Monks look for peace in Montague

by KIM KIERANS, The Chronicle Herald, Apr 19, 2009

Halifax, NS (Canada) -- THE ECONOMY of Montague in eastern P.E.I. is getting a great boost. One hundred Buddhist student monks from Taiwan will be moving to the community to study traditional philosophy and meditation.

"Youíd be surprised; itís hard to find a place this quiet, this nice around the world thatís affordable," Peter Wu, the groups executive secretary told Stephen Brun of The Eastern Graphic.

"We had been trying to find a place thatís very quiet, away from the metropolitan setting so the monk students can concentrate on their studies and not be disturbed."

Mr. Wu said the group was attracted to the stability of the community. "It provides a very peaceful surrounding and the local town people are very nice and friendly."

The former Lobster Shanty property has been transformed into the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Academy with classrooms, a dining hall and living quarters. The group is using local contractors and suppliers for the renovation work.

"Our daily bread and vegetables we purchase from people in Montague through contracts," Mr. Wu said. "Our goal is to use Montagueís local merchants as much as possible. Weíre very conscientious about that."

The academy eventually plans to open up its facilities to offer Islanders weekend retreats as an introduction to eastern culture.

"Almost all the reactions Iíve been getting are positive," Mr. Wu said. "I know people are very curious, but itís a plain educational facility. There are no secrets."

The Goat Island Church Preservation Society in Upper Clements plans to re-open Canadaís oldest surviving Baptist church in June.

"I remember weddings and summer services and Christmas Eve services," society treasurer Maureen Potter told Geoffrey Agombar of The Annapolis County Spectator. "The place would be packed. People came from miles around. It was very popular."

Ms. Potterís great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Rev. Israel Potter, built the church in 1810 as a non-denominational meeting hall.

"For me, itís partly because it was built by an ancestor, but itís more than that. Weíre losing a lot of our heritage. To be able to walk into a building, to see it and feel it, that is a great experience for us and for generations to come."

Society secretary Cora Mailman thinks the way to get people into the old church is to bring back special services including concerts and picnics.

"And, old fashioned hymn sings. Anything to draw people in, make them aware of this lovely building. This is a historical building in my community and I just want to be part of saving it."

The East Noel schoolhouse museum is a trip back in time to the 1940s and 50s.

"Rather than do it like a regular museum where you would see all the old, old stuff, we thought we would do it in our own era," Marcia Patterson told Pat Healey of The Weekly Press in Enfield.

The 1887 building has original chalkboards, desks and even the strap and pointer stick. "We tried to keep everything as original as possible," Ms. Patterson said. That includes restoring the schoolís old stage upstairs in the building.

This project has been an 11-year labour of love for Ms. Patterson, Marilyn McLellan, Effie Hilchie and Erma White. Since the project began in 1998, the women have raised more than $30,000.

"If we didnít fix it up, it would have fallen to the ground," Ms. McLellan said.

"We didnít want to see an eyesore," Ms. Hilchie added.

Now the group is looking for donations from the 1940-50s.

"Anything like group pictures and lunch cans from the 1940s era," Ms. McLellan said. "Weíd love to have them."