Who We Are
The Church of the Nazarene is a Protestant Christian church in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. Organized in 1908, the denomination is now home to about 2.6 million members worshiping in more than 30,000 local congregations in 164 world areas. Check out the link, nazarene.org for more information about the denomination.
In the 1880s, Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau discovered gold in what was to become the capital of the great state of Alaska. Juneau is nestled at the foot of Mt. Roberts and Mt. Juneau, while the waters of Gastineau Channel lap at its shores. Across the channel is Douglas Island with ruggedly Beautiful Mt. Bradley standing bold among many peaks. When the sun shines, these mountains with their variegated green carpets in the summer and white blankets of snow in winter provide a majestic view.
It was gold fever that brought hardy pioneers to Alaska and the frontier we call Juneau. It was a different treasure that brought missionaries following in their tracks; the very riches found in Jesus Christ that spurred Dr. Hardy Powers, General Superintendent, to assist in forming a church body in the great state capital of Alaska. One definition of a pioneer is “one who claims new territory.” Certainly those who met in the home of Dwight Nash, overlooking the Gastineau Channel on 7th Street in downtown Juneau in 1952, were pioneers. For them, starting a Church of the Nazarene in Juneau, Alaska was uncharted territory. The first pastor they called was Rev. Glen Widmark who accepted the offer to lead and began serving the Lord as pastor over this church. He served in strong accordance with God until 1953.
After 1953, three important steps forward were taken by the newly formed congregation. First, in January, the church’s meeting space was moved into the American Legion Hall Dugout in the downtown section of Juneau. Often members would have to clean up the premises from some Saturday night activity prior to holding church, but the congregation continued to grow. Second, was the arrival of the church’s first parsonage family, the Thomas family. Rev. J. Melton Thomas and his family came to Juneau without even a place to live. They stayed with Rociel Zemke who purchased a house on 7th Street. The small family continued to live in that home until 1954 when a more comfortable parsonage was secured on 9th Street. One of the first matters Rev. Thomas pursued was officially organizing the church with 19 charter members on Nov. 29th, 1954. This was of course the third important step taken. On March 6th, 1955, the church reached a high of 68 attendees in Sunday School. Shortly after, the J. Melton Thomas family left Juneau in May of 1956.
From May 21st through Oct. 4th, 1956, the church was again without a regular pastor. F. J. Hamrick provided a fine supply of interim pastoring until October. Mr. Hamrick (now Reverend) came to Juneau in 1954 with the National Guard. He was later ordained in Anchorage at an Alaska District Assembly, and made Chaplain in the Coast Guard. He then began pastoring in Virginia after the Juneau church was no longer in need of his interim services.
Next, Rev. A. R. Johnson filled the position in October, 1956. He was a man of vision and saw that a permanent church structure was needed. In 1957, two lots were purchased on the corner of 12th Street and Glacier Avenue. On one lot stood a twenty-year-old, two-story house. The other was empty. The home became the parsonage, and on the empty lot, the first Church of the Nazarene building in Juneau began to take shape.
Rev. Edgar Bibb took over the pastoral duties in 1959. He served the church with dedication for seven years. Then, Rev. Al Woods became the pastor in 1966. Along with his pastoral skills, his talents included building, which he used to give the sanctuary a makeover. Rev. Charles Hughey came in 1969. He was a gifted speaker and very witty. He concluded his ministry at the Juneau Church in 1972. (He came back in 1979 to labor with a work and Witness team, and filled the pulpit for the special services held at that time.)
With God’s prevision, another pastor came in the same year of 1972. Under Rev. Wayne Sawyer’s leadership, the church became self-supporting in 1974. At this time, the church board reluctantly decided that it was time for yet another move. They purchased 4.41 acres at the present location at 3220 Mendenhall Loop Road moving the church from the downtown area to the “Valley.” The transaction was completed, and the downtown property was sold in July of 1975 under the auspices of Rev. Hugh Hines. Two colored-glass windows and the original altar of that first church were kept. Joe Roper and Jim Heverling were hired full-time to complete the work on the new Mendenhall Loop Road building.