Alaska Conference Online Worship Services During the Coronavirus Emergency (Sun. March 15)

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area has directed all of her churches (including Alaska) to suspend in-person worship gatherings for two weeks. Therefore many Alaska United Methodist Churches are moving to online worship for the time being.

These services are for Sunday, March 15th.

Our Superintendent, Rev. Carlo Rapanut will lead an Alaska Conference online worship service on the Alaska Conference Facebook Page at 11 AM. This is available for all of our churches to use and many will be logging in there to join as as Conference.

Several other churches are utilizing other means to be in ministry in their specific community or are using the online services they are used to using. Below is a list of the available online worship services the Alaska Conference knows is happening this week. Feel free to join any of our church services as they happen live or watch them later.

  • Alaska Conference — Online Worship at 11 am via Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/alaskaumc/. Carlo will be online beginning at 10:45 am. For those wanting to join by phone via Zoom (audio only), call (669)9006833 and enter the Meeting ID 203 886 969 when prompted.
  • St John UMC — Livestream at 9:15am traditional and 11:30am contemporary. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC157rFbLUFLjOH9XvQTjCIQ. Pastor Emily is preaching and Pastor Andy will be the worship leader.
  • Seward and Moose Pass UMCs — Online Worship at 10:30 AM via Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/SewardMoosePassUmc/ (This is a joint service with St. Peter Episcopal and Resurrection Lutheran)
  • Homer UMC — Worship on Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/HomerUnitedMethodistChurchAlaska/) tomorrow at 11 am. Pastor Lisa will be on when she gets it figured out. She will use Carlo’s video for Sunday evening.
  • Palmer UMC — Worshipping at 9:30 via ZOOM https://greaternw.zoom.us/j/103179309. For those choosing to join using the ZOOM app, not a computer, Meeting ID is 103 179 309.
  • First UMC (Anchorage) — Worship at 10 AM via Zoom — https://zoom.us/j/663705619 Meeting ID: 663 705 619
  • Girdwood Chapel UMC — Worship at 10:30am via Zoom. Join us via this link https://greaternw.zoom.us/j/814064446, or through Zoom Meeting ID 814 064 446, or by calling +1 253-215-8782 and entering the Meeting ID. We will transition our worship service at 11am to join the Alaska conference worship.
  • UMC of Chugiak — Prerecorded worship service will be uploaded to our Facebook page, YouTube Channel, and website this evening.  The intent is to flow from our service offering into the Alaska Conference livestream at 11:00 am.

Winter Rendezvous highlights Alaska’s unique ministries

On Thursday, February 20th, Clergy and Laypersons from the Alaska United Methodist Conference gathered for their “Winter Rendezvous” meetings. It is a regular, yearly event to meet with one another and do the work of the conference. This year, however, there was the added responsibility of working towards Saturday’s vote to petition the respective bodies to transition from a missionary conference to a missionary district within the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Before Conference attendees got to that vote, there was much time spent dreaming and visioning the future of ministry in the Conference.

Led by the worship team of Lisa Talbott, Erin Day, Karen Dammann, Murray Crookes, and David Hall, members of the Conference followed the story of Ruth from the Bible as they shared about the movement from “Famine to Fullness.” They shared their history and celebrated it. They confessed those things which they need to let go in order to move forward. They shared about their communities and who it is that God is calling them to embrace right outside their local church doors.

Throughout the time together, there was a symbolic pruning of a tree with a gradual blossoming into new ministries. This spiritual exercise enabled the participants to envision the fruits of their labors in ministry as the people of the Alaska Conference.

One of the highlights of that time was imagining how Alaskan United Methodists might best organize themselves for ministry whether or not they are part of another conference. There was a freedom to think outside of all the boxes we have put ourselves in over the years. What ministries are important to hold onto? What staff or teams or committees would be needed to support such ministries?

There was a lot of energy in the room as attendees pictured ministry highly focused on the work of local churches, where churches felt supported and encouraged by the larger connection.

After two days of this creative work Saturday’s Special Called Session of the Alaska Conference did then pass two petitions to General Conference and the Western Jurisdictional Conference which has been announced to the larger church.

The importance of this time together was not lost on participants. Carolyn Gordon, Lay Leader from First United Methodist Church in Anchorage was impressed by how smoothly the session went and appreciated how the time together closed with “spiritual worship and fellowship as good shepherds of our Lord and Savior, Jesus would have us do.”

Press Release — Alaska Conference Special Session affirms request to become a district, seeks inclusion within PNW Conference

By Rev. Jim Doepken

February 24, 2020

During a Special Called Session of the Alaska Conference of The United Methodist Church this weekend, members voted to dissolve their missionary conference status and become a ‘mission district’ within the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest Conference.

The decision, which still needs approval at the General Conference 2020 as well as the Western Jurisdiction Conference in July, was made after two days of holy conferencing, dreaming and worship for clergy and laity leadership.

The recommendation to do this came from the Alaska Conference Future Visions Task Force and Leadership Team.

According to Leadership Team chairperson, Rev. Andy Bartel, the decision to move forward in this direction was multi-faceted.

Bartel reminded attendees of the General Board of Global Ministries’ intention to cease missionary conference designation within the United States, noting that “2020 is the final year that Alaska will receive funds.”

Additionally, by acting now Alaskan United Methodists would seek to retain some agency in a time of denominational duress. Defining the nature and structure of the new ‘mission district’ will require conversations with leaders in both the Pacific Northwest Conference and Alaska.

The Session acted upon two recommendations from the Leadership Team while also receiving a question of law pertaining to the General Conference petition.

First was a petition to the 2020 General Conference to discontinue the missionary conference status of the Alaska United Methodist Conference. The petition also asked the General Conference to honor “the authority and responsibility of the Western Jurisdiction to determine the number, names and boundaries of the annual conferences in the jurisdiction.” In United Methodist polity, it is left to jurisdictions in the U.S. to define boundaries of annual conferences.

After some discussion, this petition passed with 49 for, 1 against, with 2 abstentions.

Following adoption of the first petition, lay member Lonnie Brooks asked Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky a question of law consisting of two parts. The first part was whether or not the action of the conference was legal, and the second part was whether or not the Disciplinary exception to the normal due date for petitions (¶507.6) applies to a special session of an annual conference such as was held in Alaska.

The bishop’s preliminary ruling was that the action is legal and that the exception clause applies to any session of an annual conference held within the specified time period, without regard to whether it is a special session or a regular session, giving the General Conference’s Committee on Reference no discretion as to whether or not such a petition will be received. The bishop’s decision, when finalized, will be forwarded for review by the Judicial Council when it meets just prior to General Conference.

Brooks said that it was his intent to clarify the terms upon which Alaska’s petition will be received and processed by General Conference 2020. It has bearing upon how legislation is received from any Special Called Session across the denomination.

The Special Session moved on to consider the second petition requesting that the Western Jurisdictional Conference include the State of Alaska within the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. In its rationale, the petition cited natural and cultural links between Alaska and Washington that have continued throughout the history of both conferences. Currently, they share several staff positions and episcopal supervision, crossover between ministry boards, and engage in cross-conference training.

As the petition was discussed, it was also highlighted that the 19 non-stop flights a day between Anchorage and Seattle was significantly greater than between other cities across the jurisdiction.

This petition passed with 48 for, 3 against, with 1 abstention.

“Every generation of Methodists in Alaska who came before us had to make bold and significant decisions during their time, many of which we still reap the fruits of to this day,” reflected Alaska Conference Superintendent Carlo Rapanut. “Our actions today are not just for our own present need but are our generation’s gift to those who come after us.” Rapanut added that he hoped that these bold steps would ensure a “vital, life-giving” future for the United Methodist Christian witness in Alaska.

“I pray that the General Conference and Western Jurisdictional Conference affirm our desire to leave this lasting legacy of faithfulness.”

More resources and information related to these actions can be found on the Alaska Conference Website

An Open Letter In Support of Becoming a Mission District

12 February 2020

An open letter to our fellow Alaskan United Methodists:

Greetings in the name of our risen Savior and Lord Jesus Christ,

In just a few short days, we will be gathering together for a specially called session of the Alaska Conference of the United Methodist Church to consider one item of business, shall we petition the General Conference to change our status from a Missionary Conference to a Mission District?

Our response to that question is YES.  Four years ago, Thomas Kemper, the General Secretary for the Board of Global Ministries made it clear that his intent was to cease having missionary annual conferences within the bounds of the United States. The year 2020 will be our final year in receiving funds from that General Board.  Moving forward, we are not large enough to become a stand-alone conference. We believe that a Mission District will provide us with a path forward that allows us to continue to organize for ministry in flexible and sustainable ways for years to come.

Some might say we should remain a conference because of our geographic distance from other conferences. Hawaii is a district of the California-Pacific Conference and it has worked well. Some might say we would lose our unique ability to raise funds from outside for our truly missional contexts like Unalaska, or Nome, or Willow, or Ketchikan. We believe this change will better position us to advocate for funding of these truly unique and mission congregations.

While it is difficult to imagine all the ramifications of such a change, we believe that this move is in the best interests of all Alaskan United Methodists for a sustainable way forward in mission and ministry.

We know that this is a time of great uncertainty in the United Methodist Church, but we also know that God has gone before us, and God also hems us in. We are not alone as we bravely make these next steps forward as together we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. May God’s grace be with us always.

Your fellow disciples,

the Rev. Andrew J. Bartel, Lead Pastor St John UMC Anchorage

the Rev. Emily Carroll, Pastor of Discipleship & Justice St John Anchorage

Lonnie Brooks, Lay Member to Annual Conference St John UMC Anchorage

Von Cawvey, Lay Member to Annual Conference St John UMC Anchorage

Tina Racy, Alternate Lay Member to Annual Conference St John UMC Anchorage

“Small Church, Big Heart” — Sitka UMC

Submitted by Rev. Bennie Grace P. Nabua of Sitka UMC.

The front doors of Sitka UMC.

Small Church, Big Heart

The United Methodist Church is blessed to be able to minister and serve in this beautiful island of Sitka in South East Alaska.  This is a town with a population of about 9,000 people, a 14 mile road system, and a rich history of Russian influence. It is home to Tlingit and Haida Alaska Native groups, was the site of the Alaska Purchase, and was formerly the capital of Alaska.

Life in this “rock” as locals say,  is serene and simple but  it is not without challenges as Sitka is only accessible by plane or boat.  High cost of living, difficult access to low cost housing, growing senior population, and substance abuse are also realities that Sitkans face in varying degrees. But being the Alaskans that we are, resilience and community help people cope and thrive. The strong and close-knit community fosters a  “we make it happen” spirit that is evident in arts, education, sports, recreation and even mission.

Manna Lunch

The breath-taking beauty of the mountains and the islands cannot hide the other side of  the city that shows a growing number of people who live in the margins. The Salvation Army has their Monday to Friday lunches that we support in cash and in kind. Saturday lunch is initiated by St Gregory’s Roman Catholic Church and Sundays is Manna Lunch where five churches take turns in providing hot soup and brown bag lunches.

We serve on first Sundays of the month and the hustle and bustle begins when volunteers come to prepare sandwiches followed by our Sunday school kids packing them. After service at 12:30, volunteers serve at the site and converse with our unsheltered friends.  

Children and youth ministry are of central importance in this congregation.

Children and Youth Ministry

Our young families in the congregation tell of how child-friendly the church is and take note of the love our Sunday school teachers have for kids. Aside from Sunday School, our Vacation Bible School, Advent and Lenten workshops continue to draw kids in the community.  

We are excited  to have opened The Journey, our Middle School Class and continue on with our BeTween, our pre-teen ministry to provide a safe space for them to explore their growing faith and ready them to face the challenges of teen life. 

Sacred Spaces

We have our Choir and Bells ministry that meets on Wednesday nights and  two offerings for adults on Thursdays that provide opportunities to carve out sacred spaces in their busy schedules. In the morning, we have an ecumenical group that attends the Contemplative Reading of Scriptures (now in Luke) and, in the evening, a Bible Study (now in the Gospel of Mark).  We also have our Choir and Bells ministry that meet on Wednesday nights. 

Dream and Work

We dream  and work big for our youth ministry and we pray that God will continue to raise adult leaders who will invest in walking along side our young in life and faith.  We dream and work  to be more rooted in the Word and invested in lives of those who are in the margins.  We dream and work  to be in connection with God and others to grow our community of faith called to worship and serve this community we love.

The sanctuary where we dream together and work together.

“Neighbors Out the Front Door” — Aldersgate UMC

Submitted by Rev. Karen Dammann, Aldersgate UMC

The doors of Aldersgate UMC in Juneau, Alaska.

Aldersgate United Methodist Church was founded just 33 years ago in 1986. The congregation was intentionally planted in the midst of a low income housing area, to better serve those who live on the margins in the Mendenhall Valley. This setting sees a very high level of transition in and out of the neighborhood, with a high number of people moving in and out on a monthly basis. The congregation is a wonderful point of stability here, but it has not always been easy being off of “the beaten” path in such a rapidly changing environment. The immediate neighborhood has not been able to support the congregation financially over the years, and the next circle of housing is difficult to connect with due the configuration of streets in the area. We have had to employ some creativity in reaching out beyond the immediate setting to engage those who want to participate in our ministries and who can offer financial stability.

A new development of condos is going in across the street. The trees have been cleared and ground has been broken, and we anticipate steady construction through the winter. This will bring home owners to our immediate setting and we are excited about the stability that this will offer. We are looking forward to welcoming our new neighbors and offering them our hospitality.

New neighbors will be moving in across the street from Aldersgate UMC.

Our latest project was an attempt to respond to the serious lack of affordable child care in Juneau. Under the leadership of a member of Aldersgate who is passionate about serving the needs of children and families, we have become a Childcare Center licensed by the State of Alaska. We partner with the State and with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska to provide childcare for over 30 children from very low income families.

We have intentionally sought to be a safe place for the LGBTQ community in Juneau. We host family nights, potlucks, game nights, dances, open mics, and other celebrations, including a Celebration of the Saints of the LGBTQ community, who have lost their lives in the fight for equality.

Stability is our greatest challenge as our members and constituents are constantly moving into and out of Juneau. It impacts our ministry at every level, from volunteers who manage our ministries to our finances. Last year all but one of our newly received members moved to the lower 48. Never-the-less, we continue in the work we are called to in our Mission Field of the Mendenhall Valley and Juneau.

Thank you for your prayers and your support!