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Crisis Threatens Closure of Cathedral and End to Church’s Social Ministry in the Arctic
IQALUIT, NUNAVUT – Oct. 7, 2013 – The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic is facing a crisis. The receiver for the now insolvent builder is requesting immediate payment of $3,000,000 owing for construction of St. Jude’s Cathedral plus $30,000 a month interest. This is a request that the Diocese cannot meet without closure of the Cathedral and an end to the Church’s ministry of compassion, hope and presence in the Arctic.
In 2005, St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit was lost due to arson, robbing the community and the Arctic of a cultural icon and spiritual home of the people of the north. Plans to rebuild started immediately.
To date, The Diocese has paid more than $7.5 million toward the construction cost. The balance was to be paid to the builder as funds were raised, according to an informal arrangement worked out directly with Dowland Construction. Dowland Construction was put into receivership in May, 2013.
“We have always remained committed to paying the balance owing on the construction costs to date,” notes David Parsons, Bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic. “But these new demands now threaten our very existence.”
“This is a crisis for the Diocese and for the people of the Arctic, who risk losing their Cathedral for a second time in a decade, and with it, the Church’s social ministry throughout the Arctic. People from all over the Arctic benefit from St. Jude’s social ministry which includes outreach to the homeless, a prison ministry, support to those in hospital, transients and all who are suffering. The Church houses the food bank, on which 100 rely to feed their families. The soup kitchen, also operating through the Church, feeds 65 people daily through the soup kitchen, says Bishop Parsons.
“The Diocese of the Arctic did not create this situation, and nor did the people we serve,” notes Bishop Parsons. “We are an unfortunate third party caught in the middle of the builder’s receivership proceedings. And it is the people of the Arctic who rely on our social ministry who will suffer.”
“The Diocese of the Arctic needs the help of the people to get through this crisis,” says Bishop Parsons as he calls on all to do what they can to help the Church get through this crisis and save the Arctic’s Cathedral, and with it, its ministry of compassion, hope, and presence.
St. Jude’s Cathedral Backgrounder
About the Diocese of the Arctic
The Diocese of the Arctic, which is a member of the larger Anglican Church of Canada, was formed to care for the spiritual needs of the arctic peoples of Canada in their various home communities. An Act of Parliament to create the Diocese of the Arctic as a distinct body within the Church of England in Canada was signed in 1934. But the mission of what eventually became known as the Anglican church had begun many years before, with the first Anglican church service being held on the shores of Frobisher Bay in the late 1500s. It has long been believed that the mission of this diocese has been, in part, to enable all members of the Church to live out their Christian calling and faith in parishes, the wider Church, in society at large and in the world.
The Diocese of the Arctic is a mission diocese. This means it is heavily supported and endowed by the southern Anglican Church of Canada. Even so, several of the parishes within the diocese have moved to a position of self-support in spite of the fact that the north is the most expensive region of Canada. The area encompassed by the Diocese is spread out over 1.5 million square miles stretching eastward from the border of the Yukon Territory across the whole of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to Kimmirut, and from Grise Fiord in the north down into the parish of Great Whale River in Northern Quebec. Within this huge land mass, the total population is a mere 55,000 with Inuit living above the tree line and First Nations peoples living within the tree line or along its borders, and a few whose history traces from other areas of the world in all communities.
There are congregations in 51 communities in 31 parishes. The majority of clergy and lay leaders currently come from amongst the Inuit and First Nations peoples, the balance coming from Great Britain and southern Canada. In all but six parishes, the language of prayer and praise is one or other of the aboriginal languages of our people, as well as English.
St. Jude’s Cathedral
St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory has been, since its original construction in the mid 1970s, a focal point for the people of the Diocese of the Arctic and a necessary symbol of the presence of the bishops. It has been “a necessary symbol” because the bishops must travel extensively throughout three territories to minister to the needs of the entire Diocese. The cathedral is the place from which the people of the Diocese are served; the place from which the mission of the people is centred.
Loss of the Cathedral to arson
The Cathedral was destroyed, by an act of vandalism through arson, in 2005 and its loss was keenly felt not only by the people who saw it as their home church, but by the larger community of Iqaluit, and throughout the whole of the Diocese.
Hopes to restore the building were not possible. A rebuild was required. Plans to rebuild were begun by the parishioners and by the bishop and his executive committee. The traditional and familiar iglu-shaped dome was again adopted as the basic design of the building to reflect the uniqueness of the previous cathedral and to provide a place of peace and comfort for parishioners and visitors alike.
Every effort was made to use energy saving and resource saving materials and technologies in keeping with our pledge to provide good stewardship of the land. When it came to designing the interior spaces of the cathedral efforts were made to duplicate where possible artifacts that had been destroyed by the fire, and items that had been damaged but were salvageable were cleaned and restored.
Meanwhile, the people of Iqaluit continued to worship and to serve the people of the community of Iqaluit using the parish hall as their temporary center of operations. This hall was so much smaller than the cathedral church and some members of the parish had been unable to attend regular services.
Spiritual and social ministry
The Cathedral provides ministry to the entire Diocese.
Up to 450 people attend worship each week. There are generally three services of worship held each Sunday: an English language service which has an average attendance of 100, an Inuktitut language morning service with more than 250 people attending on a regular basis, and an evening Inuktitut service with an average attendance of about 100 people. These services are led by the team of parish clergy and lay leaders. At the same time as the morning services, active Sunday schools take place. Additionally there are mid-week services held, usually led by the lay leaders of the parish. Funerals and marriages are held on a regular basis.
The Cathedral is a place of worship, but it is also so much more.
The parish members have a strong sense of community, enjoying a shared ministry assisted by the clergy and lay leaders, reaching out into the larger community of Iqaluit and its satellite community of Apex. In 2001 a soup kitchen was opened to assist in the physical needs of Iqalummiut, along with a food bank and a thrift shop. These projects continue to this day. The soup kitchen feeds on average 65 people a day, seven days a week. Over 100 people count on the foodbank to feed their families. Additionally, programs for the youth, the elderly, the shut ins, those in the regional hospital and in the correctional centre continue to be run by the church family.
As well as serving the local community, the Church provides an important social ministry in the Arctic. People come from all over the Arctic to Iqaluit and we provide ministry including support to the homeless, a prison ministry, a hospital ministry and support to all who are suffering.
Funding to rebuild the Cathedral was sought from within the diocese, from the parishioners in Iqaluit and Apex, and from sources outside of the diocese. In support of making funds available, virtually all other expenses that the Diocese could cut were reduced, meaning that much of the work of ministry throughout the Diocese was kept as limited as possible.
Unfortunately, the company supplying the materials for the build went into receivership, and a new solution was needed for building the Cathedral. That solution was builder Dowland Construction, and the rebuilding project, and the fundraising, continued.
The people of the parish and of the Diocese, and the many supporters in the south, found varied and creative ways to fund raise to continue to allow progress to be made on the building. Supporters as far away as Great Britain and further still came to the aid of the cathedral fund raising teams with truly generous gifts. Parishes within the Diocese also provide funds, sometimes sacrificially, so that work could continue. From 2005 through 2012 a sum of $7 million was raised.
Seeing this level of ongoing financial support, Dowland Construction agreed to receive payment as funds were raised. All other bills associated with the erection of the new cathedral to date have been paid in full.
By June 3rd, 2012, with the majority of the work completed, the Cathedral was officially opened during the gathering of delegates representing all of the congregations of the Diocese of the Arctic. The people of Iqaluit and the people of the Diocese could gather in their new home again. Members of the federal and territorial governments, along with dignitaries from other denominations, and visitors from far and wide, were on hand to help dedicate and open the building as a new beacon of hope for Canada’s arctic and sub-arctic peoples. Inuit, Dene, Cree and non-aboriginal people were united again in one place with one intention: to give thanks for this new cathedral, and to express gratitude toward all who had been involved in its re-erection.
Balance owing on construction
Even with the reopening of the Cathedral, there was much still to do, including making the remaining payments to the builder for the cathedral’s building cost.
In 2013, Dowland Construction, the builder, went into receivership. At that time there remained $2,652,518 owing to Dowland for construction costs. The receiver for Dowland Construction has requested immediate payment of the outstanding amount with interest. The diocese is now at a point of crisis as it endeavours to honour its intention to repay the debts and the mounting interest in the manner and timeframe that the receivers and the banks are requesting. All work and the ensuing agreements for payment of that work were made in good faith, and in good faith the Diocese intends to make good on its promises.
The Diocese of the Arctic remains committed to making full payment of the construction costs for the Cathedral. But if done under the terms requested by the receiver, the church’s social ministry would be put in jeopardy.
For information on the Cathedral and this crisis,
The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic
The Right Reverend David W. Parsons
Diocesan Bishop of the Arctic
867 445 8321 or 867 873 5432
The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic
4910-51ST Street, PO Box 190
Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2N2