On Sunday June 4th, I boarded a 3 ½ hour flight from Ottawa to southern Baffin Island, to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. Upon arrival I hurried to the new Anglican Cathedral which was being dedicated that Sunday morning. The Primate and several bishops joined people from across the Arctic, attending the diocesan synod, in celebrating the completion of a gorgeous new Igloo-shaped Cathedral. (A fire destroyed the previous cathedral in 2005.) Later that night the Primate and the Archbishop of Rupertsland joined Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk at the consecration of two new bishops of the Arctic: David Parsons (co-adjutor) and Darren McCartney (suffragan). The same service marked a milestone some thirty-five years in the making: the publication of the entire Bible in Inuktitut! Several people were moved to tears from joy, sacrifice, or both at this remarkable undertaking.
I sat as a visitor to Synod for its final three days; during downtimes, I visited with many people from the Diocese of the Arctic (including Wycliffe student Annie Napartuk who did a fabulous job translating at Synod) and got to know a few of our bishops better as well. On Thursday the 8th I began my work proper: teaching the Bible and Preaching to a half dozen or so key local leaders, including lay readers and prospective deacons. All day for six days and for an additional half day I met with these dedicated Inuit Christians. And despite having to communicate mostly through translation, we had fun and got to know each other well. I was privileged to preach at both the morning and evening services of the Inuit congregation at the Cathedral. The following Sunday I was retained by the English congregation to preach at their morning service, after which I caught a plane home. The two weeks went by so quickly; it seemed like daylight all the time---and was!
In addition to staying a day longer to preach, my contribution to the English speaking congregants was to conduct an hour-long teaching Bible study each evening from June 11th-15th. I spoke on various passages from the Book of Genesis (four nights) and on the Messianic Psalms the final night. Several Inuit people came, along with several people from the Roman Catholic church, to whom I had extended an invitation, along with the whole town (we put up posters at the Post Office, grocery stores, etc.)
On Friday the 15th, we had a potluck supper at the Rector’s house where I was living. (The unit was vacant, as they are between rectors). Among many other culinary delights, we enjoyed Cathy’s to-die-for cheesecake and Rebekah’s steamed Arctic char. (Previous to that I experienced raw, semi-frozen arctic char at a lunch in celebration of the new cathedral. I am southern enough to prefer it steamed!)
A few reflections. First, the Iqaluit area is both stark and hauntingly beautiful; I hope my pictures will give you a sense. Second, the Christian family is a treasure! I felt a special bond with other Christians, whether English- or Inuktitut-speaking (or both, as many Inuit impressively are), and whether Anglican or Mennonite Brethren (as one special couple to me are/were). And third, I was struck by the way in which culture affects the way we derive application from the Bible; for example, both I and the class had good ideas about how to preach the baptism and temptation of Jesus, but neither of us would have thought of the other’s way, without mutual instruction.
I am grateful to Principal Sumner for allowing me to teach in a strategically different setting and to the many kind people in Iqaluit (not the least Russ, who lent me his car!) who hosted me so graciously.