Baha'i News -- Baha'i group seeks OK to build worship center

GWINNETT TUESDAY May 21, 2002

Baha'i group seeks OK to build worship center

Brian Feagans - Staff
Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Uniting the world through religion is central to the Baha'i Faith. So it shouldn't be a surprise that the Baha'is of north Gwinnett County are running out of space.

The group's 158 members have trouble squeezing into cramped quarters every 19 days for their spiritual feast and have decided to establish the county's first Baha'i center on a hillside near Buford.

The Baha'is would worship and hold Sunday school in a house off Little Mill Road as they raise money to build a two-story facility on the same 6-acre site, according to a special-use permit application that goes before the Gwinnett County Planning Commission tonight.

"It's challenging to get 40 people into a standard house," said Andrea Perkins, a member of the north Gwinnett group. "You get to a critical mass and then it's important to have a place that you can center things out of."

The center also would be a focal point for community service projects that are an integral part of the faith, Perkins said.

It would be the fourth Baha'i facility in metro Atlanta, following the Atlanta Baha'i Center, the Chamblee Rose Baha'i Center and the Baha'i Unity Center near Decatur.

Baha'i communities are organized by political boundaries.

The Duluth group, for example, meets separately from members in unincorporated Gwinnett.

Baha'is number about 5 million worldwide. They believe that the core values of all faiths emanate from one God, making each one a strand of the same religion. They revere Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad as divine messengers of a single God.

"They're all part of a continually unfolding process," Perkins said.

In their pursuit of world peace, Baha'is embrace people of all races and nationalities. They stress the equality of men and women.

The Baha'is of north Gwinnett have white, African-American and Latino members, as well as worshippers from Brazil, Egypt, Iran and Turkey, Perkins said.

"Mankind, it's all one race," said John Bowers, a member of Duluth's Baha'i community who is helping with the permit application. "Baha'is always emphasize that."

"No Room in My Heart for Prejudice," read vehicle plates stacked in the ranch house that would become the temporary worship center. Above the mantle is a framed picture of the son of Baha'u'llah, who founded the Baha'i Faith in what is now Iran during the mid-1800s.

Folding chairs sitting atop the hardwood floors in the former living room can't be used until the community gets a final decision from the county commissioners, who are scheduled to vote on the special-use permit on May 28.

The Baha'is would meet in the 3,000-square-foot house until they could finish their planned 9,000-square-foot multipurpose building across from the Little Mill Farms subdivision. It would be wedged between the Providence Crossing subdivision and another neighborhood planned off Little Mill Road.

The county Planning Department has recommended approval of the request, provided the center is built with brick, stone or stucco accents and leaves a 50-foot-wide natural buffer along the residential property.

Perkins said the faith's fund-raising constraints mean the $500,000 center won't be built right away.

"Only members can contribute," Perkins said. "We can't take any outside donations."


©Copyright 2002, The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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