A NORTHERN LIGHT REKINDLED
Joy Maclaren, C.M.
Ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with our Canadian arctic and full of admiration for the clergy, and their families, who established the Anglican faith in the arctic - a lifeline across the north, just below the North Pole. And I often dreamed that someday, I too, might journey north to visit this remote frozen part of Canada and to meet the people.
In 2005, arson destroyed the igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral in
Iqaluit on the shores of Frobisher Bay at the eastern mouth of the Northwest Passage. St. Jude was the saint who gave hope and help to those in desperate circumstances. This cathedral provided many invaluable outreach programmes that served the smaller parishes across the Arctic. It disturbed me to think what the loss of this church would mean to this vast diocese.
As Anglicans, we were asked to pray and to consider how we might help in some small way. Where does one begin?
I started by contacting Debra Gill in Yellowknife whom I had met previously. Debra is the Executive Officer for Bishop Andrew
Atagotaaluk in the Diocese of the Arctic. She informed me that plans were already on the drawing board for a new igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral. But where could the funds, between $5-6 million, be found to finance this reconstruction?
When I was asked to help raise funds for the new Cathedral in those Canadian dioceses south of the Arctic, I could only think of this as outreach beyond my own church, St. Margaret’s, Vanier in the diocese of Ottawa. St. Margaret’s is the church in Ottawa with the largest congregation of Inuit / Inuk. They can join in with the early morning service or can attend a later morning service held in both English and Inuktitut.
When taking on a challenge, I always like to have an initial idea of what might be involved, so – In early June, 2007, I flew north to spend a short weekend in Iqaluit and ended up sitting at a large round table chaired by Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, Inuit clergy, local fund-raisers, architects and several parishioners.
I had been invited to join a planning and fund-raising committee to discuss/consider how to move forward with the reconstruction of St. Jude’s Cathedral. This meeting was fascinating
as ideas were being discussed in both English & Inuktitut. But all were keen to help develop a re-building plan.
The next day I attended the Sunday morning ground-breaking service which was held outside at the site where the old cathedral had stood and where the new St. Jude’s would be rebuilt. The retired Suffragan Bishop Paul Idlout turned the sod for the new cathedral using the same silver shovel that Queen Elizabeth had used in 1970 for the sod turning for the first St. Jude’s. Outside in -4 C weather, hymns & prayers were joyously melded together in both Inuktitut & English. I found it very moving.
Following the service, the congregation of almost 200 filed into the Parish Hall, a large hall built on “stilts”. Here we sat at long, long tables and benches for a caribou stew & bannock feast. The caribou had been especially hunted for this occasion. It had been skinned and then the meat removed from the carcass for the stew. The carcass was left in a corner of the Parish Hall where grace and thanks could be given for this special feast. The parishioners were all so welcoming and despite language differences we were able to share this meal and communicate with much joking, laughter and, on my part, the waving of hands.
The next day I left Iqaluit to return home to Ottawa, having made a commitment to help
with fund-raising and promising to return someday to see the completed cathedral.
This May 2012, 5 years later, I will be ravelling north again with great anticipation, this time to visit the new St. Jude’s Cathedral, the white igloo-shaped cathedral with its gold spire and cross, a landmark that can be seen for miles. What a wonderful way to celebrate my 90th birthday.