Monday, November 29, 2010

Snowmachines, Skiing, & Anchorage Korean UMC

One thing I learned early on as a rookie Alaskan.  I needed reasons to get outside in this amazing wilderness.  Now I could have stuck with hiking or kayaking.  But I am a man and am drawn to machines!  Motorcycling in the summer and snowmachining in the winter.  I think the reason I enjoy these sports is because they get me out of Anchorage.

Last Friday I took my son-in-law, Aaron Smith, to Turnagain Pass for his inaugural ride.  Sun was shining and the snow was fresh.  A wonderful time enjoying God's creation.

Saturday night was a bit of downhill skiing at Hilltop.  First time for Kim since her Achilles tendon rupture two years ago.  My first time on skiis for many years.  And it was great fun and not a single fall.

Sunday was spent at Anchorage Korean UMC.  All Korean UMC's in the Western Jurisdiction are supervised by Rev. Won Kie Kim, superintendent of the Korean Mission.  Everything was in Korean: worship, SPRC, church conference.  Rev. Kim translated some of it for me.  Here is a clip of their opening worship.

I did encourage them to become connected with other Alaskan United Methodists.

Next stop: Wasilla, Willow, and Palmer!

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chugiak and Girdwood

Sunday morning I stopped by my office on the way to Chugiak for church conference.  I slipped into worship at East to hear our youngest pastor in the conference.  Jenny Smith shared the second of a series dealing with technology and social media.  I had a nostalgic moment when I realized that in 1984 I preached my first sermon in Alaska in that pulpit when John Shaffer was pastor of East.  Jenny was with Kim that day as a two year old.  Now that two year old had grown up, mostly in Alaska, nurtured by the saints of Soldotna UMC and St. John UMC.  Here she was in that same pulpit.  Pretty cool dad moment for me.

The saints at Chugiak are like the energizer bunny.  They keep going and going!  Pastor Carlo Rapanut has an effective ministry and is a pretty good preacher.  They are still using a prayer response I stole and used in Soldotna and St. John years ago.  With just over 200 members and around 170 in worship they are managing a building and mortgage payments the same size as St. John.  Here is a video clip of part of Carlo's video pastor's report.

Then it was off to Girdwood.  They had just recently got some heat in their new building.  Ceiling drywall is being done this week.  A VIM electrician is coming next week.  They hope to be in the new space for Christmas.  Girdwood Chapel is hurting right now.   They have experienced two sudden deaths in their church and community.  The church's ministry is vital to the town and Jim Doepken is the only full-time, resident pastor.  I shared with them about the importance of apportioned giving and how other Alaska churches who are struggling with finances are giving so that churches like Girdwood can thrive.

Have a thankful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


It was an amazing weekend on the island visiting with the saints of Unalaska UMC and the Wilcox family.  There was virtually no wind the entire time!  Gorgeous white-capped mountains and calm seas.  Here's a photo of the ballfield which is leased by the church to the city.  Notice the parsonage with the green roof at the far end.
Turnover is very high at Unalaska with the fishing industry as the largest employer.  Pastor Dan Wilcox arranged for a tour of the crab processing plant which was fascinating.  Families move away quite often which creates many challenges for this small congregation.  They depend on Advance funds from other churches and conference support to keep going.  The Wilcox's are the only full time, resident pastoral family on the island.  Unalaska is one of our new Mission Congregations.  With this new designation we as an annual conference are saying that we want this ministry to be there and are willing to support it and help pay for it with our apportionment giving.

Among the many ministries Unalaska UMC has study groups, a new choir, Kids' Night Out, Internet cafe, Second Blessing, and more.  They recently installed a high tech projector in the sanctuary and plan to show movies for families on the island.  There is no movie theater at Unalaska.

Worship was sweet for me as I could gaze at the snow-capped mountains outside and watch the eagles diving and skimming the water.  Here's a video clip.

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fairbanks and Nome

Tis the season all UM's conferences!  Pastors and lay leaders dread it because it means preparing paperwork for the superintendent.  But so far the first three of 28 were very positive and hopeful.  Karen Martin-Tichenor invited me to preach at New Hope which I appreciated.  One of their mission fields is children.  I just love that the kids stay in the sanctuary during the sermon and create a craft or drawing which they bring forward during the offering.

I visited First UMC, Fairbanks, twice.  I had the honor of speaking at the Celebrate Recovery service on Saturday evening.  What a needed and blessed ministry!  I returned Sunday evening to lead their church conference which was creative and fun.  First UMC is a happening church with an amazing array of ministries.  Here is a clip of Pastor Tom Telfer sharing a piece of the ministry puzzle.

Then I flew to Nome via Anchorage which was a bit weird.  One of their saints, Esther Bourdon, is in Anchorage in the hospital following heart surgery.  I offered to visit Esther and suggested at their church conference that they sing a song which I recorded on my iphone.  Tomorrow I plan to show the video clip to Esther.  Another example of how God's Spirit moves in and through our connectedness to bring healing and hope.

Next stop: Unalaska!

Grace and peace,

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Our Mission Field

Five Alaskan pastors attended the New Church Leadership Institute in Seattle last week.  Luther Oconer (Sitka), Judy Shook (Juneau), Jenny Smith (Anchorage), Leila Disburg, and myself.  A long time ago I heard a definition of maturity that has stuck with me.  "Maturity is realizing that the most important lessons in life are the ones we thought we already knew."

I was surprised that one of the take-away learnings at the NCLI was so simple.  Focus on your mission field.  You will hear me talk about this at charge conferences which begin this weekend in Fairbanks and Nome.  Do you know your mission field?  If you live in a small town the city limits may contain the mission field of your church.  If you live in a city it might be defined by a major road or a river or mountains.

We are admonished by John Wesley that the world is our parish.  I talked with Bishop Hagiya about the notion that our pastors are appointed, not to a local church, but to a community.  He wholeheartedly agreed.  I invite all of our Alaskan United Methodists to ponder and discuss this question.  What would ministry look like if our focus was more on our mission field than inside the walls of our building?

Let's celebrate ALL God is doing in our churches, both inside and outside.  And when it comes to our church goals for 2011 let's remember to focus on our mission field as we make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.

Grace and peace,