Westminster Presbyterian Church

Anchorage

 The Westminster United Presbyterian Church was organized May 3, 1964, to be located at Sand Lake and Raspberry Roads. The Commission to organize the Westminster Church included Elder Alice Green, Elder Jack Simpson, and the Reverends Harold Banks, Joseph Walstad and Ralph Weeks.

Westminster Charter Members included:

Louise Peterson Reynolds (Mrs. William)

Mary Davis Muelberger (Mrs. Eugene)

Helen Schein Coolidge (Mrs. Donald)

Donald James Coolidge.

 Rev. Walstad, formerly pastor at Hillcrest Presbyterian, was the organizing pastor and served from April 22, 1965 through March 31, 1966. He resigned to what appears to be a controversy over Sunday School curriculum involving "the moderates" versus the "extreme rightists." In other words, some of the congregation favored the Covenant Life curriculum and others the Faith in Life curriculum.

Matters became so intense that, unless the matter was resolved, the Presbytery ministerial relations committee states it would not approve a call for a new pastor and the National Board of Missions would not approve continued financing for the church. The Rev. Ralph H. Weeks was moderator of the Ministerial Relations Committee at the time.

Apparently some progress had been made in resolving the controversy in that E.B. Muelberger, moderator of the pastor nominating committee, wrote to the Rev. William L. Slemp on April 4, 1966, extolling the advantages of the open pastorate:

Westminster church organized in May of 1964 has a membership of 29 and a church school enrollment of 75, Muelberger wrote the prospective pastor. The church building, which had been in use for a year, was about 90 percent complete and the three-bedroom manse -- about one mile from the church -- is modest, but comfortable. Probably salary for a new minister would be in the vicinity of $6,000, plus $600 car allowance. Payment for manse utilities would not be included. The salary package would be paid by the Board of National Missions. 

Westminster, according to Muelberger, was the youngest of the five Presbyterian churches in the Great Anchorage Area, and presented a real challenge in a rapidly growing area. There were a large number of beautiful homes being built, a new school, a shopping center, and so forth. The Baptists and the Lutherans were currently in the area, and two other denominations were considering establishing churches in the vicinity. 

The Rev. Mr. Slemp must have thought himself up to the challenge in that he arrived in Alaska December 4, 1966 and was installed as pastor of the church on January 8, 1967. 

Slemp left on April 30, 1969 to accept a call at Tulelake, CA.

On June 3, 1969, the Rev. Mr. David Koch, stated clerk for the Presbytery, received the following letter:

Dear Sir:

For various reasons, the active mem-bership of Westminster United Pres-byterian Church has become so small that it is no longer possible to carry on a normal church program.

Because of this, the session respect-fully petitions the Presbytery of the Yukon for the dissolution of the church.

(signed) Mrs. Peggy Crouse,

clerk of session (temporary 

On June 8, 1969, the Yukon Presbytery petitions the Board of National Missions for a moratorium on loan payments being made by the Westminster Church -- on loans in the amounts of $5,000, $10,000 and another $10,000.

On October 31, 1969, the congregation was officially dissolved and the building was placed under the supervision of the Administrative Commission of Presbytery -- pending the development of a proposal for an ecumenical ministry in the Sand Lake area with the use of the former Westminster building as an ecumenical center.

Negotiations began with the United Methodist Church to establish a joint ministry with the Presbyterians. Some recall that the Episcopalians were invited to parti-cipate, but nothing came of that invitation.

The Rev. Thomas R. Teply, Stated Clerk for Yukon Presbytery, forwarded the following records books to the Presbyterian Historical Society on November 13, 1974:

Hillcrest Register 1952-1971 (one volume); Hillcrest Session Minutes 1952-1971 (two volumes); Westminster Register 1964-1969; and Westminster Session Minutes 1964-1969.

Notice that they were received is in the files.


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