By Superintendent Carlo Rapanut
For the past decade or so, I’ve observed a seemingly growing interest in all things Alaska as evidenced by the number of reality TV shows focusing on some facet of life in the 49th state. Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, Alaska State Troopers, Alaskan Bush People, Alaska this, Alaska that. I did a quick Google search and it yielded thirty-four (34) reality TV shows about Alaska produced since 2005. That’s a lot of shows about Alaska. Incidentally, one of the first official phone calls I received in my role as Superintendent is from a reality TV outfit supposedly working on a series entitled “Alaskan Pastor” and were looking for a certain type of pastor that fits their storyline.
Now, I am not writing this to debate whether these shows are factual or not. But my reflection is this: Alaska has a story to tell. In fact, many stories to tell. And there is a lot of interest in these stories. There is something about life in the Last Frontier that peeks at peoples’ curiosity. Case in point: In my travels across the United States for denominational work, the moment I introduce myself and where I serve, the conversation almost always goes to: “Wow! Alaska! What’s it like to serve in Alaska?”
So, Alaska has a story to tell. And we in the Alaska United Methodist Conference have stories to tell. Stories of life-giving, life-transforming mission and ministry. One of the things I love about my role as Superintendent is that every Fall and Winter for five years now, I get to travel and witness the great things that God is doing through the people called Methodists in each of our ministry settings across the state. These are ministries that are vital not only to the life of each church but to the life of the greater community from prophetic witness against social ills to providing support to very thin social safety nets. And these are ministries that are done side by side in each of our churches with progressives and conservatives alike; with young and old; queer and straight; native and immigrant; brown, black and white.
And so with this blog we invite you to a story-telling, story-sharing journey with us. The Alaska Conference is a small conference and in many ways we see ourselves as one church with many doors, many expressions of unique ministry. Every week, we will open a door and give you a front row seat to the action. Every door will open you to a different facet of what it means to be a United Methodist disciple of Jesus Christ in Alaska.
This is not a scripted reality show. This is our reality! And we would like to share our stories with you with the hopes of cultivating in your hearts an awareness of what is happening in our part of the United Methodist connection and a prayer that it sparks interest in exploring ways to be in meaningful partnership
Stay tuned! Door number 1 opens next week.
Carlo: I am Richard Gilbert who served 5 interims in AK: 1st UMC Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Homer and Unalaska. I truly appreciate your “One Church, Many Doors.” I also appreciate the images, especially the last one with the “Exit” sign and the open door. So true, we exit through doors into God’s big, bright and blighted world. If possible, an “Entrance” photo to begin your message and an “exit” photo to conclude would be visually powerful. Just a thought. Alaska is a land of fantasy for many, but few wish to experience the reality of yearly living. I find similarities to life in Wyoming. Enough. Best. Richard
The “entrance” photo was not included in the email that was sent out (because it pushed the text too far down the email) but is included in the blog post.
How wonderful! I was the Clergy on the Mission Team that painted those doors a couple of years ago. Thanks for the memories.
Thanks for starting this conversation, Carlo, and for creating this storytelling opportunity. I look forward to reading more, and possibly adding a chapter or two. You’re right…we need to connect to each other across this state through our stories.