Phyllis Skeats and Universalism in the Eastern Townships

A message from Adele Ernstrom to mark the passing of long-time member and friend of the church, Phyllis Skeats.

The death of Phyllis Skeats (1928-2021) marked the close of a life notably linked with the legacy of Universalism in the Eastern Townships. A former reference librarian at Bishop’s University and a local historian, Phyllis with her husband Terry Skeats was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hatley. Also known as UUEstrie, the congregation represents a merger dating from the 1950s of two distinct traditions of liberal religion, Unitarianism and Universalism.

As Phyllis outlined in her Chronology of the Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hatley (2005), the church originated in 1870 as a society based on the Universalist Profession of Belief. From its beginnings in 18th century England, Universalism advanced he idea of a merciful God, rejecting the Calvinist doctrine in which original sin predetermined the question of salvation. Universalism swept through the Eastern Townships in the 19th century, generating congregations in which that of North Hatley typified a wider movement.

Another was the Huntingville Universalist Church, foundations of which were laid in 1844, as Phyllis recorded in Heritage Huntingville (2009).With heritage status, the Huntingville Church is the oldest surviving Universalist structure in Quebec and one of the oldest in Canada. With her husband Terry, Phyllis worked to restore the building and its historic legacy. As part of that effort, the Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hatley has held occasional services in the Huntingville Church, often at Thanksgiving, and hopes to resume doing so as the pandemic recedes.

Adele Ernstrom
Board member
Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hatley