The Rev Mike McCann, rector of the Parish of Kilroot and Templecorran, and his wife Sarah are settling in to their new life in the Canadian Arctic.
Mike has been granted a sabbatical by the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, and he and Sarah are working for the summer at the Cathedral Church of St Jude in Iqaluit on Baffin Island.
This sabbatical has been arranged by the Rt Rev Darren McCartney, Suffragan Bishop of the Arctic, who formerly served in the Diocese of Connor as curate in St Nicholas Church in Carrickfergus.
Mike and Sarah have been recording their experiences in a blog – extracts from which can be read below. To read Mike and Sarah’s blog in full, visit arcticinsummer.blogspot.co.uk.
Early thoughts (Mike)
It’s now five days since we arrived here and we have been through one Sunday. In many ways it is all a bit overwhelming. Iqaluit is the main city of the territory of Nunavut with 6000 inhabitants and all the facilities: Supermarkets, cinema, hotels, gift-shops, museums, and library. However it is still a frontier town, rough around the edges. There is a ring-road of 3 miles of tarred road but the rest of the roads are gravel or compacted clay. Most people drive trucks, 4×4 vehicles, rather than cars because the roads are tricky and in the winter it gets down to -50C. And yet 1 in 3 of the cars is a taxi as most people can’t afford to own a car.
At the same time the city is a rectangle of 2 miles by 4 miles and beyond that there are no roads. It is quite claustrophobic. It is 75 miles to the next settlement of 450 people, Kimmirut, which has just 2 small shops for supplies. There is no road to it. It is 30 minutes by plane at a cost of £230 one-way or 6 hours by snowmobile in winter. You can’t just head off to Portrush if you want a change of scene. There is no change of scene. It forces you back to yourself.
Early thoughts (Sarah)
On Monday morning Sarah is going to teach me how to make soup for 70 people. She asked me, I didn’t volunteer – just to reassure my family I am not trying to overdo things, but responding to need. Sarah is heading away ‘back south’ on Monday week and Ed, another volunteer is heading south next month. In the Bible we are told to look out for the poor and the weak. So it feels like an incredible privilege to be able to serve these people. But there are huge issues for others to solve as to why so many people here are homeless.
June 26 (Mike)
We headed out to Sylvia Grinnell Park in a car which has been leant to us. I spent at least half an hour just watching the ice flow down the river. We then had a long walk through an almost mythical landscape. We passed boulders of ice, still pools, and a powerful river in full spate. The colours are amazing. Occasionally the ice is blue or green. The river is green – possibly as it is flowing over ice. Small rocks are occasionally bright pink and some are splashed with orange lichen. The plants are only just starting to grow again. There are soft willow flowers on branches clinging to the ground, tiny inch high rhododendron plants flowering purple and other purple and yellow flowers sporadically dotted amongst initially dead looking plants. Although on closer inspection they are starting to bud and even flower. The lichens are gorgeous, bright orange, pale yellow and greeny grey.
June 30 (Mike)
On Sunday I presided at Holy Communion at the English service at 9.45am and I preached from the lectionary gospel of the day. The congregation reflects the multi-national community including Canadians, Africans, Fijians and South Koreans all of whom have English as a common language. It was very special to share bread and wine together in Christ.
…you will notice a box of handkerchiefs on the communion rail. There is a lot of brokenness in the Inuit community with high suicide levels and high levels of domestic and sexual abuse. There are many hurting people. In all services people come to the communion rail during worship to unburden themselves before God, often weeping, and they receive prayer.