Calgary First Spiritualist Church:

An Inventory of Its Records and History at the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections

Inventory prepared by Samantha Booth
University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections
330 Elizabeth Dafoe Library
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Finding aid encoded by Samantha Booth (6 January 2016)
Finding aid written in English.

Collection Summary

University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections
330 Elizabeth Dafoe Library

Calgary First Spiritualist Church

Calgary First Spiritualist Church fonds


0.13m textual records

MSS 451 (A2015-68)


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Administrative History of Calgary First Spiritualist Church

The Calgary First Spiritualist Church (CFSC), formally incorporated on 18 November 1920, began life during WWI with the invitation in a local paper in 1915 from Mrs. Ada Garrad (ca. 1881-1962), a medium, to meet with those interested in psychic work. Various informal groups formed, as well as the First Spiritualist Progressive Lyceum, which was established on 10 July 1915. The Lyceum was the Spiritualist equivalent of Sunday School, but based on the teachings of Andrew Jackson Davis; it was well attended in its early years. In 1920, the Lyceum joined the Western Star group in forming the Calgary First Spiritualist Church under the direction of Mrs. Garrad as medium and lecturer and her husband Gerald Harry Garrad (1879-1963) as board president. The new church purchased a building on the corner of 7th Avenue and 3rd Street Southeast, which had been an old Moravian church. The church received its charter from the Government of Alberta; the founding members included Robert and Alice E. Rushton, Edward and Nellie Leighton Potts, William Charles and Annie Biles, and William and Anne (Rev. Anne) Eshelby. In the church’s early years, a professional medium from the United States, Mrs. Z. Duval, was in Calgary and trained many of the mediums who continued to work at the local level for many years. Other notable leaders in the early church were Rev. Matilda Louise Parkyn, Rev. Harry Collett, Rev. Eleanor Collett, Rev. Jack Ross, Helen Davis, Annie Slater, Tom and Tomena Merrifield, and Myra Harshman. In 1929, the Spiritualists’ National Union of Canada (now the Spiritualist Church of Canada) recognized CFSC’s affiliation, with Rev. Martha S. McGuire as a signatory.

In the 1950s, the Lyceum, which had been dormant for some years, was re-established, but officially closed in 1961. The teaching aspect of the CFSC, however, has remained, as it offers a number of courses for adults and children involving Spiritualism, mediumship, and other topics. In 1972, the Church was required to vacate its building due to urban renewal plans by the City of Calgary, and moved to its present location at 1601-1603 6th Avenue North; this second church building was dedicated in 1974. Throughout, the CFSC has offered regular healing, message, and meditation services, as well as workshops and séance circles, and has a large library of books and other publications relating to Spiritualism. Many of the children who attended the Lyceum later became mediums and ministers, including two daughters of the Harshman family who currently (2015) serve the Church, Rev. Ella Groves and Rev. Jane Fleming.

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Scope and Contents of the Records

This fonds consists of the newsletters and information sheets of the Calgary First Spiritualist Church (CFSC) from the 1990s onwards, as well as materials from the millennium celebrations (2000) and CFSC’s 90th anniversary (2010), and historical compilations, including a history of the church by Sally Jennings.

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Arrangement of the Papers

This collection is arranged in consultation with the donating body.

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Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on access.

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Restrictions on Use

Users must abide by the relevant copyright legislation.

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Related Materials

This fonds is one of a series of fonds and collections transferred to the Archives by Walter Meyer zu Erpen, President of the Survival Research Institute of Canada. It is related to the various other Psychical Research and Spiritualist Collections that the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections has attracted since it acquired the Hamilton Family fonds (MSS 14), especially the Winnipeg Spiritualist Church fonds (MSS 425 (A13-139)), as a similar institution.

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Custodial History

About 2000, the Survival Research Institute of Canada (SRIC) received the Guardian Angels book from Ella Groves, and the CFSC Information Sheets from Reverend David Oliver. The Harshman family history interview was conducted by Walter Meyer zu Erpen on 17 April 2000. Those records were transferred to the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections (UMASC) by Walter Meyer zu Erpen (President, SRIC) in 2015. The remainder of the accession was transferred directly to UMASC by Marlene Harris, library and archives director for CFSC, in 2015.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Calgary First Spiritualist Church fonds [ 1995-2015 ]

11 CFSC Monthly Newsletters 1995-2005, incomplete
2 CFSC Monthly Newsletters 2006-2015
3 CFSC Information Sheets 1999
4 "Guardian Angels: A Heritage Collection of Spiritualist Silver Chain Recitations, Musical Readings, and Lyceum Songs compiled from The Lyceum Manual, and the Spiritual Songster [which were] First Published [in] 1887" 1999
5 “History of the Calgary First Spiritualist Church and Lyceum 1920-2000” by Sally Jennings + 90th Anniversary materials 2002, 2010
6 Article by East Village Action Committee + "History of CFSC and Lyceum" (lecture by Ella Groves) 2011, 2014
7 transcript of Harshman family interview with Walter Meyer zu Erpen 2000

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