Parishioners of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Grise Fiord, Nunavut, are continuing to hold services in “an old two-storey house” following a February 27 fire that rendered their church building unusable.
“Of course, people are feeling sad about it,” the Rev. Jimmy Qaapik, deacon at St. Peter’s told the Anglican Journal when reached by phone Wednesday, March 21. Qaapik says that attendance at the church could be anywhere from five to 10 people to as many as 25, with more attending on holidays like Christmas and Easter.
St. Peter’s was the only church in the Inuit hamlet of Grise Fiord, which has a population of about 130.
The RCMP has determined that the fire was accidental, identifying embers from the wood stove used in the church during the day as the source of the blaze, according to Nunatsiaq News.
Volunteer firefighter Marty Kuluguqtuq told Nunatsiaq News that he and other firefighters were able to salvage a keyboard, some sound equipment and documents, such as marriage and baptism certificates and confirmation letters, from the church.
Qaapik says that about a quarter of the building was damaged by the fire, particularly the walls, ceiling and electrical system. However, smoke and water damage have rendered the entire church, including the chairs and furniture that were inside, unusable. While putting out the fire, Qaapik says, firefighters had to break some of the church’s windows.
For now, the parish is meeting in “an old two-storey house,” says Qaapik. He says parishioners are thankful “from the bottom of our hearts” to the property owners of the Oogliit Sannavik Building, who “have generously offered it freely for Sunday services.”
Though there are hopes to rebuild the church, Qaapik says they are waiting on an insurance report and an assessment of the cost to repair the damages.
Qaapik says he has received many calls from people who would like to help with rebuilding efforts, including companies in Resolute Bay that have offered to send carpenters and electricians.
“If the church was to be rebuilt, we were told that it could be done and up and running before December, before Christmas,” says Qaapik. “We’d like to believe that, but [we] don’t know if it will happen.”