Shelagh James writes about the Bath inter-faith group’s visit to Rastafari Sabbath at a special royal and sacred location.
On a sunny afternoon members of the Bath Interfaith Group visited Fairfield House. It was the refuge of H.I.M Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia 1936 – 1941, later given by him to the Corporation of Bath.
It’s a splendid Victorian villa in Newbridge with a large and elegant conservatory, where we sat in leaf-dappled sunlight to be given a wonderful introduction by Steve Nightingale, chair of trustees. The House is a day-centre for Bemsca (Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens Association) and also, as one might expect, a centre for Rastafari pilgrimage.
Chair of the Friends of Fairfield House Steve Nightingale (left) and Rastafari Priest for SW England Ras Bandele Selassie (“Ras B” – right).
On our tour we saw an interesting exhibition about Ethiopia – with the theme: Journeys. Brightly coloured plastic sandals are mounted in front of a window, a display of yellow plastic water bottles (from SE Asia widely used in Ethiopia ), and woven mats used as plates. We saw the Worship room: one side dedicated to the Ethiopian church and the other to Rastafari.
Another visitor was an American professor who taught classes on immigration in Minnesota where there are refugees from the Omari Ethiopian minority who have suffered.
At 5pm, to the sound of drumming which gradually swelled, we moved on to Rastafari worship. I was enormously impressed by a two year old boy who very competently drummed and danced. We listened to the chanting and part of Ras Bandele’s address. He addressed us directly, asking: what would we do if Jesus Christ was there in this house for five hours? We were somewhat nonplussed by this. I felt we should have said that the Spirit is always with us.
After an hour we gradually slipped away after a very interesting and rewarding experience. Our welcome to Fairfield House could not have been warmer.