Diocese of the Arctic Bishop David Parsons has called the destruction by fire of an Anglican church in Kinngait, Nunavut “a terrible loss” and demoralizing for the diocese.
St. John’s Anglican Church burned down on Jan. 9 just three days after another fire damaged the Living Water Church in the same community. Alexander Pryor, the diocese’s executive archdeacon, told the Journal the diocese’s insurance company had determined it a total loss, but that the payout was still being negotiated. The diocese had a $950,000 policy on the structure, but because building to code is so expensive in the North, it will cost more than that to replace the church, he said.
“We’re finding that the maximum cost-per-square-foot which insurance will pay is far short of the actual cost to replace a remote Northern church, regardless of the value of the policy,” he said.
Parsons described great sadness within the Arctic diocese after the loss of St. John’s. “Like any fire, with any church, in any community, that’s just a real kick in the head, almost,” he said. Parsons said the loss of a church is especially devastating in northern communities.
“We hear of all the churches closing in the south… If all the congregants stop attending one church, they may be going to another,” he said. “There may be other denominations or other organizations in the town. [But in the North] for the most part, we’re it.”
The bishop said churches play a vital role in the community even among those who do not attend worship services. “Whenever something is needed for people’s mental and social well-being, they will call upon people that are in the Christian community,” he said.
He urged Anglicans to “not take for granted the houses of God in your own communities” and asked them to “pray that God will give us the wisdom to know what to do so that people step forward and never, never, never quit.”
The back-to-back fires leave the nearby Full Gospel Church as the only remaining church in Kinngait, formerly known as Cape Dorset. The Inuit hamlet has a population of 1,396 according to 2021 census data.
As of Jan. 24, RCMP were conducting their own investigation into the fires at Living Water Church and St. John’s and had not said whether they believed the two church fires to be related or suspicious.