Sadly neither of my parents, Ann and Peter Kyne, were able to write their histories themselves, so this is only a summary of their relationship with the Bahá’í Faith, but time runs on and I was at least a witness to the beginnings of their journey during my teenage years and watched their spiritual metamorphoses (though with a stunning lack of insight, I now realise….).
Although we had lived for several years just a stone’s throw from the Guardian’s Resting Place in Southgate, North London, Ann and Peter first encountered the Faith through a most special and radiant soul, Atherton Parsons, in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire. She managed to combine love, guidance, inspiration and a wise persistence in a remarkable way, and organised delicious sorts of fireside dinners, always with a Bahá’í speaker, and other guests from a wide range of spiritual backgrounds who would discuss a chosen theme.
My father in particular was encouraged to share and indeed to argue the Catholic point of view. My mother was raised in the Christian tradition loosely speaking. Her mother a Catholic, her father a Protestant and later, after her father’s death when Ann was almost thirteen, Christian Science played a role too. My mother’s parents, Mimi and Leonard Daniels, as actors tended to be relatively free thinkers and mixed with an extraordinary range of characters, so Ann and her sister, Susan, were fortunate enough to have a broader input of views than many youngsters in the 1930s and 40s. Ann converted to Catholicism in 1953 before she and Peter married. My father by contrast was raised in a staunchly Catholic family. His mother, Norah, became a Catholic in order to marry Patrick, his father, and the family was peppered with nuns and priests. One of Peter’s brothers was a Jesuit and an uncle, Bishop of Meath in Ireland.
One evening at the Parsons’ home after one of these special dinners, my mother admitted to the wonderful and forthright Mrs. Munsiff that she really hadn’t begun to investigate the Faith but promised she would remedy the situation. The next day she felt really unwell and asked me to pedal round to pick up as many books as Atherton Parsons could spare. In bed for a whole week she read avidly and was absolutely captivated by the teachings of the Faith, so much so that we all tried to creep past their bedroom door so as not to be regaled with another story or quotation, shameful though it is to admit now! She was ready to declare her faith in Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for humanity today and my father advised her to do what she felt was right. He admitted many, many years later to my daughter, Genevieve, that privately he was shattered and found it very difficult to come to terms with the situation for a while. As a family we had attended mass each week, befriended Italian trainee priests who came for Sunday lunch and my father had often written articles for the parish magazine and spoken from the pulpit. The more liberal priest who had permitted this was replaced by another who disliked any kind of free thinking, so Peter’s faith in the Catholic church was being tested too, but what he felt most keenly was that we were not doing things together anymore!
My mother declared in May 1974, my father in September of that year. My mother’s heart had been touched, my father’s intellect had been engaged and it had become increasingly difficult to argue the Catholic point of view when your faith in it was in crisis, and you were increasingly enamoured of the beauty of the Bahá’í Writings and perceived how desperately in need of a new Revelation humanity was. Their lives were transformed. Reading some of their calendars written over many years, I was utterly astounded by just how vigorously they were involved in public meetings here, firesides there, travel teaching everywhere. I hadn’t realised at the time just how much they strove to put the Faith, as we are urged to do, at the very centre of their existence. They had a VW van and would set it up in many a car park and venue as part of a teaching campaign. In Cornwall they stayed with the famous potter, Bernard Leach. They went to Belgium, all over the place. They served on various Institutions and committees, read, studied, implemented what they learnt and shared the Bahá’í Message enthusiastically with all who crossed their paths. They were founder members of the Spiritual Assembly of Dacorum in Hertfordshire but always very closely linked with the neighbouring communities of Watford and Three Rivers where some extraordinary believers served tirelessly and were part of the team that confirmed Ann and Peter in their love for the Faith.
Moving to first Canterbury and then Herne Bay in Kent, they continued to serve with dedication and their homes were always open to everyone. Ann’s warmth, hospitable nature and delicious food drew people to her, and Peter read voraciously and widely, several books on the go at the same time. He would be inspired by a sentence here and a reference there and go off at another tangent, so he was able to talk to people about a whole raft of subjects. He delighted in printing prayers and readings for anyone who might conceivably be interested. There will be hundreds of people with Peter’s A4 sheets or prayer-book-sized quotations across the world.
Before the Training Institute as we now know it existed, they held monthly day-long deepening and consultative sessions under the name of the Roxanne Terrell Training Institute, attended by much of the Kent community for many years. In 1993 they set off as short-term pioneers to Malta, spending from October to June over three successive years until health constraints prevented their return. They loved the Maltese friends and the Maltese friends loved them and with the collective wisdom of such a diverse community, great strides were made during the period. They welcomed, they inspired and they accompanied friends ceaselessly and when in later years the number of visitors dwindled, they would selflessly deputise other members of the family to enable them to serve our Faith and content themselves with hours of prayers. So many areas of service. Their earthly lights have dimmed and faded but their radiant souls continue together through all the Worlds of God. To me they were the two wings of the matrimonial bird, flying steadily, sometimes faltering, but loving, staunch companions to each other and servants of Bahá’u’lláh.
Contributed by Deborah Burnett
daughter of Anne and Peter Kyne