Letter to the Editor
In 1951, an Alaska Missionary, named Rev. F. Gene Elliott, established the first Church Service in Girdwood, AK. This first service and many of the following services were held in the homes of the residents in the small town of Girdwood for the next five years.
The church became important enough to the community that a small building was built in the area of what we call Old Girdwood today. Unfortunately, that structure was lost in the Great Earthquake of 1964. A newer building was erected on higher ground later that year,but was moved to the area of Olympic Circle in 1969. This new building still remained quite small in size but provided a warm space for worship.
As the town of Girdwood grew, the church was fortunate enough to find a new home on over two acres of land off of Alyeska Highway. Although I am not entirely sure how the land deal fell into place, I know there are some long-term Girdwood residents who were integral in the obtaining of the Chapel’s present piece of land. Originally, the existing structure was moved from the base of the mountain to the newly acquired land, but the dreams of the congregants and the community remained large.
It took over ten years with the work of many people from Girdwood, the work from mission teams from all over the United States, and the donations of many giving souls both in our local community and thousands of miles away. But what was built was a structure fashioned by the care, dedication, and love of all of the hands that touched it. My heart leaps with joy each time I step through the doors to this wonderful place of worship.
My hope in writing you this letter is twofold. First, I wish to thank the community of Girdwood for helping the Chapel to grow as the community around the Chapel grew. In this new space we have the room to give back to the community in the form of hosting Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We can offer Food Pantry, and hot lunches can be served. The Community Garden will provide for those without space for their own planting. The community teens can gather, be fed and learn from those who want nothing else but for them to find success and peace in their lives.
This all leads to my second facet of hope in writing this letter. I am new to the community of Girdwood, but Girdwood Chapel is not. The Chapel is not the product of anything I have done, but it is the result of the efforts of many people before me who acted in faith and with hearts of giving to make the chapel a special place.
Our Chapel community is comprised of those same caring and loving individuals I have mentioned above, but I also know that there are many in the community who have not been to the Chapel in a while or maybe have never set foot through its doors. We want to invite you to be part of our church community. We want you to help us to continue to grow with the town and meet the needs of those who live here.
My family and I have been blessed in so many ways since our arrival in Girdwood just over a year ago. As a new pastor and a new Alaskan, I have had to learn many things and there have been many areas in which I have stumbled. But throughout the journey, I have seen the love, the kindness, and the forgiveness of those I have met and engaged with in our beautiful town. I know the presence of God surrounds us each day in this wonderful wilderness and we can worship on the highest peak or along the colorful trails right outside our doors.
There is also something special about worshipping with those in your community that see and experience God in similar ways. It helps you to grow in faith, and you help others to grow in their faith. Through my personal experience in finding my way, I know that each person who steps through our doors has something to teach all of us.
Many years ago, Girdwood Chapel adopted a very simple mission statement, “Love God. Love others. Change the world.” I hope to encourage others to come and help us be successful in fulfilling that mission.
Pastor David Hall
Girdwood Chapel, Girdwood, AK