Bahá’í Center of San Antonio

This profile was last updated in 2004

History

The San Antonio Bahá’í community was founded in 1948, one of the first five assemblies in all of Texas (today, they are one of more than 400 assemblies in the state). Originally meeting in private homes throughout the city, the congregation moved first to a center on West Avenue in 1993. In 2000, the congregation moved to their new center on West Magnolia, a great open house with a worship hall, a bookstore, library, and kitchen. The San Antonio Bahá’í community follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, a nineteenth century Persian believed to be the long-awaited bringer of peace whose revelation, foretold in past scriptures, would bring about a worldwide divine civilization. Organized locally into assemblies, the faith’s leadership consists of a nine-member assembly that is re-elected annually. All adult members of the community are placed on the ballot, making the leadership as diverse as the community itself.

The Bahá’í Center of San Antonio prides itself on the diversity of its congregation. Here, Hispanics, Persians, African-Americans, Texans sporting thick accents, young couples and elderly women all gather to celebrate the unity of God, in a new worship hall that stands just beyond the historic Monte Vista District. Congregants listen to scripture from many traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Bahá’í, Buddhism, and Islam. The Bahá’í Assembly also annually hosts Race Unity Day, a public celebration in honor of San Antonio’s diversity.

Description

The Bahá’í Center of San Antonio is located on West Magnolia, just past San Antonio’s historic Monte Vista district. At first glance, the Center appears more like a spacious white house. Inside, the Center is dominated by a huge open prayer hall, with a center stage where musicians gather to play the sacred scriptures on the oud. A wooden Ottoman style screen inlaid with Mother of Pearl sits behind the stage, a testimony to the communities ties to Iran and the Middle East. Beside the stage, a portrait of Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah, looks on as meetings are held.

Beyond the main prayer hall is a new bookstore that contains scriptures and books of the Bahá’í faith, and a small library. Near the entrance is a kitchen that is frequently used for the preparation of the Wednesday night communal meal.

Activities and Schedule

On Sundays, the Bahá’í community gathers to celebrate interfaith prayer. Interfaith devotion begins at 11:00am. On Wednesday night, the Bahá’í Center is open to guests for an information session, potluck dinner, and prayer lasting from 6:30-10:00pm.

The Bahá’í community is most well known in San Antonio for hosting Race Unity Day, an annual event celebrating the diversity of San Antonio’s citizens and religious communities. The event, which is held each July in downtown’s historic La Villita district, features singing and dancing from many religious and ethnic groups living throughout the city. Representatives from the Bahá’í assembly open the event by lighting seven candles, symbolizing the unity of religions. The Bahá’í community also participates each year in the interfaith celebrations of Martin Luther King Day by presenting the Unity in Humanity award to a San Antonio resident who is thought to be working consciously to unite the city’s citizens. The award is given annually at City Hall.

The assembly celebrates several holidays, including the Birth of Baha’u’llah on November 29th; the Ascension of Baha’u’llah beginning at 3:00am on May 29th; the Feast of the Covenant on November 26th; and Ridvan, the special day when Baha’u’llah gave his revelations, on April 21 and 29, and on May 2nd. On these days, the Bahá’í scriptures are set to music and sung in Arabic and Persian.

Demographics

There are about 200 members of the Bahá’í in San Antonio hailing from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. The San Antonio Bahá’í Center attracts young couples drawn to the message of unity and equality, and the community consists of African Americans, Hispanics, Euro-Americans, and Persians. Prayer are often recited in Persian, English, and Arabic.