Saving for salvation
Sanikiluaq raises money for a new church

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Sanikiluaq (Feb 14/00) - For a decade and a half, the community of Sanikiluaq has been raising money for a new church.

During those 15 years, between $70,000 and $90,000 was raised. While it's an impressive sum, it's not enough to build a church.

Not surprisingly, the problem is one of numbers.

In the 1970s, before construction was even complete on the existing St. Philip's Anglican Church, parishioners knew it would be too small to accommodate everybody who wanted to attend services and events in Nunavut's most southerly community.

The church group started raising money immediately, but to date there isn't enough put aside to build a church big enough to accommodate the crowds.

Enter the Belcher Island church fund-raising committee.

Struck in early December of last year, the committee was established to speed up the fund-raising that will eventually lead to a new steeple gracing the east end of the community.

Now that the community has recovered from January's flu outbreak, Annie Amitook, chairperson of the committee and mayor of the community, says the group is ready to step up their efforts to raise money for the new church.

"The church we have now only holds about 100 people and often people have to stand in the porch or outside if it is summertime," said Amitook.

"On funeral days, most people in the community go and there are about 400 or 500 people wanting to get into the church."

She says the same problem occurs at Christmas, New Year's and Easter.

Every Sunday in the community, where the majority of residents are Anglican, between 200 and 300 hundred people try to make their way through the doors of the church for both the morning and evening services.

Johnny Meeko Jr., a member of the St. Philip's Church group, says the church is packed with kids sitting on the floor, elders using the chairs and all of the standing room filled.

"We need at least $175,000 for the building alone and another $60,000 to $70,000 to fix up the inside," he said.

"We need a bigger church, but it is taking us a long time to raise the money."

Meeko says most of the money has been raised by donations and through the collection of offering envelopes.

"We're a small community and there's a lack of work -- $70,000 is pretty good, but the economy is poor," he said.

That is why the church group asked the vestry council if they could establish a fund-raising committee.

"We're hoping the fund-raising committee can raise money faster than the church itself. The ministry can't raise money by selling things, but we asked the vestry council for a committee to do just that," said Meeko.

"We're looking at options to build economically; we think the new church will have metal siding because it is cheaper."

The church group has also asked the Government of Nunavut to consider assisting them in converting the existing St. Philip's church into a museum.

For now, however, the community's congregation will continue to crowd into the too-small building while the fund-raising committee looks for ways to raise the money that will some day lead to Sanikiluaq's new church.