functioning Local Spiritual Assembly and plenty of activity for everyone. The Ruhi Institute, based in Columbia, has developed a series of study courses that are being used all over the world and these are a regular feature offered to the public by the Bahá'ís in London. Believing that spiritual development must keep pace with material development, these classes are offered to followers of all religions and even to those who have no religion at all. Many neighborhoods around the world that had a high rate of crime reported that the crime rate dropped dramatically when the community engaged in this course of study. There are levels of study for children, youth and adults and it is among the youth that the most dramatic effects are felt. Many who were tempted to join gangs found that they could redirect their focus by attending youth classes and became productive citizens often offering to pass on the benefit they received by organizing more youth classes after they completed the course of study themselves. Currently London is seeing a wave of these classes being conducted in strategic locations around the city.
Bahá'ís tend to be a very mobile group so our local statistician, Mr. Cakarnis, reports that his painstaking record keeping can only be used as an estimate due to the fact that, many times when people move in or out of London, it isn't reported to him, but on paper London now has 348 adults, 45 youth, 26 junior youth and 37 children on the lists of Bahá'ís in this city.
To learn more you can go to the official international Bahá'í web site, the Canadian National Bahá'í web site or the local London Bahá'í web site.
Click here to learn about the Ruhi Institute or here to watch an informative video.
For more local Bahá'í History, click on the following links.
Magee Family HistoryCulver History coming soon
I am collecting information to fill in the gaps. So far I have a more detailed history of the Magee family. If you can provide any information that will make this page better, Please contact me by email with details.
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