Written by Pastor Murray Crookes of Every Nation UMC.
Every Nation UMC is the new church start that is being planted in Anchorage, nestled in between Muldoon and Nunaka Valley neighborhoods on the East side of town. It’s a beautiful area, across the street from Chester Valley Elementary School in a building that is most commonly associated with the UMC Alaska Conference office, Conference Archives, and formerly East Anchorage UMC. A few historical connections exist with the building and new ones are being forged. For example, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts meet regularly, with Scout leaders who themselves were scouts there as children. Another intergenerational use of the building is as a voting center, when all kinds of wonderful people come around, with their bicycles, pets and children to cast votes. The volunteers that facilitate the voting include one family in their third generation. When meeting with neighbors in the streets, it is clear that much love is shared with the families and the historical memory of the United Methodist Church. Chester Valley Elementary using the parking lot as a safe location for the students in case of fires, earthquakes or other emergency is just one example of that historic trust.
And yet something new is being born. New organizations have started meeting at the building including a new Girl Scout troop and Free Mom Hugs, which is the local chapter of a movement of parents that support LGBTQ+ children. Every Tuesday since September 18th, people are being fed literally and spiritually at the community meal known as The New Journey. This ministry starts at 6:00 P.M, includes a free meal, and is open to all people, regardless of political or religious affiliation and ability or socioeconomic status. In fact, some of the people who attend include diverse ecumenical pastors and church leaders. As the need develops, there is hope that this feeding ministry will develop ministry partners and expand to other churches, neighborhoods and even into the streets. The most shocking thing so far about this ministry with regular attendance between 12 and 20 people is that, even though the food is quite good, what is attracting new people is primarily the Bible study, which can get very exciting. We sing hymns in multiple languages, depending on who is present and as more musicians attend, opportunity is being created for lively worship and praise.
Since Palm Sunday, weekly traditional worship services have begun meeting at 9:00 A.M. The first two services, including Easter, were shared with Ola Toe Fuataina UM Samoan Fellowship and were truly magnificent. Since then, Sunday services have had fewer regular attendees, but as the ministry is still in its infancy, there is much hope that the intimate services will grow into the dream of multi-ethnic worship that is driven by the diverse families that find hope at Every Nation UMC. A few families are starting to attend regularly, including some folks that have been encountered walking the streets or playing at the Chester Valley Elementary playground. Regularly singing hymns in diverse languages in both services will soon lead to the creation of a song book that anyone could use to sing along with unique expressions of praise not found together anywhere else. In such a diverse neighborhood, there is hope that new expressions of faith can be discovered with worship that is grounded in spirit and in truth, free from colonial expectations of language, culture, or cadence. The freedom to worship this way was the primary motivation to share this information near July 4th, when the United States declared its intention to rid itself from colonial rule. At Every Nation UMC, engagement with such complex themes are encouraged, discussed and practiced in and outside of the building, becoming a part of our identity as a faith community.
This week, Every Nation UMC will begin its second year of official church planting. As more connections are made in and outside of the immediate community, the vision of what can be will certainly reveal the beauty and hope of God’s kingdom that we are building together.