- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Congregants at St. John Baptist Church had more than 60 years of history to celebrate.

The church at the corner of Turner Street and 17th Avenue turned 61 this year but observed a belated diamond anniversary last month with a day of worship, food and music.

St. John is both the second-oldest black church and the second-oldest Baptist church in Fairbanks. It was founded as a mission of the First Baptist Church in 1953.

As a building, St. John Baptist has grown from a Quonset hut to a stained-glass sanctuary and has been reborn after fire and the 1967 flood. As an institution, it has grown from a membership of 32 to more than 130 this year, according to Debra Pearson, a longtime member of the choir and a member of the church since she was 3 years old.

In the early days, St. John Baptist was an important focal point of the small African-American community that came to Alaska following the construction of the Alaska Highway.

“People came here, and they knew they could find community,” Pearson said.

The congregation has aged, but it continues to grow and has become a second home for many military families, she said.

Eight pastors have served at St. John Baptist. Many evangelists from the church have gone on to found ministries around the Interior.

The 61st anniversary service included prayer, music and a Sunday dinner with 25 kinds of desserts.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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