Jewel Lake Parish Anchorage
Harold Gallwas gave a report on Westminster Administrative Commission on the Jewel Lake Parish in September of 1970. Presbytery voted to have the Commission continue for another year with some changes in its membership. The Commission's concensus of opinions seemed to be that, with the arrival of the new minister at Trinity to work with Thomas Whitehead, the new pastor at Turnagain Methodist, and the activities of a paid worker, the Jewel Lake Parish Church would be well on its way toward being a going concern.
May 16, 1971 was Charter Day for the newly formed Jewel Lake Parish -- a joint venture (union parish) between the United Methodist Church and the United Presbyterian Church.
A document dated May 5, 1971, indicated that according to records held by the Presbytery, the following persons had been members of the Westminster congregation and now wished to become members of the Jewel Lake congregation:
Baptized children were:
"As stated clerk of the Presbytery of the Yukon, holding records of the former Westminster Presbyterian Church, I hereby transfer to the Jewel Lake Parish Mrs. Lois Hautanen and her children Terry Lynn and Nelson E. Hautanen, Mrs. Louise Peterson Reynolds and her children, and Mrs. Enafae Stark Shipman". (signed) Nick J. Brewer, Jr., Stated Clerk
Those seeking membership by transfer into the new Jewel Lake Parish were:
The Jewel Lake Parish is the result of an attempt to resurrect the former Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 1968, Westminster Presbyterian Church was closed by action of the Presbytery. This left the Sand Lake area of Anchorage without a "mainline, liberal church." Turnagain United Methodist Church and Trinity Presbyterian Church had members in Sand Lake and both denominations owned property in the area. It was financially impractical to have two churches of such close theological orientation within a quarter of a mile of one another.
Consequently, under the pastoral leadership of Chuck Horner of Turnagain and Ralph Weeks of Trinity, an attempt to re-open the former Westminster Church as a part of a larger parish was made. The original plan as they conceived it was to develop a larger parish over a two-year period (1970-1972). It would have a three member staff, a multiple program, three meeting places, and a unified budget. There were three phases to this program. The first was the formulation of a meeting place at the former Westminster Church. The congregation would be basically composed of members from Turnagain and Trinity, and would worship and have a Christian Education program. The second phase would be shared programs on an increasingly larger scale between the three bodies. The final phase would be a total union as proposed above.
Just as people of Jewel Lake Parish were beginning to get used to worshiping together and having a Church School together, both Rev. Horner and Rev. Weeks left within two weeks of one another. Two months later, in June 1970, Rev. Whitehead was appointed pastor for Turnagain and Jewel Lake. In December, house meetings were held with potential congregational members from Jewel Lake. They decided to have a church, and to pledge toward underwriting the budget for 1971. In January and February a proposed constitution was composed and accepted by congregational vote. In March the Jewel Lake Council had its first meeting and began to be a separate political entity. In May, the congregation chartered 50 members. It has maintained strong support of worship and program throughout the summer and anticipates a good fall. the Church School is fully staffed, and building has been well maintained, and new families are attending. The average attendance at worship throughout the summer has been 26, which in the face of Alaskan summer attendance is excellent -- a far cry from the average of five the summer before.
At present the relationship between the three churches is that of close cooperation, where that is feasible. Pastors Handley and Whitehead are filling the ministerial role at Jewel lake. The summer program was all done on the larger parish basis. Wednesday School in June and July was held at Trinity, with Jewel Lake providing more than its proportional share of teachers. Day camping for third through sixth graders was held in August. Creative Worship was held on Wednesday nights and rotated at the three sites. Family weekend outings, and a Vacation Church School were also a part of the shared activities.
As we approach fall, we anticipate cooperative programs in three areas where we had it last year, but on an intensified basis. The two pastors will continue to preach at Jewel Lake. The two youth groups will continue to meet together. The women of the parish are organized to develop programs together.
The Jewel lake Parish invited two members from Trinity and two from Turnagain to meet with the three-person Jewel Lake committee. This inter-parish committee voted unanimously to recommend that Jewel Lake call a person with Religious Education background. This person would serve all three churches. The list of priorities was: 1. Youth Work; 2. Adult; and 3. Children.
Pastors Handley and Whitehead would continue to assume pastoral duties at Jewel Lake. In May, a Jewel Lake congregational meeting voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the inter-church committee. A candidate committee was formed composed of seven from Jewel Lake, one each from Trinity and Turnagain, and the two pastor.
The object of this paper is to provide a clear picture of the history of Jewel Lake Parish. Since the history of the parish is all that is germane, I have taken the liberty of omitting the story of Westminster Presbyterian Church with the exception of it's dissolution. This history was prepared from the following sources: The minutes of the Presbytery of Yukon, the minutes of the Session of Trinity United Presbyterian, conversations with the Rev. Mr. David Koch, Stated Clerk, Presbytery of the Yukon; the Rev. Mr. Tom Whitehead, pastor of Turnagain Methodist Church, and the Rev. Mr. Ralph Weeks.
The pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church accepted another call in the spring of 1969. On June 3, 1969, the session, by letter, requested that the Presbytery of the Yukon dissolve Westminster United Presbyterian Church. five days later Presbytery met in a pro re nata (Latin for: unexpected contingency) at Westminster United Presbyterian Church and the following action was taken:
2. An Administrative Commission was established to make inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the dissolution.
3. That the same commission exercise presbytery’s care and oversight of the Westminster United Presbytery Church property (When a United Presbyterian Church is discontinued for any reason, all assets and liabilities become the property of the Presbytery.)
4. That National Missions grant a moratorium on the loans outstanding at Westminster.
5. That the Presbytery express an ecumenical interest in this church.
The Administration Commission:
Elder Harold Gallwas, Trinity
Elder George Gustafson, Trinity
Elder Robert Swetnam, Anchorage First
Rev. Mr. Dean R. Hickox, Fairbanks First
Rev. Mr. Richard Madden, Palmer
Rev. Mr. David Koch, Hillcrest
The first meeting of the Commission was held on August 5, 1969. It was noted that the Commission should meet with the Session of Westminster to thoroughly investigate the reasons for dissolution, examine the physical condition of the church, and examine the financial standing of the church. If the church were dissolved, the Commission felt three alterNatives were open:
2. sell the property to a business concern or,
3. establish an ecumenical parish.
The commission’s chairman met with the elders of Westminster on August 12 and 28, 1969. The desire for dissolution was found still prevalent in the church.
On September 3, 1969 the Commission re-convened. The chairman reported on the meetings with the Westminster Session and they were approved. It was further reported that conversations with the Rev. Mr. Charles Horner indicated that Turnagain United Methodist church was interested in an ecumenical mission at the Westminster site. Six days later another meeting was held with Mr. Horner present. The bulk of the time was taken discussing the meeting in Palmer was held with the Superintendent of the Alaska Mission of the United Methodist Church. The Commission and the Superintendent felt that there were no problems that could not be worked out.
The ecumenical project would very definitely have to be originally sponsored by the Methodist and United Presbyterians with the two churches, Turnagain and Trinity and their pastors assuming leadership. However, the proposed plan was definitely to remain open in hopes that other denominations would participate in the Mission; namely, the Episcopal and American Baptist Churches (more on this later.)
The commission’s final meeting was held on September 18, 1969. The proposed plan for ecumenical mission was set out in four steps:
A. November 1969 to May 1970
B. June 1970 to August 1970
C. September 1970 to September 1971
D. September 1971 - goal 1972
(It should be noted at this point that it was in the minds of Presbytery and the Alaska Mission of the United Methodist Church that Trinity, Jewel Lake and Turnagain might become one Parish.)
The Administrative commission went on to recommend the following five items to Presbytery:
Dissolve Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Urge Session of Trinity to develop an Ecumenical Mission at Westminster site.
Continue present Commission for another year.
Presbytery grant Commission Session-power until Ecumenical Mission established.
Request moratorium on all National Mission debts.
The following week (September 19-20, 1969) at Wasilla, the Presbytery of the Yukon met and approved the above reports and recommendations. One point of the Presbytery minutes should be quoted:
"It is moved and seconded that the Session of Trinity United Presbyterian Church, Spenard, be urged to develop an ecumenical mission at the location of Westminster church."
An amendment was moved, seconded and passed that the Mission Strategy and Evangelism Committee be requested to develop funding of this mission up to $4000.00. The motion as amended was passed.
The Session of Trinity met on September 22 and voted to comply with presbytery’s request. I have included this quotation because the question has been raised as to the power of the Session to do this. The Session as the elected representatives of the congregation is completely within the guidelines of the Form of Government of the United Presbyterian Church. If a question of an actual merger were to arise, it would call for a vote of the congregation.
By this time a few couples from Turnagain and Trinity had started to attend the Jewel Lake Parish. In addition, a few people came from the old Westminster, First Presbyterian, First Methodist and Immanuel Presbyterian. During the winter of 1969-1970, both the Protestant Episcopal and the American Baptist Churches were approached. Although both are on the Church sign and in the publicity photographs of erection of the sign, the American Baptists do not have the personnel to assist in the project and the Episcopals seem to lack the inclination to participate.
In October the Stated Clerk of Presbytery obtained a ruling from the Office of the Stated Clerk of General Assembly which stated a Union Church could be organized without there first being two separate churches.
The new infant progressing nicely until a quirk of circumstances removed both the Rev. Mr. Horner and the Rev. Mr. Weeks within ten days of each other. The Parish basically treaded water until the Rev. Mr. Whitehead became pastor at Turnagain in May 1970. He, by maximum effort was able to maintain a ministry at Jewel Lake which became oriented at Turnagain. With my arrival we again had a full staff. Since October, Jewel Lake has been slowly rebuilding.
Alice Green was hired half time for two months in November and given the task of calling on the people of the congregation in order to determine the needs of parish, and the talents and experience of the congregation. She was further charged with the task of preparing a basic set of bylaws for the Jewel Lake Church.
During December a series of fellowship/ stewardship dinners were held in the homes of the people. During these dinners the stewardship need was presented, the mission of the parish was discussed, and a closer fellowship was promoted.
Perhaps at this point we should review the finances of the parish. In 1970 the United Methodist Church and Presbytery of the Yukon pledged $3,000 to the operation of the parish. The latter included $1,251.00 in the Westminster Manse Escrow account as part of its $3,000. These funds were originally earmarked for a staff person. Of this $6,000, about a thousand from each denomination has been expended for Alice’s salary and for required operation of the church. 1971 projects the following picture -- Presbytery has allotted $2,000 and the Methodists $2,500. In addition the $1,251 from the old Westminster checking account is also available. It was discovered in December 1970 that this sum was in the Westminster checking account. The escrow account which grows at a rate of $25.00 per month, in reality contained $2489.70. The Administrative Committee met and expended the funds as follows: $1,251 turned over to Jewel lake treasurer, $25.00 monthly escrow income to make interest payments on one of the mortgages, $2,439.70 deposited in one year certificate to be used to obtain a staff person.
As I mentioned earlier, at the inception of the parish plan, it was conceived that a merged church with three points would exist by sometime in the year 1972. Both Mr. Horner and Mr. Weeks, prior to their departure, realized that it could not be completed in that time frame. some form of merger is still quite possible, but it is in the future. It is my personal feeling that Jewel Lake needs to form a personal identity before it can be merged with anyone.
Jewel Lake in all probability will obtain a staff person this year. This might have happened in 1970 if the two pastors had not left. Both denominations indicated last year and have indicated again that this is the basic reason for their giving money. The Jewel Lake Council has indicated that it would probably look for a professional Director of Religious Education to serve all three churches. This will provide better Christian Education for all three churches. When this comes about it will offset the amount of time the pastors spend working at Jewel Lake.
The proposed bylaws which would be the basis of the Jewel Lake Union Church are now being studied. As I have said earlier Alice Green was charged with the task of preparing them. After a study of what other union churches have done, the proposal now under study was presented. The document has been reviewed by both pastors in concert with the Methodist Mission Superintendent and the Stated Clerk of Presbytery. At this writing the bylaws are being reviewed by the Jewel Lake Council (an advisory board made up of three elders from Trinity, three officers of Turnagain, and four members from Jewel Lake, plus the pastors.) They will then be voted upon by the Jewel Lake congregation. After this they must be approved by the Administrative Commission and by Presbytery on the Presbyterian side and the Mission Superintendent and Bishop of the Methodist Church.
I apologize, not for the length of this history, but for its many omissions. Yet, I hope a clear picture of the Jewel Lake history has emerged. The parish has a challenging and exciting potential. It is my earnest prayer that I can report a giving active church this time next year.
...Thomas B. Handley