Arctic cathedral expansion stalls

Published June 1, 2005

Iqaluit’s igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral is home to many Arctic artifacts, including this lectern, which is shaped like an upturned sled.

Arctic bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk plans to request dioceses across the country to set aside one Sunday for special offerings to help boost the fundraising campaign for the renovation of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, which is not only aging but bursting to capacity because of increased membership.

The campaign to raise $7 million for a major renovation of the igloo-shaped cathedral has been moving slowly and the diocese of the Arctic has so far raised less than $500,000 since launching the fundraising nearly a year ago.

Bishop Atagotaaluk said the diocese has no plans to cancel the campaign despite the poor response. “We still have the vision and the dream,” he said, adding that the diocesan synod scheduled May 25 to June 2 planned to discuss how to boost the campaign.

Ketchum Canada of Calgary, which conducted the feasibility study for the project, has advised that the diocese create a full-time position for a fundraising campaign manager but the diocese is hamstrung by a lack of resources for a hiring, said Bishop Atagotaaluk.

The bishop said donations have been tight across the diocese because nearly every parish is looking at either expanding and building new churches or are undertaking church repairs.

Archbishop John Clarke, metropolitan of Rupert’s Land, added that churches in the North are often not as sturdy as their southern counterparts because of extreme weather conditions. “The climate is such that churches don’t stay long,” he said, adding that, “Iqaluit has exploded in population and the church has to respond to that.”

Bishop Atagotaaluk said the diocese has no choice but to expand the cathedral because of a number of factors, among them the issue of safety. “We’ve had several gatherings and synods (where) we were warned by the fire marshal that the crowd should not exceed 250,” he said. “It’s a desperate situation.” Plans would increase the cathedral’s seating capacity to 650.

“We are ministering not just to Iqaluit,” he said. “We are in the central capital in Nunavut… it’s become a centre for medical services and education and we’re getting all kinds of people, including transients with strong Anglican background who look at the cathedral for services.”

Bishop Atagotaaluk said that “it would be nice if the whole church could use (the renovation of St. Jude’s) as a vehicle to unite in some way.” But, he added that he was encouraging self-sufficiency in the diocese. “Before, the missionaries took care of us,” he said. “We can’t just wait for the money to come from the south … we’re financially capable of supporting this kind of project.”

St. Jude’s holds many artifacts, some of which can no longer be found in the Arctic, like the hymn boards made in the shape of snow shovels, sled-shaped communion rails and pulpit with lectern, all reminders of a bygone era when missionaries traveled by sled dog teams. Its cherished possessions include a font with a base made of soapstone from Puvirnituq in the shape of an Inuit oil lamp, a soapstone top in the shape of a cooking pot from the people of Inukjuak and three supporting narwhal tusks from the Baffin Island people.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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