The Lords Church in Alaska (III)

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

In this article, I will discuss the 32nd and Rose church in Anchorage, but first a few words about the city itself. The city of Anchorage was founded in 1914 as the construction headquarters and survey camp for the building of the federally owned Alaska Railroad which runs from the seaports of Seward and Whittier to Anchorage and Fairbanks. The city derived its name from the fact that the railroad materials supply ships anchored there.

The last population census showed that 48,081 people live in the city proper, though 126,333 live in the area, including the military people. Anchorage is the trade and service center of more than two-thirds of Alaskas population. Before World War II, the population of Anchorage was only 3,700. Anchorage is not the "Ice Box" that most of us "Outsiders" have thought it to be. Its average temperature in its coldest month (January) is 13 degrees above zero, and in July (its warmest month) the temperature averages 57 degrees. Temperatures have been as high as 86 and as low as 38 below zero. Interestingly, it has some of the highest tides in the world. Tidal ranges frequently vary as much as 30 feet within six hours, and have sometimes approached 40 feet. One of Anchorages best natural shows is the rise and fall of the Knik Arm tides.

Both the Army and the Air Force have their Alaska Commands stationed at Anchorage. Fort Richardson houses the headquarters of the United States Army, Alaska, while Alaskan Air Command is headquartered at nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base. Because airlines from more than a dozen nations make stops in Anchorage, the city sometimes is known as the "Crossroads of the Air World." Europe, Asia, and America blend daily at the International Arrival Section of the Anchorage Airport. Near the International airport is one of the largest concentrations of floatplanes in the world, based on Lakes Hood and Spenard. In the winter, these planes switch from floats to skis and continue flying.

Anchorage Christians

My interest in Anchorage goes back quite a few years. While I lived in Kansas City, Missouri (1957-1959), 1 baptized a young Methodist boy who was then dating one of the young ladies attending the services of the Vivion Road congregation. This young man, Jim Roberts, went to Rolla, Missouri to attend the School of Mines, where he trained to be a surveyor. While there, he taught and baptized a friend, Don Nisbett. Don in turn taught his parents, who also lived in Kansas City. Dons parents soon learned the truth on the institutional issues, taught their son Don, and Don undertook to teach Jim Roberts. However, Jim had become quite involved in the activities of the 10th and "B" congregation, and could not for some time see the error in institutionalism and sponsoring-church-ism. It was because of my previous contact with Jim Roberts that I was asked to come to Alaska for two meetings in 1966. However, while I was holding a gospel meeting in the spring of 1966, Jim flew to Missouri specifically to talk with me about the issues, and was already contending for the truth by the time I arrived in November 1966.

In 1965 there were two churches in Anchorage, the 10th and "B" church and Mt. View. Both were under the influence of liberal preaching. These two liberal congregations have recently abandoned the Mt. View meeting house and are now all meeting at 10th and "B." In February, 1965 Brother and Sister Don Nisbett, along with Sister Judy Carson, could no longer conscientiously work with the 10th and "B" church. Don bad sought to teach brethren there until his presence became obnoxious to the 10th and "B" brethren. Within a week or two, Brother and Sister Fred Howes, with their two sons, began meeting with the Nisbetts and Sister Carson. For a few weeks they met in the home of either the Howes or Nisbetts.

Meanwhile, there was a considerably stronger conservative group of brethren working within the Mt. View church. Jack Church then was preaching for the Mt. View church. Apparently in order to determine his strength over the church, Brother Church in January, 1965 asked the congregation for a "vote of confidence," in which men, women, and children were permitted to vote. After winning by a very small margin his "vote of confidence," Brother Church then proposed that the Mt. View church begin making a token contribution to the Seoul Korea Orphan Home. This, of course, increased the opposition of the conservative brethren, one of who was an elder, and several others of whom were quite competent people.

In order to prevent, as they stated it, the "Anti element from taking over the church at Mt. View," an appeal went from Mt. View to 10th and "B" for several families to transfer their membership from 10th and "B" to Mt. View. Eight families came. Then on February 14, 1965, a vote to "censor" the "Antis" carried by a vote of "12 for and 10 against." Eight of the men who voted "for" the censor were the ones who had come from 10th and "B." Apparently the liberals were in control, though by a very small majority. This "censor" vote, plus the church contributions to Seoul Korea Orphan Home, resulted in the formation of what is known today as the 32nd and "B" church in Anchorage.

It was only a very short time until the group who left Mt. View and those who left 10th and "B" began working together. These brethren secured financing and erected a very nice prefabricated building, which now is completely free of indebtedness. Their building payments were $420 per month for five years. I think they paid off the building a year earlier than their payment schedule called for.

Jim Puterbaugh moved from Fairbanks to Anchorage, and began working with this new church in the Summer of 1965, and continued with them until 1969, at which time he moved to Kirkland, Washington to join with Lowell Williams and the Kirkland church in a preacher training program, which has been quite successful. One of their students, Jim Link, then moved to Anchorage in 1969 and did an excellent work with the church until this summer. Brother Link now works with the church at Tacoma, Washington.

Presently the Anchorage church has no fulltime preacher working with it, but it has several very talented brethren there who are doing the teaching while they seek for a suitable man to work with them. Due to the fact that the congregation at all times is approximately one half military personnel, there is nearly a constant turnover of members. Yet the congregation has remained fairly steady in size.

During the meeting which I held there in August of this year, the Sunday morning attendance was 85, and the nightly attendance averaged 78. This is quite a good average attendance, considering the fact that there are no other near-by congregations to swell their attendance during a gospel meeting. Some of the brethren drive as much as 25 miles one-way to services, but are there every time the meetinghouse doors are opened.

Military personnel can request Anchorage, in some instances, as a foreign assignment. There is a good church there, and your presence and membership would be much appreciated.

In closing this article, I might mention that so far as is known to me, there are no faithful churches in Delta Junction, Juneau, and on Kodiak Island, though these congregations are listed in the directory published by the Gospel Guardian. In one article to follow, I will discuss the situation in Fairbanks and Hope, Alaska.

November 16, 1972