Former Knockmamuckley minister is soul of the Arctic

Rev Darren McCartney chats with local Inuit friends.
Rev Darren McCartney chats with local Inuit friends.
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The extraordinary life of a former Church of Ireland minister in Knocknamuckley who is now working in the Arctic will feature in a UTV documentary next week.

The documentary, Soul of the Arctic, to be shown on UTV this Tuesday (September 23) at 9pm, will look at the extraordinary life of local Church of Ireland minister, the Rev Darren McCartney and his wife Karen, as Darren becomes Bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic.

Leaving behind family and a relatively comfortable lifestyle they exchange the parish of Knocknamuckley for more than 1.5 million square miles of freezing desolation in the high Canadian Arctic.

The couple are based at Iqaluit, the territorial capital of Nunavut and homeland of the native Inuit people. With an igloo-shaped cathedral and somewhat less conventional methods of getting around the parish, the couple have been called to take on the largest and certainly the coldest beat in the Anglican world.

In every respect it is a challenging assignment. Darren says, “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. 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.”

The programme depicts how the displaced Inuit can feel lost in the urban community and there are many social problems, including a worryingly high suicide rate – especially among the young.

Darren crosses the frozen wastes by snowmobile to reach isolated communities, bringing comfort where needed, to join in their celebrations and simply to enjoy their company, as they clearly enjoy his.

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.”

“Our church has a rich history of missionary work and I’m certainly not the first to have done this. That’s why I’ve had a simple Bishop’s crozier made from Irish bog oak and finished wwith a silver image of St Patrick to carry with me and remind me that I’m not alone.”