The Story of the Chapel Crucifix
By Karen Kuhnert
During the Russian -Finnish War of 1939-40, Martti Tapaninen's father was a commander in the Finnish army advancing through the Russian countryside. As they progressed through war torn lands and burned out villages, one of the soldiers noticed a gold hand sticking out from underneath the rubble. They must have been advancing through a Russian churchyard because the hand belonged to the crucifix, which now rests in the chapel at the Anglican Church of the Ascension. The soldier, hoping for real gold was disappointed to find that the statue was painted, as such it had no value to him and he offered it to his Commander, Mr. Tapaninen Sr.
Mr. Tapaninen Sr. returned safely from the war to his family - carrying the crucifix. He promptly repaired it and mounted it to new wood. A nine year old Martti watched his father hang it for the first time in his family home in Finland.
Once Martti came to Canada he seldom made the trip back to Finland. The church was not part of his regular life in those years and it was Some time before Martti became a member of Holy Cross-Lutheran Church, the congregation started by Rev. Cezar Heine.
When Pastor Heine went to study in Oulu, Finland in 1984/85 he visited the Tapaninen family occasionally. On one of these visits Mr. Tapaninen Sr. gave the crucifix to Pastor Heine as a gift to Martti to hang at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Upon its arrival in Inuvik, Martti, as his father, repaired it and hung it carefully on newly prepared wood. This memorable crucifix had made a long journey from the rubble of the battlefield.
In 1995 Holy Cross Lutheran Church moved towards closing its doors to combine its resources with those of the Anglican Church of the Ascension. In 1996 the pulpit, altar, vestments, paraments, altar candles, communion plates, books, music, organ, building and other resources of the Lutheran church were decommissioned by Pastor Heine's wife, Joan Cole-Heine who had served as Deaconess to the congregation after the death of Pastor Heine in 1990. The church belongings were donated to the Anglican Church, including the cross, with the understanding that the Anglican Church may consider using it in the chapel of its dreamed-of new future church building.
Martti Tapaninen was among the first to work on the plans of the new church building. In 2000 Martti negotiated the purchase of a second hand convection oven and cooking supplies, as well as choosing the new purchases and layout of the kitchen. During the Anglican Church's fundraising efforts 'there was an opportunity to make a specific donation to a portion of the building. A family contributed $5000 to see the chapel built and furnished. In the fall of 2000 the lighting, walls, floor and ceiling were done. The rough pews were then put in place to complete the room. Martti once again took back his treasured crucifix, repainted it and hung it again on new wood.
In 2001 the chapel was outfitted with new mouldings and the turn of the century altar refitted to the chapel space. In 2002 a visiting group from a congregation in Cambridge, Ontario, refinished the pews to complete the chapel.
This historic, religious and sentimental treasure was found bruised and broken in a land of war-torn unrest. It was given away as worthless by those chosen to find it. Yet it has pointed the way to God for Christians of Russian Catholic or Orthodox belief, as well as Finnish and Canadian Lutherans and Canadian Anglicans to name just a few. The chapel cross has comforted many in the decades that we know of. Glory be to God for the survival of the cross and the faith of the Tapaninen family to be such good and faithful stewards.