Manitoba Free Press
During the first decades of the twentieth century, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood was governed by general meetings that were held each year to receive the annual report and financial statement prepared by the representative committee and to vote on various matters of policy and practice brought before them. These gatherings were typically attended by two delegates from each village, the administrators in charge of community affairs and the leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin. The following is a rare extant report of the general meeting of the Doukhobor Community held at Otradnoe village, Saskatchewan, on October 13, 1912, published as “A Letter to Christ’s Community from Peter Verigin” in the Manitoba Free Press, December 5, 1912. It provides remarkable insight into the administrative matters of the day, including the fall harvest, the marketing of grain through Community elevators, the British Columbia resettlement, the exchange of goods between Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and the transfer of Community property into the leader’s name.
Glory to the Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters: – I am advising you, that on the thirteenth day of October, in Village Otradnoe, a Meeting was held; one man and one woman from each village attending.
FIRST- The Meeting was opened by repeating “The Lord’s Prayer.” The main purpose of this Meeting was to bring thanks to the Lord, for all successful life of the Doukhobors’ Community and especially for the abundant crop this year. The seeding of grain was late and in view of plenty of rain, during the summer, there was a possibility of the grain becoming frosted. In the summer the Meeting consisted of Doukhobors, all those who could come to Village Otradnoe, bringing a general prayer to the Father of the Universe, in regard to the conservation of the crop, from the frost. Now the Lord manifestly created miracles by the prayers of Christ’s Community and up until the fifteenth day of September there was no frost, and all the crop was saved. Whereas, usually in Saskatchewan, the first frost arrives somewhere about the twenty-third, twenty-fifth or twenty-eighth of August. We bring hearty thanks to our Heavenly Father for His donation to us and manifold kindnesses. Glory and Glory to Lord and God.
SECOND – The Meeting decided that all grain must be sold through our Community Office. Also that all outside earned money should, as soon as possible, be delivered to the office, this to be devoted to the payments on land in British Columbia and other expenses in emigration to British Columbia.
THIRD – The Meeting decided that all the oxen from the villages be sold and horses used instead, these horses to be taken from the Community Ranch. It was further decided that, in the Fall all the young horses should be taken from the Ranch to the villages to be broken, and although they are only young, by the Spring they would be ready to use with the plow on stubble, and also with harrow.
FOURTH – The horses belonging to the British Columbia people, and which were left in Saskatchewan, were distributed through the different villages for working purposes in these villages, and must be figured in the share of this year’s crop. For the horses’ service, the British Columbia people should receive in this regard, one-third of a share of the crop.
FIFTH – The Meeting decided to inform all our people of the Thunderhill Branch Villages, that are called the North Colony, that no seeding of the crop on their land should be done by them this coming Spring, for next Summer they will all be removed to British Columbia. However, the land of the South Colony should be once more seeded and the crop taken off. In the Spring all the horses of the North Colony branch should be brought to the South Colony branch to help in the work.
SIXTH – A Report was submitted, that our British Columbia people had this year received an abundant crop of all things: vegetables, hay, grain and fruits. This had aroused the envy of strangers, and complaints would arise that the Doukhobors were not bringing any advantages to the surrounding settlers, and information has been given, that the Doukhobors are not fulfilling the Canadian Laws.
In order to make an enquiry the British Columbia Government sent their Commissioner, who found that it was very clear that the Doukhobors did not desire to have their children taught in schools, for the schools, as a. rule, teach children to be warlike; second they learn swindling, that is usufruct, by the labour of strangers in life; and third bringing up children to disrespect their parents. The Doukhobor Society in British Columbia sent a letter to the Minister of the Interior at Ottawa; copies of this letter will be sent through the villages, in the near future.
By Christ’s teachings the children must be enlightened by the Word of God. Christ said “I have placed God’s Law in your hearts, Go and preach the gospel by word, to all people.”
SEVENTH – The Meeting decided that the surplus wheat of this year’s crop in Saskatchewan must not be sold but retained for British Columbia requirements; this wheat would be purchased from the villages.
EIGHTH – A carload of apples was shipped from the Doukhobor Society in British Columbia, as a gift to all Brothers and Sisters in Saskatchewan. All Brothers and Sisters must come to Verigin, while the weather is warm, and received the correct share of these apples. When you come for the apples you must bring a statement of the persons living in your village. For each nursing child one-half share would be given.
NINTH – The Meeting decided that all Community property, land and etc., the right of which according to the Canadian laws, must be entered in writing, should be transferred to the name of Peter V. Verigin, as representative of Christ’s Community and Trustee for Doukhobor Society in Canada.
We must give thanks, Brothers and Sisters, and bow to the ground, to the Lord and God, for all His grace and kindness to us.
Your brother in Christ,
The Community was formally a democracy in which the general meeting was the supreme governance authority. However, in practice, while Peter “Lordly” Verigin’s formal powers were small, his real influence was immense. This was due, not only to his position as hereditary leader, but to his powerful personality, superior education and intellectual prowess. Resolutions at the annual general meetings never went contrary to his advice, and during the twelve months that elapsed between meetings, he and his advisors acted as an executive with sweeping powers to make almost any decision on behalf of the Community.
Note that unlike several published reports of general meetings of the Doukhobor Community, the 1912 report does not include a financial statement.
For more information on the general meetings and accounts of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, see the 1904 Report, 1906 Report and the 1910 Report of the General Meeting of the Doukhobor Community.