On February 11, a man who by all accounts was a giant of the Christian faith died: John Sperry, Anglican Bishop of the Arctic and author of a wonderful memoir titled Igloo Dwellers Were My Church. Bishop Sperry moved to the Canadian Northwest in 1950 and gave his life to ministering to a flock spread thinly over thousands of miles. Today’s UK Telegraph has a fairly good short obituary.
In 1986 (half my life ago), while on a trip up into the Canadian Arctic, I briefly met Reverend Sperry while wandering about Yellowknife. I also met his first flock while on a jaunt to the Arctic coast: the residents of a tiny village then known as Coppermine. (It has since been renamed Kugluktuk.) At the time I was still involved in a religious group that defined Christianity in narrow terms, and although I had started to break away was not yet comfortable treating an Anglican as a fellow Christian. Nonetheless the stories I heard of this man’s love and care for the people of Coppermine stuck with me, and still do.