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Historical  Commentary by Reverend Stephens

 

Back in the early 50’s Mel and Thelma Preston were relocated to Anchorage.  Mel was a banker, and he and Thelma were members of the Christian Church.  At that time there was no Christian Church in the city, so they worshipped at the Presbyterian or Methodist church.  However they missed having communion every Sunday and the other practices of the Christian Church.  They began a Writing Campaign to Indianapolis and the Christian Missionary Society as it was called then to see if a church could be established here.  Several years of letters were exchanged.  In the meantime the Preston’s began a small worship experience in their home. 

There was a woman in the community whose father was a retired minister of the Christian Church.  He decided to come and visit Alaska and his daughter.  This became known to Indianapolis and he was asked to investigate the fledgling church.  Dr. Tarlton T. Roberts came to Alaska and had a great visit with his daughter and the Preston’s.  One story tells of his trip to Hope, AK and using his cane pulled a salmon out of Resurrection Creek.  He fell in love with Alaska and its people and at 80 years of age became the church’s first pastor.

Pastor Roberts helped organize the Charter  for the First Christian Church and was in Alaska for about a year when his health failed him and he returned to the States. Under his leadership the church was chartered on August 9th, 1956. However the seed had been planted and in 1957 Thurman Boswell, a retired Army Chaplain was called to be the first full time pastor. Then, in 1962  Rev.  Ellis R. Veatch, another military chaplain, was called to be pastor, and served until 1974 when he retired.  James (Jim) Stephens then became the pastor of the church, moving to Alaska from Nebraska in October 1984.

During the early years the church met in the Preston’s home, then in the American Legion Log Cabin. From 1957 to 1961 they were able to use the Anchorage Seventh Day Adventist church on Sundays.  During construction of the new church in 1962-63 the Scottish Rite Temple was used for services. In 1963 the First Building was completed by Ken Brady Construction with a sanctuary and office.  In 1969 the church added an educational wing.  But the next year the borough (at that time, now Muncipality) of Anchorage condemned the property to put Benson Boulevard on the property as a one way heading east.  The borough in their generosity offered the church $100.000.00 for the property and pain of relocating.  Knowing that would not be enough, the church hired Leroy Barker an Anchorage attorney and sued the muncipality.  With his excellent arguments the church won the suit and was awarded $290.000.00.  Just south of Northern Lights Boulevard, a local doctor had purchased a 10 lot parcel and planned to develop a cul-de-sac.  The church contacted him and he agreed to sell the property.  With property in hand, a foundation was set in and the church on the corner of Northern Lights and LaTouche was cut in sections and moved to its present location.  In the process of developing the lot, the plans for the church called for another basement section.  This section is now the fellowship hall.  The previous basement section is now the home of the Anchorage Cooperative Preschool, which has been with the church for over 40 years.

In 1975 the church decided they needed a Parsonage, rather than paying rent for the pastor, Stephens, at that time, and his family.  Ground was broken in April of that year and the members all worked day and night under the leadership of Ellis Veatch who was acting general contractor. Pastor Stephens and his family moved in in November of that same year.  The parsonage has been a great asset to the church for the past 40 years providing shelter for many ministers and their families.

On a side note, in the spring and summer of 1976 the members of the church put in the landscaping around the parsonage.  During that time the Seventh Day Church of Anchorage had out grown its small downtown building.  They purchased property on O’Malley Road, and began building there.  Without their downtown building, the SDA met at First Christian Church, thus returning the favor our church received from the SDA in the early years.

Over it’s past near 50 years, the church has been a bright light in the State and in the Northwest Region of the Christian church.   It has maintained a great tradition of giving beyond it’s walls.  The church has been in the top 10 giving churches in the Northwest Region and in giving to the needs of the community.

  And following the strong ecumenical leading of the national church, First Christian Church in Anchorage has participated in the State organization, Alaska Christian Conference, and in the local community of churches, the Anchorage Fellowship of Churches, and now called Anchorage Faith Community which has included part of the Jewish community.

In 1981 the church celebrated its 25th Anniversary.  It was a full year of celebrations.  In January the church dedicated the new Baldwin Organ that replaced the old Hammond it had inherited.  In May of that year a special Hawaiian Luau was held to prepare for sending delegates to the World Convention of the Churches of Christ to be held in Hawaii.  Around September the church officially became a part of Alaska Children’s Services, (Now AK Child and Family) when William Gibble of the National Benevolent Association spoke to the church and formally affiliated with ACS with NBA.  To this day the church still has members of the church sitting on the board of directors of AK Child and Family.  On Thanksgiving Sunday of that year the church burned the mortgage on the existing church building that had been moved to its present location.

Now in 2016, the church will be celebrating it’s 60th anniversary.  Plans for the event will soon begin.