More work teams are needed in this remote Alaska church
by Rev. Jim Doepken
Sitting on the southern edge of the Seward Peninsula in Alaska, Nome is home to Community United Methodist Church. In 1906 the Women’s Home Missionary Society of The Methodist Church established a mission to protect the tradition of reindeer herding when Nome was a bustling mining community. A few years later, the first Methodist Church opened its doors and the current Community Church was the result of a union of predominantly white and Native congregations.
To this day, life on the remote shores of the Bering Sea is difficult. Getting supplies is difficult. Traveling is difficult. And the cost of goods, services, and fuel make life in the city difficult.
Because of these challenges, Nome Community UMC has been a missional priority for the Alaska Conference and the church has relied upon the help of others, outside of Nome and outside of Alaska, to keep building bridges in a world where cultures collide and facilities take a beating in the harsh winters.
It is for these reasons that The United Methodist Church of Chugiak, Alaska took a small work team to Nome July 10-17 to install flooring for the Nome church. This was a big job and after six long days of work only 25 to 35 percent of the job was done. There were delays in flights and delays in preparing the floor. There were very Nome-like problems with a shortage of some tools and a delayed flight for the flooring professional who brought some materials and expertise for a day. And the seven team members, while hard-working and well-meaning, had a lot to learn.
But the grace and hospitality shown by the Nome congregation was so affirming, and the work so satisfying, and the weather so spectacular, that some members of the Chugiak team hope to head back for a September work team and could use a few more skilled people to come along.
And that’s not all. In dialogue with Community UMC leadership, it is hoped that there might be another church or another group who could go up to Nome in August to pick up where the July work team left off. All that is needed is a Moses — a team leader who can make it happen.
And, if not this year, the facility in Nome is going to need much work over the next several years. After vinyl flooring they are in desperate need of carpeting. After carpeting there is repair work. After repair work there is painting.
And all the while that church in Nome will be providing a place for community in one beautiful, rugged, remote, expensive corner of Alaska.
If you would like to see pictures of The United Methodist Church of Chugiak work team in action, see their website. And if you’d like to hear more about sending a team to Nome and what is entailed, feel free to reach out to Pastor Jim Doepken in Chugiak.
I was the pastor in Nome from 1974-1981 and when we first arrived in Nome, the building was in great need for repair and two lay persons came and made it possible for us to survive the first harsh winter. Volunteers are very helpful in that particular situation. This type of repair is needed on a regular basis. Blessings on anyone who heeds the call to serve on the Seward Peninsula in Western Alaska. There is no place like Nome!