History of the Bahá’í Faith in Calgary
From its modest beginnings, the Baháʼí community in Calgary has transformed from a small nucleus of dedicated individuals to a diverse community that collaborates locally and regionally to share the vision of Baha’u’llah within neighbourhoods and communities across the city.
From 1911 – Present
The first known presence of a Baháʼí in Alberta was Esther Rennels, who lived in Edmonton from 1911-1917.
In 1939, Doris Skinner, a Baháʼí, moved to Calgary. She began holding fireside chats with a lady named Dorothy Sheets. They began studying together and read every Baháʼí book available to them at the time. Dorothy was the first person to declare herself a Baháʼí in Calgary, in 1941. From that time, Dorothy served the Faith unwaveringly. In 1949, she responded to the Guardian’s call to pioneer and moved to Newfoundland which had just become the tenth province in Canada.
She subsequently introduced the teachings to her sisters, Lillian, and Mary. After hearing of her sister’s newly found religion, Mary was initially aghast. They had been dedicated members of the Anglican Church which formed a strong basis of community life in the small town of Viking, Alberta where they were raised.
Dorothy persisted and reminded Mary that she had always believed in the importance of justice – was she not judging the Faith without knowing about it? Dorothy knew that Mary was an avid reader, and so she asked if she could store an open box of Baháʼí books at her home, knowing Mary would never leave a book unread! After finishing The Book of Certitude and Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, Mary immediately declared her belief in the Baháʼí Faith.
She was soon followed by the family’s youngest sister, Lillian Arnett. All became devoted servants of the Faith and Its commitment to justice, truthfulness and the oneness of humanity.
Today, we are fortunate to have Dorothy’s descendants still living and serving in the Calgary Baháʼí community and throughout Alberta!
Dorothy Sheets was the first person in Calgary to become a Baháʼí; the year was 1941.
Today, we are fortunate to have Dorothy’s descendants still living and serving in the Calgary Baháʼí community and throughout Alberta.
As early as 1942, Baháʼís across the prairies gathered for summer schools. These were important occasions for visiting as well as studying with guest teachers. From 1951, summer schools were held at The Banff School of Fine Arts until 1967 when they moved to a new property in central Alberta, eventually named the Sylvan Lake Baháʼí Centre.
Noel Wuttunee was the first Indigenous Canadian to join the community in 1947. After that time, an emphasis was placed on reaching out to First Nation communities. The first of several Local Spiritual Assemblies in First Nation communities was formed on the Piikani First Nation in 1961.
Pictured here are Noel Wuttunee and his wife (circa 1950). Noel was the first Indigenous Baháʼí from Alberta.
Today, through the study and application of spiritual concepts from a series of institute courses, Baháʼís across Alberta are accompanying a growing and diverse group of youth and adults from all walks of life to embrace the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.
If you have photos and stories from the history of the Bahá’í Faith in Calgary and would like to share them, please submit them below via the submit button.
The first Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Calgary.
Pictured top row, left to right; Sylvia Demers, (unknown), (unknown), Gwen Clark, and (unknown). Bottom row, left to right, (unknown), (unknown), (unknown), and (unknown).