Celebrating our 65th Anniversary
On February 13th, 1954, thirty–eight people living along the Old Glenn Highway signed a charter and committed themselves to serving God as Methodists in a small frontier community in the Territory of Alaska, four years before Statehood. The Old Glenn was the end of the Alcan Highway, built during WWII to link Alaska to the “Lower 48.” Less than 3,000 people lived between Eagle River and the Knik River Bridge, mostly employed on the military bases and by local businesses serving highway travelers. Some people obtained federal land by homesteading. People were independent but neighborly. The population of Eagle River-Chugiak is now approximately 30,000. Over the years, our church has been blessed with 24 permanent and interim pastors and their spouses.
The First Church
The Chugiak church began in a store on the main highway. After Sunday services, volunteer work parties remodeled the building into a space suitable for a church. The bell we ring every Sunday was an old school bell from Minnesota, donated by Paul Swanson, the Chugiak Postmaster, and his wife Margaret.
Our Beautiful Site and Early Building
In 1959, the church obtained 13 acres from BLM. The site overlooks Knik Arm, with a beautiful view from Mt. Susitna to Denali on a clear day. The original building included a fellowship hall, which was turned into the classrooms near the old kitchen on the present main floor. The first services were held there in October 1961. In 1965, with member pledges of $27,000 and a combined grant and loan of $100,000 from the National Division of the Board of Global Ministries, the church built the sanctuary. With glass end walls, this worship space takes advantage of the beauty of nature. In the 1970’s, working from plans drawn on graph paper, the congregation built our log parsonage.
Building Addition and Expansion
After prayerful consideration, in 2000 the church launched construction of a 17,000 square foot addition with paved parking for over 200 cars. The vision was to meet the needs of a growing congregation and community. Except for major excavation and licensed work such as electrical, mechanical and elevator installation, this project was built almost entirely with volunteer labor. Members of the church and Volunteer in Mission teams from all over the United States completed the foundations, framing, roofing, sheet-rocking, interior carpentry, plumbing, finish work and landscaping. The addition includes office space, classrooms, choir room, and a Community Center with a gymnasium, kitchen, and reception/food service area. The project was financed by loans of $1,300,000, which we hope to pay off by 2019. As planned, the building is now used by community organizations including Boy Scouts, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Eagle River Fencing Club, and Tot Time. We grow vegetables in our Children’s Garden for donation to needy families. UMC Chugiak still embodies its founders’ spirit of faithful service to God and our community. Our building is the physical expression of our invitation, “All Are Welcome Here”.