Belfast Telegraph

Cold house for Protestants: Northern Ireland minister and his Inuit flock in the Arctic

By Joanne Sweeney

He's the adventure-loving churchman who needs a snowmobile to spread the word of God.

Rev Darren McCartney, a Church of Ireland assistant bishop, has swapped his rural Co Armagh parish to minister to the native Inuit people in the Arctic.

The life and times of the 40-year-old who lives in the Canadian far north will be featured in an hour-long television documentary next Tuesday.

He and his wife Karen left Knocknamuckley Parish Church in Portadown two years ago for Iqaluit, the territorial capital of Nunavut in the northern states of Canada, which is the homeland of the Inuit.

Now, as a suffragan bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic, the minister speaks the native language and has to contend with temperatures which can fall as low as minus 50.

Rev Alan Kirkpatrick, the current minister of Knocknamuckley, visited his friend and colleague in February for a diocesan conference and will be returning again in November.

"There's a vast difference between the two parishes as one is a closely-knit, rural community over a very small area while the other covers 1.5m square kilometres with a population of 90,000," said Mr Kirkpatrick yesterday.

"This world suits him as he has an adventurer's heart, a giving heart and a very loving heart.

"I'm in touch with him quite regularly on Facebook and he told me recently that he travelled miles on a Ski-Doo across a fairly desolate stretch of land in order to carry out a confirmation service."

It's not the first time the minister has lived and worked in the Arctic, as the former Army chaplain was ordained there in 2003.

Together with his wife, Mr McCartney served in Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, as Crosslinks missionaries. He also ministered in St Luke's Anglican Church in Pangnirtung before returning to Northern Ireland in 2006. Darren explained: "We know the terrain and the people well.

"It's a stunningly beautiful place but temperatures can fall as low as minus 50, so we have immense respect for their background as nomadic hunters living in remote camps.

"But we can also appreciate the problems they now face as they struggle to come to terms with a more modern, settled life."

He was consecrated as bishop on June 3, 2012 in the Igloo Cathedral in Iqaluit.

Darren said at the time that he was "deeply humbled" by his election, but thoughts of his own home were never too far away in his ministry.

The story of his challenging assignment will be told in Soul Of The Arctic, which has been produced by Strangford-based independent production company Evergreen Media Ltd and will be shown on UTV next Tuesday at 9pm.

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