First United Methodist Church
Friday, March 31, 2023
People with Heart in the Heart of the City
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Ernest Jones served as associate from 1971-72.  True to the usual pattern of leadership in this church, rotation of key persons continued.  However ministers gave individual counseling support to innumerable persons and were constantly calling on newcomers in town.  Two identical worship services were held in Sundays with a half-hour “coffee break “between.  This became a time for fellowship for regulars and visitors alike.

By conference time 1972, it was evident that this church could not support two ministers.  Rev. Walters returned to his home conference as did Rev. Jones.

Rev. Boon White came the summer of 1972 with his family and occupied the new parsonage on Esquire Dr. The L Street parsonage was long since outgrown and costs of enlarging it seemed prohibitive.  A buyer was found for the L Street parsonage who offered us $60,000.  His home was next door and he wanted to secure the property and fix up as a rental.  We were fortunate to find an oil family who were leaving Alaska and wanted to sell their home on Esquire Drive completely furnished, the new parsonage was purchased for $64,000.  It had five bedrooms, a large family room and completely fenced yard.  It was in a nicer neighborhood and was much newer.  The payments from the sale of the previous parsonage were equal to the payments on the one, so the new parsonage was provided at no cost to the congregation.

 During the winter of 1972-73, Baxter Hall became nearly unusable.  The doors swelled and froze shut and could not be used.  The heating system became very troublesome with steam and water leaking out which formed heavy ice on all the windows and frost on the outside of the building.  The city served notice that we could no longer use it for children’s classes.

 A building committee worked all that winter to design a more modest building which would replace Baxter Hall.  Building costs had become so high that earlier plans were no longer feasible.  In the meantime the Trustees negotiated the sale of the vacant lots on the west side of H street for $237,000.  $90,000 of this money was used to pay off the mortgage to the National Board of Missions on the church sanctuary.   The congregation had fallen nearly a year in arrears on it obligation on this mortgage.  It was encouraging to have this indebtedness lifted from the congregation’s responsibilities.

 Other changes were made to put the church in a sounder financial position.  The little house at 804 G Street was being used for church school classes and free office space was being provided to Alaska homemakers.  The church paid money out monthly for utilities and upkeep.  Rev.  White suggested that the Alaska homemakers be provided space in the church that the G Street house be rented out.  We began receiving $250 monthly with the renter paying the utilities and upkeep. Some 35 parking spaces were rented at $10 a month for the lots north of the alley raising additional income.  Other office procedures were also changed in a determined effort to operate the church under sound financial procedures.

 In May of 1973 Bill Schwin and Phil Lockwood began razing Baxter Hall.  They tore the building down and cleared the property in exchange for the materials they could salvage from the building.  Plans were ready by June 15 for construction to begin but the GAAB (Greater Anchorage Area Borough) insisted upon public hearing before permits could be issued which delayed us until late July.  The City building permits were held up while other small changes were made to meet their requirements.  So that whole summer building season was lost by red tape.  Construction began just as snow fell in the fall on the new Fellowship Hall and classrooms.  The building was finished and dedicated on February 10, 1974.  The contractor was United Builders of Anchorage.  The total cost of construction was $182,000 which was paid in full at the time of dedication.  The money came for the sale of the H Street property and $45,000 that had been raised over hey years by member’s pledges to the building.  Some $15,000 was placed in a savings account to provide funds for landscaping and paving poof parking as required by the city and GAAB.  The new building provided a large dining hall that can be divided into three rooms with folding walls as well as a kitchen.  There were five classrooms for children’s classes and additional rest rooms and storage closets.  The building was designed so that later a second floor could be added over the north half of the new addition.

 Floyd Schwin supervised the construction of two rooms under the balcony at the rear of the sanctuary.  One was to be used for a cry room and the other for a classroom as well as bride’s room.  Both were insulated for sound.  The church offices were moved to the rooms to the right of the worship areas and the old office space made into classrooms and church school office.  These many changes and improvements have provided us with beautiful and comfortable facilities for all our church activities.  A committee is at work to see what kind of remodeling is possible in the church basement with the goal of providing an area for youth activities.

Over the years, members have moved away, others have changed address; some have become inactive, with the result that a large number of members were unable to be located.  It became necessary to adjust the number the membership figures than we could account for in our records.  So the number of members reported was reduced from 935 to approximately 600.

During the years of 1972-75, Rev. Boon White has served alone as pastor.  It is obvious that one minister cannot adequately cover all the responsibilities of this downtown church.  As associate minister is a real need to give assistance in calling on members and new people in the community but again the financial support needed will determine the outcome. 

Beginning in the summer of 1974 Rev. Ray Baines, specially appointed by the National Division of Mission to develop a ministry to Alaskan Native Peoples, began Sunday afternoon worship in a native cultural style.

During 1973-75, the Alaska Mission sent a work team to Central American during the Christmas holidays.  Two of our members went to Belise in 1974 and six went to Honduras to repair tornado damage in 1975.

Negotiations were made with ARCO concerning the lease of our church lots north of the alley.  This gave substantial income each year to support our programs and still gave us the use of the parking area on Sundays and evenings.  Tom Thumb Nursery Schools used our facilities daily with some 47 children in the program.  This not only met a demand for downtown child care but generated additional income for the church.

The summer of 1976 saw the departure of Rev. White and Rev. Bruce Bartell returned to be our pastor.  In 1977, he reported that 137 members were removed from the rolls leaving a membership of 393.  Sunday School attendance was 74.  Also, in 1974, Barbara Eicher became our associate pastor.

In 1978 we again had a change in pastors.  Rev. James Buffington arrived along with Rev. Reeves Havens Jr. as a part time associate pastor.  In 1982, Rev. Dennis Holway became associate pastor and along with his wife Susie developed a lively youth program.  Highlights from our yearly history written my member Ruth Marshall were as follows:  A survey showed that we are a city wide rather than neighborhood church; 52% of our members have belonged over 10 years; UMW raised $2250 for local charities from their Christmas brunch bazaar; and through the generosity of the Appleton, Wisconsin church, a new alter table was received.  (Bruce Bartell is pastor of this Wisconsin church now).

First Church and APU lost one of its most ardent supporters with the death of Arthur Waldron in 1982.  In March of 1984, Rev Buffington left us for a church in Oregon and Dennis Holway served as our interim pastor until July When Rev. John Tindell transferred from Juneau to be our pastor.

By 1985, our church budget had grown to $207,000 for the year and the church membership was 439.  Many community groups were being assisted by the congregation including the Food Bank, Brother Francis Shelter and Bean's Cafe.  The United Methodist Women (formally WSCS) budget was $5450.  The church decided to use its missionary money for a project in the Philippines because we have a large number of Filipino members.  Lead by Mel and Jasmin Gallardo, a Filipino dinner was served by these members as a money raising project for Aldersgate College.  This has now become a yearly event sponsored by the Human Needs Committee.

The pastor’s report of 1987 showed 369 members at the end of the year and a total of $245,272 was spent of all operational and mission concerns.

Mary Ann Campbell retired as Choir director after serving for ten years.  Dennis Holway left to accept the position of Mission Associate for the Alaska Missionary Conference.  Jerry Moore was hired as the Evangelism director on a part-time basis.  The first “All Church Thanksgiving Dinner” was held.

In 1988, Curt Pollock became the associate pastor with his special emphasis to be on the youth ministry.  With the church school classes filled to capacity, the administrative board appointed a building committee to develop plans for a solution to our space needs.

Peggy Renkert was hired as the church organist and contributes greatly to our services with her beautiful playing.  A mid-east dinner chaired by Marla White was held to raise funds for the Spafford Clinic in Jerusalem.

Through the efforts of Norm Tyler and Sue Cole, as co-chairpersons, a successful fund raising in 1989 resulted in the purchase of a new organ which was dedicated on May 21.  In November, we received new hymnals and Karen Hansen became the Music Director. 

The building committee under the leadership of Lou Case, architect Larry Cash, Parry Grover, and Norm Tyler were instrumental in leading us to a successful campaign to raise over $1 million dollars in pledges for our building addition.

By 1990, the building committee completed plans for the addition and secured the financing.  Boslough construction was selected as the builder and construction was stared.  The membership stood at 343.

A newly organized Coordinating Council meet monthly to review ministry plans and then refer these actions to the church committee.  A 9:30 Sunday service based on the 12-step program was begun by Rev. John Garvin as leader.  Jan Cawvey was hired as part-time Children’s Education Director.

A consecration of our new building addition was led by Bishop William Dew, Jr. in May.  The addition includes classrooms, a multipurpose room that can set 300, and space for a new kitchen.  Pastor Tindell’s last sentence of his yearly report once again stated our continual problem when he said, “We should be able to accomplish much more ministry if people would stop moving from the Anchorage area”.

Our membership in 1992 stood at 380 and over the past three years, the congregation has paid nearly a half million dollars in principal on our building loan.  No small feat!  The Chancel Choir under the direction of Grant Clark was growing and providing us with inspiring music.  Curt Pollock decide it was time to pursue other areas of ministry, so it was decided not to have an associate pastor for awhile.  Lori Staats was hired as the Youth Coordinator.

Michael Mitchell became a candidate for the ministry studying with Pastor Tindell and assisting in the Sunday services.

Our Sunday School and Youth programs continued to be a vital part of the Church in 1993.  Al areas of the church have developed into a vibrant caring community.  A special dinner was held to raise funds for the Methodist Church being built in Unalaska, AK.

June 30, 1994, John Tindell retired from the ministry after 10 years at First Church and 35 years of total service.  Rev. Carol Ann Seckel was appointed as our new pastor and stared her service with us July 3rd, 1994 until June 1998, at which time Rev. Patricia Clendenen was appointed until July 1999, when Rev. Richard Gilbert became our interim pastor until Rev. Debra Lindsay-Hudgins and Rev. Douglas Lindsay would arrive in Anchorage, AK in July 2000. 

Rev. Debra Lindsay-Hudgins and Rev. Douglas M. Lindsay were appointed as co-pastors of First United Methodist Church.  They came to Anchorage and the Alaska Missionary conference form Wilmington, Delaware, where they served as co-pastors of St. Marks’ United Methodist church.  Rev. Debra, who was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, received an A.B. degree from Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky.  She received her Masters of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.  She successfully completed six basic units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Delaware State Hospital, and has completed an additional sixty credit hours of coursework at Salisbury Sate University in Salisbury, Maryland.  Rev. Doug, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, did his undergraduate work at West Virginia Wesleyan College.  He attended Chandler School of Theology in Atlanta for two years, before completing his Masters of Divinity degree at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.  He later received a Masters of Science degree in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola College of Maryland.  In addition to his pastoral duties, Rev. Doug also serves as chaplain (LTC) in the Alaska National Guard.  Although they have no children, Revs. Doug and Debra are attentive parents to their three cats, a retired racing greyhound named Mollie, and a blue and gold macaw named Carmen. Rev Deb retired in 2011.

In 2003 Rev. Douglas Lindsay Retired as co-pastor of First United Methodist Church, Rev Debra Linsday-Hudgins continued as pastor until her retirement in 2011.

In 2011 Rev. Ronald R.P. Myers was appointed to First United Methodist Church. He came to Anchorage with his wife Linda Jean, who passed away of a heart attack in July 2014, and their daughter Rebekah, their daughter Rachel was in college and stayed in the lower 48 to continue her education. His ministry has included appointments in: Graettinger, Iowa; Anchorage, Alaska (at APU); Sonora, Texas; Austin, Texas, and San Antonio, Texas. Ron served for six years as the University Chaplain at Alaska Pacific University. He taught in the core curriculum and the Degree Completion Program at APU. He also directed the Center for Religious Study and Service. His wife Linda Jean, was the pastor of the “Parks Highway Parish" which included churches in Wasilla, Willow and Trapper Creek. Ron left Alaska to serve as the Senior Pastor at Lake Travis UMC in Texas but was excited to return to Alaska as pastor for First United Methodist Church. 

In January of 2013 we entered into a new adventure. The First Samoan United Methodist Church was in need of a place to worship and call their church home. With an open heart we opened our doors to include FSUMC in. Now we not only have services in English (8:30 &11:00 a.m. ) we also host a service in Samoan (1:00 p.m.) on most Sundays. On communion Sunday FSUMC join in our 11:00 a.m. service. This partnership is growing strong and we are hoping to have more amazing joint missional experiences in the future! 

Steve Fisher was appointed as Pastor of First United Methodist Church beginning July 1, 2015 as well as providing pastoral oversight for First Samoan UMC.

In July 2022 we embarked on a new adventure in ministry. We made the decision to join in ministry with St John UMC. We would be sharing pastors. Pastor Emily Carroll is the role of Lead Pastor. We are also blessed with the talents and skills of Pastor Autumn Krueger who is the Pastor of Student and Family Ministry, and Pastor Andy Bartel who will be the Associate Pastor. This opens the possibilities of doing mission with the people of Anchorage with a greater number of volunteers and a diverse group of people to help us all like into the connectionism that the United Methodist Church. 

The First United Methodist Church of Anchorage is a community of believers united through the love of Christ and dedicated to the spiritual growth and ministry of all.  We are called to worship God, proclaim the gospel, are for and serve others, share, study and grow in faith.  We desire to include all who will join with us in fellowship.  With this as our goal, we are confident that the next fifty years will find First Church inspired to greater works and the Spirit of God flowing throughout.