The first Meeting for Worship in Calgary took place at the home of William and Frances Kennedy on August 26, 1908. The Kennedys had arrived from Moorestown, N.J., and they were members of Chester MM. From that time a small group met regularly until December 13, 1910. On May 12, 1909 a daughter of the Kennedys married a member of Halcyonia Meeting from Borden, Saskatchewan. From December 1910 to April 1913 there were no meetings held in Calgary.
In 1913 Frederick and Helen Sara arrived from England and with the help of Walter Kennedy searched Calgary and the surrounding district to find other Friends. A group started to meet every Sunday evening in the Saras' home. Soon the meeting swelled in numbers so that 24 chairs had to be purchased. By early 1914 the numbers were too large for the house, and so it was decided to convert a small garage on the premises into a meeting house, and this was done by the Friends themselves. So was born the first and only meeting house in Calgary. It was said to be large enough to accommodate 50 people. It was used for a number of years until the fire department condemned it as a meeting place because there was no supply of water available. The first formal business meeting minutes were dated September 23, 1914, and Meetings for Worship for Business were held monthly. By January 1915 the meeting applied to become a Monthly Meeting under the care of BC Quarterly Meeting, The members of the meeting then applied for transfers from their home meetings in the U.S. and the British Isles to Vancouver MM. In October 1915 Calgary officially became a Monthly Meeting, and Vancouver MM transferred all of the memberships to the new Calgary MM.
This had been a period of rapid settlement in Alberta, when many Friends and others arrived from the United States and Britain to make a new home for themselves. Many were homesteaders. The Colonial Committee at Devonshire House, then the administrative headquarters for Friends in England, kept track of Friends who emigrated to Alberta, and notified the Friends in Calgary, giving their destination, if this was known. Calgary Friends wrote many letters to isolated Friends who were dotted all over the map of the province. For many of these settlers there was no group of Friends close by and they joined in worship with other local churches. Some from places such as Strathmore and even Claresholm held membership in Calgary meeting.
The young meeting was active. Twenty-one people attended one Business Meeting. Visitors came from the Quarterly Meeting and from Canada Yearly Meeting based in Ontario, and Calgary kept in touch with these bodies by correspondence. Members tried to attend the sessions of Quarterly Meeting at the coast whenever possible. The war and conscription were big concerns. The son of one family was killed in France, and the meeting was in abeyance from September 1918 until the end of the year as the Board of Health forbade public gatherings in an attempt to control the influenza epidemic. Walter Kennedy, who had been associated with the meeting since 1908, died in October 1918.
By 1920 concerns were being raised about inactive members. Friends tried meeting in various locations and in Friends' homes. Some grown children were no longer interested, some Friends moved back to England, others to Vancouver. The meeting carried on until November 1925, when the last minutes were recorded.
During the later 1940s new people who were eager to join with Friends moved to Calgary. Some were members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Only William T. Hobson, who had transferred his membership to Calgary from Ireland in 1925 remained from the earlier meeting. The first minutes of this group were dated February 1954, with Russell McArthur as temporary Clerk. Calgary became a Preparative Meeting under the care of Vancouver MM later that year. A newspaper article in 1956 noted that a group of 40 Quakers met twice per month in the Ladies' Parlour of Hillhurst United Church. Concerns of the time were nuclear testing, corporal and capital punishment, and the portion of income tax that is spent on preparations for war. There was correspondence with the Northland School which had been set up in northern Alberta as a mission to the Lubicon Nation by a group of Evangelical Friends from Ohio under the leadership of Roland Smith.
In the east three Yearly Meetings had amalgamated to become Canadian Yearly Meeting and Calgary Friends wondered whether they should transfer their affiliation to the new Yearly Meeting from Pacific Yearly Meeting. They decided to wait and see what Vancouver and Victoria would do. Even though a parcel of land was offered by one couple as a site for a meeting house, Friends did not have sufficient funds to erect a building on it. Eventually the land was sold and this became the nucleus of the building fund. In 1957 a suggestion was made to form a Western Half Yearly Meeting to include all meetings between Calgary and Winnipeg. This did not happen, but the next year Friends hosted a meeting of Prairie Friends at Mount Royal College. Friends came from Argenta, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Calgary. A Prairie Friends Conference was held in May in the following years at various locations such as Mount Royal College, Indian residential schools in Morley and Gleichen, and a Baptist Centre.
In 1960 Calgary again became a Monthly Meeting, and Edmonton Allowed Meeting became a Preparative Meeting under the care of Calgary MM. By 1961 Calgary Friends began looking for a place where they could meet every week on Sunday mornings. For a while they met at the French Canadian Club, and when this was no longer an option, some families opened their homes for the meetings. For a year or so in 1968-1969 they met in the downtown YMCA, and then went back to private homes until an arrangement was worked out with the Students' Union at the University of Calgary and meetings were held there for a number of years. When this became no longer possible, meetings were again held in private homes. It was considered more desirable to meet in a public building, situated centrally, and there followed a long search to find a suitable location. Eventually a small office was rented in the "Old Y" in the Beltline district of downtown, and the common room was booked for Sunday morning Meetings for Worship. Another room is rented for First Day School.
In the 1970's Calgary Monthly Meeting found that its commitments to two Yearly Meetings were becoming burdensome, and they were being drawn toward Canadian Yearly Meeting, and so it was decided to sever the ties with Pacific Yearly Meeting, though many members had developed friendships with Pacific Friends. Around the same time the other Canadian meetings which had dual membership were also giving up formal membership in Pacific Yearly Meeting. Edmonton Preparative Meeting became a Monthly Meeting, but efforts were made to hold joint meetings in Calgary or Edmonton from time to time.
Over the years numbers have varied. Calgary has never become a large meeting. People leave Calgary for other places, and new people arrive. The meeting has benefitted greatly from numbers of visitors who have passed through and stopped to share with us, from many contacts with Argenta Friends who visited as they travelled east, and from meetings held jointly with Edmonton Monthly Meeting when this could be arranged. Especially valued has been contact with Friends in Eastern Canada when it became possible to have a representative at Representative Meeting, and for members to travel to Yearly Meeting and to Yearly Meeting committees. Calgary Friends are fortunate in that some are able to attend Western Half Yearly Meetings at Sorrento in the west in May, and Western Half Yearly Meetings held on the prairies to the east in October.
- Margaret McGruther