Article by Randy Covington. Randy Covington is executive director of the Alaska Baptist Convention.
COLD BAY, Alaska (BP) — Cold Bay! Sounds ominous! When the pastor of the Community Chapel called to let me know that he was moving, I knew I needed to visit and assist with his departure plans and make arrangements to winterize the church parsonage.
Although I had grown up in Alaska, I had never been to Cold Bay and didn’t know where it was.
My first glance at online maps revealed that it was near the end of the Alaska Peninsula where the Aleutian chain of islands begins its westward extension 1,200 miles toward Russia. This linear archipelago separates the Pacific Ocean from the Bering Sea and, with 57 volcanoes, makes up the northernmost stretch of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Further investigation revealed that this church has been in existence since 1971.
A former Army Field and Air Base during World War II, this community was unlike most of the other villages along the Aleutian Islands. There were very few native residents. Cold Bay had a predominantly white population. One of the Quonset huts, which once housed soldiers, was converted into a community chapel. Eventually, the meeting place became unsafe and the congregation began meeting in the community library. Through the years Cold Bay’s population had diminished from 256 in the 1970s to less than 50 in 2018.
A plethora of questions began coming to mind such as, Do we need to recruit a pastor for such a small group? Should we close the church and reallocate the assets to another ministry site? Who would be willing to come to such a remote place to pastor a small congregation with only a parsonage and no salary? Hopefully, I thought, a visit would help me answer some of these questions.
While my plane ticket cost more than a roundtrip ticket to Orlando, I was warned to prepare to stay longer than planned because of possible weather conditions. Cold Bay is known as the cloudiest town in the United States with an average of 304 days of heavy overcast. It’s not unusual to get stranded in bush Alaska waiting for the weather to clear so planes can fly.
Upon my arrival in Cold Bay, I was immediately struck by the beauty of the region. I was fortunate to arrive on one of the rare sunny days and could see many of the snow-capped volcanoes on distant islands.
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Source: Baptist Press