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

Zoom is down (May 17)

Zoom is down this morning so we aren’t able to connect for our casual gathering. If you would like to join us on google meet, please email info@uuestrie.ca to request the link

OPEN TO THE SPIRIT ~ A Spiritual Literacy Outreach

“One word, four voices” is a weekly newspaper column by four interfaith clergy. Every Friday we feature one word in the local Sherbrooke Record from a list of over three hundred, with a brief reflection by four different writers. The idea originated a few years back with funding from CUC Sharing Our Faith and Northern Lights grants for community outreach and interfaith collaboration. When a weekly religion column ended in our local paper, Reverend Carole seized the moment and formed a writing team with three clergy colleagues to fill the space. The “word of the week has become a popular topic of conversation at interfaith and social gatherings.

NOW it’s become a book! Published this October 2018 as both softcover and e-book, it is available through Amazon and all major booksellers. Open to the Spirit: The Soul’s Alphabet, Awakening ~ Zeal, is the first edition in what we hope to be a series, drawn from excerpts of over four years of weekly columns in the Sherbrooke Record. Quoting from the introduction, Rev. Martignacco writes: “Our aim: to give voice to the depths and richness of our experience and to promote awareness of the spiritual dimension amidst the news of the day….We hope this book will further widen the circle of sharing.”

Purchase Open to the Spirit on Amazon.ca

STUDENT SUPPERS: “A Taste of Home Away From Home”

As a member of an interfaith coalition of about a dozen area churches who take turns serving free Friday night suppers to area college and university students. Each semester we take our turn and appear at one of the churches in Lennoxville with kettles and slow cookers filled to the brim. UU Estrie has been dubbed “the chili church” for our familiar menu of veggie and meat chili with toppings, corn bread – gluten free and otherwise, crudités and dessert. Each time our team of 10 to 12 volunteers may serve from 40 to 80 very hungry and grateful students. What a gift to sit and share a meal, exchange stories and learn about their studies. We feel so blessed and energized by the connections we make.

SPIRIT CIRCLE – An Opportunity to Go Deeper

At the heart of our faith is a dedication to encourage each other in our spiritual growth and development. With other Canadian congregations, UU Estrie follows a modified version of theme-based ministry, with at least one monthly service on the designated theme. Spirit of Life is a small group that meets for an evening ritual of readings and personal reflection on each month’s worship theme. We meet for two hours, attendance ranges between 6 and 10, and have over several years continue to hone our skills in active listening and mutual support. Our themes this past year have included some profound explorations on Interdependence, Risk, Connection, Sanctuary, Transformation, Listening, Memory and Mystery.

Rendezvous spirituel

A minority (but an active one!) of our members are French-speaking, and we make a practice of including some French in our services. However, we lack easy access to bilingual resources for readings and music. (A bilingual book, Side by side, fulfilling a dream / Vers un rêve à bâtir, si on tissait ensemble, published in 2001 is now out of print.)

So we are undertaking collaborative research to assemble, edit and translate a collection of Unitarian Universalist writings and music in French, and create a 100-page English-French booklet of Unitarian-Universalist readings and songs. Our working title for the book is Rendezvous spirituel.

In addition to substantial volunteer in-kind contributions, we received three small grants to support this project: $924 from the New York State Convention of Universalists (for printing), $1,200 from the West Trust Fund and $1,831 From the Vermont-Quebec Universalist-Unitarian Convention (for other costs). We are very grateful for this help.

A work team comprised of Gabriella Brand, Hélène Cunningham, Reine Gagnon, Rachel Garber, John Mackley and Rev. Carole Martignacco have been meeting regularly and foresee finishing the book in the summer of 2019.

We began by contacting several groups and individuals interested in working internationally to share resources in French. We received a wealth of materials in French, and selected and organized texts to be included in the book.

Some texts are being translated, and others edited as necessary. We have reached the point where we are refining the potential content of the book and beginning the work of obtaining permissions, where applicable, to reprint or translate copyrighted materials. We anticipate completing the editorial, design and publishing phases by the summer of 2019.

– Rachel Garber, secretary of the Rendezvous spirituel work group, 2018-12.

Write for Rights 2018

We wrote 274 letters this December 2nd in support of Amnesty International’s letter-writing campaign to advocate for ten defenders of human rights in ten different countries – Brazil, India, Iran, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, South Africa, Ukraine, United States, and Venezuela. This is the first time that all the cases targeted by Amnesty were women. The letters went to the decision makers who have the power to protect and improve the situations of the defenders, or respond positively to their causes. Participants received drafts of the letters based on information and suggestions supplied by Amnesty. They signed them and added comments if they wished. Then the envelopes were printed, stuffed and
mailed.

On December 8, members and friends had another letter-writing session – this time, writing cards and letters of encouragement to the human rights defenders themselves. All in time to join the avalanche of mail from other Write for Rights groups around the world, an impressive show of support for the defenders, and a strong message that thousands of world citizens are watching, and helping defend the rights of the human rights defenders themselves.

– Rachel Garber, member of CUSJ-Quebec

“Happy Endings” in Magog and North Hatley

How to end one’s life well depends on a number of things. Five key factors are featured in a series of weekly workshops called “Happy Endings” coming to Magog and North Hatley, starting next week.

The two series are organized by UUEstrie, as was a pilot series last year in Lennoxville. The workshops in Magog are in partnership with the Memphremagog Community Learning Centre, and are on Wednesdays. The ones in North Hatley are on Fridays. In both places, the sessions are from 10 a.m. to noon, and all are in English. They are free of charge, with a donation of $2 suggested for refreshments. All are welcome.

“We believe that all life is sacred, in its beginnings, in its living and loving, and in its endings,” said UUEstrie’s minister, Rev. Carole Martignacco. “The series is about the aspect of life that we call endings. We give so much attention to the rest of life, yet we don’t take time to consider how to exit this world well.”

Rev. Carole Martignacco“Last Words: How to plan your own memorial or celebration of life” is a workshop by Rev. Martignacco herself. She has developed an expertise in personalized ceremonies, and she gives participants a guide to designing memorials that leave a legacy of personal values. Last Words is the first session in Magog, on Wednesday, April 27, and the second topic in North Hatley, on Friday, May 6.

Me. Tim Leonard “Wills, Living Wills, and End-of-Life Legal issues” is the first topic in North Hatley, on Friday, April 29, and the second one in Magog, on Wednesday, May 4. The speaker is Me. Tim Leonard, a notary in Sherbrooke. He will speak and answer questions about legal issues pertaining to the end of life, such as do-not-resuscitate orders, incapacity mandates, and others.

 

StephanElkas photo 009 cropped“Green Burials and Home & Family-centred Funerals” is the title of a talk by funeral director Stephan Elkas of the Steve L. Elkas Funeral Home in Sherbrooke. He will focus on environmentally friendly, alternative burial options that are locally available. This includes a new method, Alkaline hydrolysis (also called biocremation, aquamation and/or resomation). Elkas will be speaking on May 11 in Magog, and on May 13 in North Hatley.

How to Die COVER“How to Die in Oregon” is an award-winning documentary film about persons having recourse to the “assisted dying” law in Oregon. Various viewpoints and experiences are explored in the film. After viewing it, participants will learn how the law in Oregon compares to Quebec’s assisted dying law, and the potential Canadian law. This session is planned for May 18 in Magog, and May 20 in North Hatley.

Photo - Alain Lévesque small“Bequests: How to give to your favourite charity AND leave all your money to your children” is the topic of the final session, on May 25 in Magog, and May 27 in North Hatley. It will be led by Alain Lévesque, financial advisor, who will explain how to maximize giving to your favourite charity without reducing your estate too much. He is expert at simplifying financial concepts, and will offer participants his most recent booklet on bequests.

In Magog, all the workshops are at the Memphremagog Community Learning Centre, Princess Elizabeth School, 120 Bellevue. Participants are asked to enter by Door 3 from the parking lot, and to press the CLC Room buzzer. Please pre-register by phoning 819-238-1254 or 819-842-4146, or emailing info@uuestrie.ca.

In North Hatley, all the workshops are at UUEstrie, 201 Main Street, in Stoddard Hall (lower level). Please pre-register by phoning 819-842-4146 or emailing info@uuestrie.ca. UUEstrie is the home base of the Unitarian Universalist Community in North Hatley. For more information, see www.uuestrie.ca, the Facebook page UU Estrie, or call 819-842-4146.

We are grateful to the Canadian Unitarian Council for their support for this series, through the Sharing Our Faith grant.

  • Rachel Garber