Working a miracle
Church expansion nearly done

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 15/99) - Karen Kuhnert is calling it an "Arctic miracle." What she's talking about is an impressive and effective fund-raising campaign to pay for major renovations at Inuvik's Anglican Church of the Ascension.

An administrator at Ascension, Kuhnert said the church-building project began four years ago but has made some serious gains over the summer. By spring the level of donations was a $140,000 but six months later has grown to more than three-quarters of the required $400,000.

"It's unbelievable," said Kuhnert last week. "We're ahead of schedule and on budget -- the big story has been the fund-raising, which is out of control."

Built 40 years ago to serve a congregation of 100, Ascension Church soon found itself bursting at the seams. Despite the addition of a small hall on the back some years ago, a growing congregation of 92 participating families and 1,000 members meant drastic action was necessary.

"With more than 200 people attending Christmas and Easter service and a marked resurgence of people participating in the church weekly," said Kuhnert, "the church knew that something needed to be done to created more space and make it more user-friendly."

That something was a new extension, which opened to the public for the first time Friday night, and hosted the Evening of Music concert. Still somewhat unfinished, the new addition nevertheless glowed warm in candlelight and appeared to nearly double the capacity of the church.

Kuhnert credited the success of the fund-raising campaign to resident minister Larry Robertson, regional bishop of the Mackenzie and Kitikmeot. She also said another Robertson played an important role, however.

Though unrelated to the bishop, the visiting southerner Chris Robertson, "fell in love with the idea of the expanded church and recognized the miracle it would take to complete the project." Kuhnert said Robertson launched the Make an Arctic Miracle campaign nationwide and asked Anglicans across Canada to contribute $10 each to Ascension. She said that by last spring, $23,000 had been raised through this method alone.

Kuhnert said countless organizations and individuals have contributed and continue to play a part in the project's success.

"The committee is now moving into its final stages of fund-raising and planning for finishing the interior, and completing the worship area, followed by the wheelchair ramp and final structural improvements," she said.

Kuhnert said approximately $7,000 more is needed, and that the church is confident of success.

"Even Bishop Robertson would have been hard-pressed to believe that the building could have tripled in work and financial progress in 10 months," she said.