A REPORT FOLLOWING MY SABBATICAL IN

THE DIOCESE OF THE ARCTIC

This report will start with a brief description of where I went and what I did.

I started on January 28th 2001 by flying to Montreal where I stayed for two nights with Archdeacon Gordon Guy in Dorval. This was a welcome introduction to Canada on my first visit and helped to prepare me in a small way for my journey north.

On 30th January I flew to Puvirnituq via Kuujjuaq, both in Arctic Quebec. I stayed in Puvirnituq with the Area Dean, The Revd Aibelie Napartuk until 17th February. During this time I sought to involve myself as fully as possible in family, church and community life.

From there I flew with one overnight stay in Kuujjuaq to Iqaluit, the capital of the newly created territory of Nunavut. I stayed for six days in the house of the assistant priest and then four in the diocesan flat. As in Puvirnituq, I sought to involve myself as fully as possible.

The route from Iqaluit to Yellowknife began on 2nd March and involved flying to Montreal, overnighting there with the Guy family, overnighting at Winnipeg in an hotel, overnighting at Rankin Inlet at the house of a church member and then continuing to Yellowknife. This offered one Sunday evening service at Rankin.

Four days at Yellowknife included meeting the Bishop of the Arctic, Chris Williams and his predecessor, Bob Sperry besides other clergy and lay people.

I arrived at Inuvik on the 8th March and spent the next two and a half weeks at the home of The Rt Revd Larry Robertson, the suffragan serving the western part of the diocese. I spent time in that community with additional visits to Fort McPherson and Aklavik.

My return journey included one night at Yellowknife, two nights at Rankin Inlet, again including a Sunday service, and a night at Winnipeg with Canon Fletcher Stewart before traveling with him up to the Henry Budd College for Ministry at The Pas, northern Manitoba. There I spent 2nd to 15th April.

I concluded my time in Canada at Winnipeg with the Stewarts and attended a conference at St John’s College entitled “Emerging Patterns of Ministry”.

I arrived home on Friday 20th April.

All the places I visited offered very different experiences. Puvirnituq offered Inuit life and culture in a 90% Inuit population. The congregation was charismatic and large and despite tension due to two breakaway churches a mere fifty yards away, seemed to be healthy. There was a rootedness about the ministry there which was not so evident elsewhere.

Iqaluit had a rather more cosmopolitan feel with 60% Inuit and the rest a mixture of white and other races. Here there was some tension between white and Inuit Anglican congregations and something of a crisis of leadership. There seemed to be a tiredness and an inability on the part of some of the key clergy to meet the demands of their roles and a distinct feeling of frustration and lack of vision.

Rankin Inlet felt a happier place in terms of its Anglican Church, but the community clearly shared the other northern joys and problems.

I was offered great kindness and hospitality during my time in Yellowknife, but there was considerable disquiet expressed about the future (and present) question of native clerical and episcopal leadership throughout the diocese, though principally in the East. The current bishop is due to retire in June 2002 and has had poor health for some time and so there was not much energy around.

Inuvik was again very different and very “westernised”, in contrast to the other Gwich’in Indian communities in the McKenzie Delta. I felt ill at ease here. I am still not quite sure what it was, but something seemed to be out of joint. I was very glad to be on my way at the end of the two and a half weeks.

After a bit more airport hopping and a couple of very pleasant days in Rankin Inlet, I arrived at The Pas. Here, alas, more tiredness and a key player trapped in a job he had announced that he was ready to leave two years earlier (bad move). Here again I found myself observing a power struggle and more tension. Good work is being done at Henry Budd, but at a cost, both human and material.

The Emerging Patterns of Ministry conference with its guest speaker The Rev. Preb. David Sceats the Principal of The North Thames Ministerial Training College, London, at St John’s College Winnipeg started auspiciously, but failed to maintain its early promise. It was not without value, though, and several ideas have been buzzing round my head since.

Overall, the sabbatical offered me a unique experience of other cultures, Inuit, Gwich’in, Swampy Cree and white Canadian. I experienced charismatic, conservative evangelical, Anglo catholic and nineteenth century invisibly mended Anglicanism. I had time to pray lots more than ususal, to read both the Bible and other material, meet many different people some of whom were very much more inspiring than others. I found myself in several situations where individuals, my hosts or my host Church were in crisis and was drawn into those situations as a listening ear.

If the foregoing account sounds a little heavy at times, well, yes, it was. There were communities and individuals who were trapped by circumstance, many making the best of a bad lot. There was concern about the future with particular reference to the financial expectations of the Anglican Church of Canada, but also there was concern about the social problems that erupted in suicide, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Winter in the Arctic is a long, cold and uncompromising affair and Spring/Summer might bring a rise in the spirits of those I met. When I was there, however, there was not that much to recommend the Arctic as a place to be in February and March. Having said that, had the diocese had energetic and inspired leadership, then the whole experience could have been very different. I felt that the Anglican Church had a huge opportunity to bring a gospel, not only of personal salvation, but also of corporate salvation - to be the leaven in the lump. In places that I saw, it was doing and being what it should do and be, but in others, from my small snapshot in time and space, I could see the Church was struggling.

So, what did I learn? How did I benefit?

I saw a wide range of ministry, lay and ordained that worked - more or less. The educational standards were not always the same as I have been brought up to expect, but maybe those standards are inappropriate in those cultures, especially when most of the education is done in their second language. There were also many clergy and lay leaders whose lives had at times been turbulent and sometimes out of control. Adultery on the part of Church leaders and members was often alluded to and domestic violence and drunkenness had featured in the lives of many. In short, they were products of their environments, but nevertheless still had the grace, in most cases, to perform an effective ministry. Maybe I have been too narrow in my thinking about who God can use and how He can use them.

I became aware in a way that I had never imagined of the issues around the struggles of aboriginal peoples to regain control of their lives. I was aware too of many things good and bad that had been done to/for these people by the white man but also of the inevitability of white culture and language becoming increasingly dominant. Television and Burger King know no boundaries.

One small pearl of great price that I acquired was the insight into family life in Inuit culture. Whilst tensions do exist and sometimes result in explosions of violence often triggered by alcohol, family life at its best is extremely harmonious and all generations receive respect from the others.

Much of my experience is still not fully “processed”. I have much reflection still to do, and I am sure that insights will dawn upon me as a result.