Incoming Anglican Bishop of the Arctic embraces all denominations
"I’m not just trying to get people to be Anglican — I just want them to be Christian"
Many in Nunavut don’t know David Parsons, the incoming Bishop of the Anglican Arctic diocese, but Parsons, who takes over in January 2013 from the retiring Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, wants to change this.
That’s why recently Parsons travelled to Iqaluit, Cambidge Bay, Kugluktuk, Gjoa Haven and Taloyoak to meet with people in those Nunavut communities.
Parsons, easily recognizable because of his abundant white beard, told Nunatsiaq News he was delighted when people in Cambridge Bay waved to him as he walked around town.
It wasn’t his first visit there— but in 1977 he made it no further than the airport, he said.
Parsons, originally from Goose Bay, Labrador, has spent nearly all of his life in the North.
Consecrated as bishop last June at the new St.Jude’s Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit, he was first commissioned in 1989 as an evangelist with Threshold Ministries (then the Church Army).
Following his commissioning, he ministered in the North, followed by a number of years in New Brunswick with the Seafarer’s Mission and as Atlantic Missioner. In 2001, he and his wife Rita, returned to the North to serve as priest-in-charge of Inuvik.
Parson’s background and experience reflects a hands-on approach to faith that he’d like everyone embrace.
People have been influenced by world’s religions, but they haven’t been empowered, he says.
“We need to be real,” Parsons said in a recent interview from Cambridge Bay. “I’m not just trying to get people to be Anglican — I just want them to be Christian.”
That might seem like an odd message from an Anglican Bishop, but, as he puts it, people need to experience Christianity, not religion, in any church, of any denomination, where they feel comfortable.
And they should gather outside church where he’d like to see more people meeting in a small groups “to talk about what’s going on in our life.”
“We’re all say were “good,” but some of us aren’t so good. If we’re in a small group, we can get comfort: we need to be social. We need to tell the scriptures,” he said.
And people need to take responsibility for their churches, giving 10 per cent of their money, he suggests, not just so they keep the heat on in the buildings, but so they can get invoolved in more community outreach projects.
“Our 90 per cent would go further” if we “deal out the bread to the hungry,” he said.
Parsons would like to see people feel as if they will get by giving — and he gives the example of the popular Nevada lottery tickets sales that draw scores of people who hope to win something.
But it doesn’t work like that if you want to receive, he says.
“If you give a char, you’re going to get char. If you give caribou, you’re going to get caribou,” he said. “It’ll just happen.”
While in Cambridge Bay Parson met with parishioners, in in their homes and at the small white church where presided over two services, usually led by lay leaders.
St. George’s Anglican church in Cambridge Bay was founded in 1927 when an anonymous donor from England gave funds for a mission there. The anonymous donor paid the entire upkeep until 1943, but from then until 1955, it remained vacant for lack of a missionary.
The current church, inaugurated on Sept. 10,1954, features stained glass windows depicting northern-themed biblical scenes and wall hangings with parka-dressed worshippers.