Submitted by Rev. Steve Fisher of First United Methodist Church, Anchorage.
2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of the evangelistic zeal of Methodists in Anchorage Alaska. In the later years of WW II, the city began rapidly growing as a central hub in the Territory of Alaska. Of the civilians who traveled north to what is commonly called “The Last Frontier,” it became apparent there were several Methodists looking to establish a Christian community. On October 22, 1944, the first worship service was held with 33 people in attendance. A church school ministry began just a few weeks later.
Over the years this community of believers known today as, the First United Methodist Church, Anchorage, experienced major growing opportunities as a culturally and theologically diverse community of believers, by sharing the love of God in Jesus, the Christ. The people of First UMC have witnessed and supported the planting of no less than 3 Methodist Churches in the Anchorage area. Today this Body of Christ, continues to mirror the melting pot diversity of Anchorage and maintains a vital role in supporting the needs of various people in a variety of ways.
The United Methodist Women remain a most vital ministry of spiritual development and generous outreach. The forward thinkers, of a few year ago and today, continue to touch the lives of people throughout Alaska with donations from the economic gains of the established First UMC Foundation. Together as the Body of Christ, the generous ministries of First UMC support civic and ecclesiastical groups such as: AK Child & Family, The Magic Yarn Project, Bikers Against Child Abuse, Kids Corps Head Start, rural & remote congregations, development of church camps, and the outreach ministry goals of the local church.
This congregation of Native Alaskans, European Americans, Filipino Americans, African Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, Hispanic Americans, Samoan Americans, Japanese Americans and South Sudanese, reach out in ministry to:
- Homeless families, as a host of the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter
- The neighboring community, A Place @ the Table (free community meal)
- Brother Francis Homeless Shelter, with 380 handcrafted sandwiches each month
- Clare House Women’s Shelter, with completed meals each month
For the past several years, First UMC has extended the ministries of its facilities to community groups such as:
- First Samoan UMC
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- 3 ALANON groups
- Co-Op Home School Group
- Alaska Prospectors
- Alaska Bar Exam
- 2 Recreational Soccer groups
- Other community wide events
It is not as if the people of First UMC live without challenges and brokenness. Our experience through earthquakes serves as a testimony to God’s grace and healing. The church building has withstood two major earthquakes. In March 1964, Anchorage was shaken by “The Great Alaska Earthquake” where the ground separated as roadways and building gave way. Through this earthquake First Methodist’s newly build sanctuary building stood strong and the people of Anchorage rallied to recover and rebuild an even stronger community. In November 2018 another major earthquake rattled the Anchorage community. While the destruction was not as severe, many structures were compromised, some roadways collapsed and many things were broken and seemed lost. Yet, through faith, First UMC placed broken pieces on the altar as we were reminded; when we bring our brokenness before God, we are healed by the saving grace of Christ Jesus our Lord. In Anchorage, God continues to make “Something Beautiful” of our lives.
Come and visit Alaska! During the summer months of tourism; nestled in downtown Anchorage, First UMC is graced with the presence of many visitors from around the United States and the World. While most of these visitors return home for the winter months, First UMC continues to open their doors throughout the cold winter months. Snow or shine, the doors are open, and the beautiful people of God are welcomed into a sanctuary of sacred space and agape love.