This September, after nine years in limbo, the Arthur Turner Training School (ATTS) will once again open its doors to Anglicans for ministry in the diocese of the Arctic-this time, out of its new home at St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit.
“[The school] is meant to be a resource for the entire diocese,” said the Rev. Joseph Royal, the school’s director. The vision is for lay people and clergy to “come and attend classes, learn and take part,” he said.
The school, named after an Anglican priest and missionary who served the Baffin Island community of Pangnirtung from 1928 until his death in 1953, was established exclusively for Indigenous people by Bishop D.B. Marsh, the second bishop of the diocese of the Arctic. It has seen a number of ups and downs over the years.
ATTS first opened in Pangnirtung in 1970. It was housed in a group of buildings that had previously been home to St. Luke’s Anglican Hospital. For more than 35 years, the school trained Anglican clergy and lay people for ministry in the North, and Royal estimates that about 50 people passed through its programs during that period, including three future bishops.
But with each passing year, the harsh Arctic climate took its toll on the buildings and they were eventually rendered unusable.
The timing was not good. Three hundred kilometres to the south, in Iqaluit-the central hub for the eastern part of the diocese-another problem had surfaced. St. Jude’s Cathedral had burned down in 2005, leaving the diocese with no resources to relocate the school. The last full-time class graduated from ATTS in 2007.
Once the new cathedral was finished in 2012, however, ATTS became a major priority.
Royal, who at that time was the rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Yellowknife, N.W.T., was part of the diocesan education committee that looked into reopening the school. He said finding money was a serious challenge.
“In the North, everything is expensive, the costs are extremely high, and we have limited resources,” he said.
However, a return of about $50,000 in 2014 from the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement gave the project the stimulus it needed to get started.
The school received another boost this year when the Nunavut government designated ATTS as a recognized post-secondary institution, which will allow students to apply for government funding.
The ATTS curriculum, like all ministry schools, will mix theology, study of the Bible and the Anglican tradition, but the program will be “tailored to the needs” of the diocese’s predominantly Indigenous members, said Royal, who will also be the main instructor. Courses, for example, will be taught bilingually in English and Inuktitut.
While Royal is not himself fluent in Inuktitut, and some of the visiting instructors will not be teaching in English, he said the school has access to “very, very good translators.”
Royal also plans on emphasizing Indigenous approaches to Scripture and theology, and hopes the program can be made to incorporate teaching from Indigenous elders.
“Indigenous people are finding their own way…finding out what Christ means for them, and what discipleship means for them, and they don’t need others telling them how it’s done,” said Royal. “There’s a great deal of wisdom in the North.”