Arctic reverend brings Ulster humour to Inuit

Church of Ireland minister, the Rev Darren McCartney as Darren becomes Bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic.
Church of Ireland minister, the Rev Darren McCartney as Darren becomes Bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic.
Share this article

Whatever the dubious delights of the Northern Ireland weather, it’s probably safe to say only one local clergyman is dependant on a snowmobile to minister to his congregation.

The Rev Darren McCartney - who left the lush countryside of Co Armagh to become Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic - now looks after the spiritual needs of a flock of Inuit people in the 1.5 million square miles of freezing desolation.

Diocese of the Arctic.

Diocese of the Arctic.

A new one-hour documentary has been made about his remarkable transition from the Church of Ireland parish of Knocknamuckley near Portadown to the Canadian northland.

The life of Rev McCartney and his wife Karen will be featured in the UTV one-hour special programme on Tuesday, September 23 at 9pm.

Soul of the Arctic shows the challenging conditions faced in the vast sub-zero parish in Nunavut.

From his Igloo-shaped cathedral in the region’s captial Iqaluit, the minister with a sense of adventure travels far and wide bringing comfort to a community with many problems in the modern world.

The programme shows how the Inuit people often suffer social problems in an increasingly urban environment - including an alarmingly high suicide rate.

During the documentary, Rev McCartney, 40, acknowledges the challenges he faces.

“In the earlier years of my ministry Karen and I spent some time working in the Arctic and we know the terrain and the people well,” he said.

“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.”

Programme presenter Brian Black said: “It was a real pleasure to see the genuine friendship shown to Darren wherever he went and I am sure this was partly because he can speak to the Inuit in their own language, Inuktitut.

“In the cathedral, in the street, or in a chance meeting with hunters in the middle of nowhere, people wanted to have some craic with him and relish his Northern Ireland sense of humour.”

A modest Rev McCartney added: “Our church has a rich history of missionary work and I’m certainly not the first to have done this.”

Soul of the Arctic is produced by Strangford-based independent production company Evergreen Media Ltd.