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about 15

Prayer Length

30 minutes


30 minutes

Sample Worshipper Dress

black pants, white blouse

Languages Spoken During Devotional Gathering

at least 5

Congregational Fervor

The Bahá’í, big on hard work and equality, are small on punctuality. Five minutes before the scheduled beginning of a recent prayer service, only three congregation members had arrived. “It’s better that people arrive late rather than arrive in a rush, unprepared for prayer,” says host Margaret Mattinson. “There’s a back door; most people just try to quietly slip in without causing disruption.”

Food for the Soul

“Could we already be in the afterlife?” a young man asked during the Memorial Day–inspired discussion that followed the prayer service. In an effort to answer him, congregation member Tony Joy took several minutes to craft a thoughtful reply that drew from his own personal feelings as well from Bahá’í spiritual writings. Joy advocated no single belief or answer, but the young man backed off his deep thought anyway. “Maybe I’ve just been watching too much of The Matrix,” he said.

Food for the Body

An elegant spread available after the discussion included fresh fruit, bagels, lasagna, tea, and mini chocolate donuts.

Overall Worship Power

Peace is a core value of the Bahá’í. Among the free literature available at the D.C. Bahá’í center is a white pamphlet titled The Promise of World Peace, which pleads for an end to the suffering and violence caused by war. “In the 1980s we placed one of these in the hands of every major world leader,” says Mattinson. “Even Ronald Reagan. I’m sure he read it every night.”

—Aaron Leitko