Presbyterians and The Pipeline Ministry

 Presbyterian chaplains served the workers in the gold fields in the 1900s, the workers in the copper mines in the 1920s and 1930s, the workers on the Alaska Highway and along the Alaska Railroad in the 1940s and 1950s, and it was to be no different in the 1970s with the construction of the 800 mile long Alaska Pipeline.

Synod Associate Executive Gordon Corbett served as chairperson of the Alaska Christian Conference Task Force formed to oversee the pipeline chaplaincy effort.

 At the time, Corbett noted that the task force would provide “opportunities for religious groups which have not had experience working together” to do so. The ACC had a mechanism by which denominations which were not official members of the organization could participate in special projects such as the Pipeline Task Force and several had done so. 

In addition, the task force specifically indicated its intention to recruit and include clergy from all ethnic minority groups in the program.

But we get ahead of ourselves. We must go back to the beginning.

The Alaska Christian Conference (ACC) submitted a proposal to the Alyeska Pipeline Service Corporation on November 1, 1973, suggesting that the company fund a $122,500 chaplaincy program for the men and women who would be working on the construction of the project. The ACC estimated that some 1,500 to 2,000 persons would be working at six or seven construction sites during the course of the project, with an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 people being moved from their homes for training related to work on the pipeline system.

From the experience of similar construction jobs in other countries, from experience of the North Slope operations, from the experience of fire fighting and other employment situations in which people are moved from their homes and families for extended periods of time, it is possible to project problems of a social nature, ACC told Alyeska.

With people away from home there will be family crises, such as deaths, sicknesses, family difficulties, with wives carrying the greatest burden for family management....