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Couple hope to make their footprints by educating people on faith

By Britt Pierro
Mead High School Student

Through practicing the Bahá’í Faith David Gregory and Pat Sanders believe they have gained a concept of their footprints on the world and what they want their footprints to be.

Pat Sanders and David Gregory believe all faiths are cousins.

They want to educate people that all religions “are cousins” and to overcome divisions among religions.

They seek to spread the love and unity of their faith through everyday encounters, elevating ordinary conversations to a spiritual level.

The Bahá’í Faith originated in the land of Iran in the mid-1800s, and has been spreading globally ever since. The Bahá’í have a multitude of texts and teachings, the focal point of which is the unification of humankind with each other and with God, said David, who retired recently as a medical social worker with the State of Washington.

Bahá’í believe that all religions in their original state have the same goals and governing rules for people, and “are progressive chapters in the same One Book,” he added.

The Bahá’í Faith has seven core principles:

• the oneness of humanity and dignity of every human being;
• freedom from prejudice;
• equality of men and women;
• spiritual solutions to economic problems;
• commitment to education and the search for truth;
• harmony of faith, reason and science, and
• high moral standards.

These core principles are the guidelines David and Pat, who retired in 2008 after a career as a counselor and advisor in higher education, live by every day, and the key to what they believe will eventually be a peaceful society.

Being recent retirees, the pair spend most of their time with family or giving to the community.

They engage in Bahá’í core activities that include facilitating courses, supporting community members, hosting devotional meetings and assisting with children’s classes, where they teach virtues such as love, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion.

“In the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program for youth from ages 11 to 14 and youth/young adults from ages 15 to 30, we engage youth in the two-fold moral purpose of developing their God-given potential and services to others and society,” she said.

In addition to this, Pat and other community members volunteer at Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College, and they participate with their fellow Bahá’ís in community-oriented events like Unity in the Community and the Compassion Games. By investing time in their town, Dave and Pat fulfill the duty they are called to as Bahá’ís.

The couple were among the Bahá’í followers who spoke at a “Meet The Neighbors” gathering in April in the Marie Antoinette Room of the Davenport Hotel. This room holds historic significance for Bahá’ís in Spokane because it is where Queen Marie of Romania held audience in 1926 when she traveled through Spokane on a trip sharing the Bahá’í Faith.

Followers of the Bahá’í Faith have met in Spokane since 1907.  They meet monthly in community member homes for “the Feast,” a monthly gathering for spiritual sharing, business and social encounter. Dave and Pat host many of these events in their own home.

In an interview the couple shared about their journeys and lives as Washington Bahá’í.

David became a Bahá’í in 1973.  As a 27-year-old, David, who was born in Spokane but grew up in Montana, said he didn’t like religion.  He saw it as a breeding ground for opposition among those of different beliefs.

From the way he saw it, religion was pure in intention, but tainted by human construct. After his sister gave him a set of three Bahá’í texts, his perspective changed.

Dave said that the first of these texts “blew off” his cumulative understanding about all religions, and suddenly it was clear to him that the major religions were “nine identical diamonds.”

The first book, rather than referring to its story as the only path to God, concluded all religions were part of the same story.  He began studying more and soon became a Bahá’í, and began to see religion as part of one unified journey with people and with God.

David, his first wife and two young daughters settled in the Omak-Okanogan area, where he worked as a disability social worker, first from 1975 to 1977 and again from 1979 to 1985.

During that time, the Bahá’í community there grew.

He moved back to Spokane in 1985 and completed a master’s degree in education, guidance and counseling in 1994, continuing his career as a medical social worker for the state. All but one of his five children graduated from North Central High School.

Pat became a Bahá’í in 2001.

Having been raised in a religious household, she had seen the ins and outs of organized beliefs.

“From a young age, I questioned how it was possible for only one religion to govern the fate of all humanity, for God to favor those in my family’s religion and not anyone else’s,” she said.  “I felt that a pathway to the creator should be available equally to all people.”

After years of focusing on raising her six children—involved with hosting sleepovers to leading a Girl Scout troop—Pat began working as a beauty school instructor in Portland, Ore.

Later she moved with her family to Spokane and started studying evenings at Spokane Falls Community College while working full time.

When her oldest child went to college, she and her daughters moved to Olympia.  Pat, whose father is Cherokee, returned to college to complete bachelor’s degrees in Native American studies and psychology, and a master’s in public administration at Evergreen State College in Olympia.

While completing her degree in an evening and weekend program, she was director of Indian education at Shelton School District.

Pat then became an Upward Bound counselor at Evergreen State College for many years. 

She continued her career as a counselor and advisor at community colleges around the state—Walla Walla, Port Angeles and Moses Lake.

While in Clarkston, serving a branch of Walla Walla Community College, she went to Lapwai on the Nez Perce reservation to a weekly talking circle held in the Bahá’í center and came to know many of the Bahá’ís.

“I had been hearing about the Bahá’í Faith for 10 years intermittently and recognized that my beliefs were Bahá’í beliefs.  Those beliefs are that we are all one human family, there is unity in diversity, there is only one God, men and women are created equal, there should be universal education, we should love everyone and we should serve others.  So I declared my faith,” she said.

After that she began to share with others her love of humanity and the Bahá’í faith.

Pat moved back to Spokane in 2008 after retiring.

In Spokane, Pat’s story and Dave’s story merged. Though they had known each other for 15 years from regional Baha’i meetings a few times a year, living in the same area brought them together more often.

After moving back to Spokane, the pair began to see each other regularly at Baha’i meetings and realized they shared a love for teaching children’s classes. They got married just over two years ago, and their paths as Bahá’í merged into one.

They view their enlightened perspective on life as a gift.

“The job of the Bahá’ís, having received that gift, is to share it with everyone else,” they said.

For information, call 326-0152 or visit Spokane Bahá’ís on the web or on Facebook.

Copyright ©November 2016 - The Fig Tree