Snowdrifts to be added to ‘Igloo’ cathedral

Published September 1, 2004

Conceptual drawing

The diocese of the Arctic has launched a campaign to raise $7 million for a major renovation of the igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, whose capacity is already stretched to meet a growing ministry.

The planned structure will reflect a typical Arctic scene – snowdrifts – and increase seating to 650 from 150 people.

“This (St. Jude’s) is an important icon that we felt would not only speak of our heritage but would become a symbol of the uniqueness of our diocese, its people and their culture,” said Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk of the Arctic in a message to the diocese.

Inuit workers led by carpenter and church member Peter Markosie built St. Jude’s Cathedral in 1972 with $3,000 raised from the local community.

Bishop Atagotaaluk, suffragan (assistant) Bishop Paul Idlout and other members of the diocese visited Ottawa in June to discuss the cathedral’s ministry and the fundraising campaign, which they hope will draw support from Anglicans around the world.

“Although many of us in the diocese have never spoken in million dollar figures before, this project will make us think in millions for the first time,” said Bishop Atagotaaluk. “However, we are looking past the dollar figure to the potential increase in ministry that will be available to the entire community of Iqaluit.”

The diocese has published a promotional brochure, A New Beacon in the North , for the campaign. “I believe this is very appropriately named as the church must be visible in the midst of an economically growing community and it speaks of the church in the north,” said Bishop Atagotaaluk. “The church still ought to be a beacon for people to find Christ in the midst of a busy world of modernization.” He added that the project could help “in pulling the church together in a time when unity seems difficult to achieve due to some of the sensitive issues before the church today.”

Outreach plays an important part of the ministry in the Arctic, which is divided into seven deaneries (Mackenzie Delta, Upper Mackenzie, Kitikmeot, Kivalliq, North Baffin, South Baffin and Nunavik). Many Arctic communities are troubled with alcohol and drug abuse, high teen pregnancy and school dropout rates, physical and sexual abuse, suicides and unemployment.

FSC Architects and Engineers of Nunavut has been tapped for the renovation, which will also house the vestry, sacristy, a balcony suspended over the main floor congregational seating, prayer circle, Sunday school room, fellowship room, prayer room, nursery and choir room.

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, the 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.


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