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Late Anglican minister’s words live on in Northern Reflections

The late Reverend Desmond Carroll would have liked his new book.When Carroll retired as Dean in 2001, parishioners and friends suggested he try to…

The late Reverend Desmond Carroll would have liked his new book.

When Carroll retired as Dean in 2001, parishioners and friends suggested he try to publish his bulletin devotionals.

Toronto-based publishers seemed amenable to printing them.

“We love them,” they said. “We like the writings… there’s only one problem.”

“Your husband,” they told his wife, Marion, “isn’t famous.”

But, in the end, publishing Carroll’s work wasn’t about fame.

Northern Reflections started as weekly devotions in the bulletins of Christ’s Church Cathedral during Carroll’s tenure there from 1985-2001.

The small, stunningly colourful book of devotions also contains snippets of the daily life of the congregation.

Reading them, you get the sense of a community living together.

The book also features several Ted Harrison paintings — which makes this publication a collaborative effort between Desmond, his widow and the artist.

Taryn Parker, director/curator of the Old Log Church museum since September 2007, was impressed with Carroll’s writings.

“Even for someone with no familiarity with Carroll or his writings, such as myself, this collection is a gem,” said Parker.

“They can be read like a daily or weekly devotional.”

She finds the writings insightful and inspirational, saying that the book gives a reader “an escape from a hectic, busy life.”

She also notes that readers who have no connection to Christian faith will enjoy the reflective parts of the book — those that talk about living in the Yukon.

Parker hopes Carroll’s writing will be the first step in showcasing more of the recent history of the Anglican Church in the museum

In 2011, the church will celebrate 150 years of the Anglican Church presence in the Yukon.

“We want to be able to offer more recent things created by people involved with the museum and the church — especially local connections,” she said.

Maintaining strong ties with Christ Church Cathedral, the museum will help launch Carroll’s posthumous writings at a celebration on June 15th.

Half the profits go to the Ted Harrison Artists’ Retreat Centre and the other half to the Old Log Church Museum.

Marion Carroll will attend and read from her husband’s work.

She was pleasantly surprised at how all this came together.

“All these bulletins were lying around the apartment,” she says. “Really it was a tidying up process at home. I thought I should put them into a folder, then it grew into a booklet and then a book.

“A woman mentioned that since I knew Ted Harrison that maybe he would lend permission to use his art.

“And so I found a nice printer in Victoria, the same printer who worked with Ted Harrison on his books and so had the images ready to go.”

Des and Marion lived in the Yukon from 1985 until 2001, when he retired from Christ’s Church and moved to Victoria.

“He was only retired for two months before he died suddenly,” said Marion.

It happened on the same day that CBC Radio announcer Peter Gzowski died.

They were discussing Gzowski’s death and watching the news, when Des “coughed in a strange way.”

“I said, ‘are you alright?’” She got no reply.

She called the ambulance.

“But by the time they came, he had regained consciousness. He asked me, ‘Who are you on the phone with?’ I said, ‘the ambulance people.’

“He said, ‘whatever for?’

“‘Well you’ve been out of it for the past five or 10 minutes.’

“‘Oh no,’ he said, ‘I haven’t. I’ve just been asleep.’”

The ambulance people were so relieved that he seemed up and OK, and they decided to bring him in for tests.

“And they were chatting away — and they were looking at the pictures on the wall. And they decided to drive us in. We were gone about five minutes, and he was in mid-sentence. The driver asked, ‘So you’ve just retired.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve just retired.’ The driver said, ‘Up in the Yukon?’ ‘Yeah, up in the Yukon’ and then there was silence.’”

Whitehorse’s flags were lowered for Des.

On the day his funeral was held in Victoria, there was a memorial service here in the Yukon.

Then-Yukon premier Pat Duncan spoke at the memorial service.

Duncan remembers Des with admiration.

“He was a rare man of God,” she said. “It didn’t matter where you met him, he was welcoming. Someone you would want to sit down and talk to. He was the finest example of humankind.”

His book contains more than 50 devotionals.

Most are a page long, or two at the longest. The perfect size for a daily reflection.

There is some beautiful writing in this book.

“The eternal spirit is ever active, moving back and forth across history, binding together the broken pieces of our human struggle and presenting them as fragments of a greater story,” Des wrote in Upon the Loss of a Companion.

Of vulnerability, he wrote, “One of the apparent contradictions of the spiritual life is the connection between vulnerability and feeling loved.”

As Dean, Des loved the people he shepherded.

He often remarked on the cross-section of society that the church brought together.

He has a story about a time he saw a unique tableau kneeling at the rail one Sunday morning — a Supreme Court judge, the chief superintendent of the RCMP and a man who had been recently charged with murder.

That exemplified, he believed, how in the Yukon everyone is equal in the eyes of the church.

You can affect great change here because you can actually get to know the politicians.

Carroll is remembered, especially, for his inclusiveness — his wide arms that drew in a wide, varied community.

Carroll is no longer silent.

His book launch propels his words back to those who long to hear him speak again.

You can hear Marion speak and get a copy of the book at the Old Log Church Museum, Sunday June 15th, 12 to 2 p.m.

Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome.

Jerome Stueart is a Whitehorse-based freelance writer.