Presbyterians Today

NOV-DEC 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 31 Technology in the tundra What's essential for this rural Alaskan church is its use of tech- nology and media to spread the gospel. Videos of services are avail- able through the church's YouTube channel and on its Facebook page, Iñupiat Hope. In addition to Sunday services at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., church members and the community come together for a live broadcast of singing and testimonies Sundays from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. on a local radio station. Each Friday at 10 a.m., Reid also hosts a one-hour radio talk show, Real People, featuring resi- dents of the North Slope Borough, an area that encompasses 95,000 square miles but has fewer than 10,000 residents. The Rev. Curtis Karns, execu- tive presbyter of Yukon Presbytery, said that until recently, technology has not been readily available in the Arctic. "This year, for the first time, fiber-optic cable has been strung across the Arctic Ocean all the way to Barrow [Utqiagvik], so we're hopeful that many of our villages will be able to benefit from that by the end of the year," he said. In the Presbytery of Yukon, eight of its 21 congregations are located hundreds of miles from larger com- munities and are accessible only by aircraft. The presbytery has four distinct cultural groups: Iñupiat Eskimos in the north speak Iñupiaq; Yupik Eskimos in the west speak St. Lawrence Island Yupik; and in the interior and south central are Korean and English speakers. In the North Slope — the largest municipal government in the United States by area — technology is helping church services and other programs reach villages that do not T he Rev. Joseph Reid has had two unique calls from God to preach at two historic churches with one big difference — the view. "My office window at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Birming- ham, Alabama, looked out on the overflow parking area for the church," Reid said. "From my office in Utqiagvik, I can see the Arctic Ocean." Reid, who was born and raised in South Carolina, said his transi- tion from a predominantly African- American congregation in Alabama to a mostly Iñupiaq congrega- tion in Alaska has been virtually "seamless." Of course, he's noticed the change in temperatures from Birmingham to Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), the northernmost city in the United States. He's also noticed the ice, the wind and the snow — in July. Still, none of these differences have troubled him. "That's how I knew this was a tes- tament to God's call," he said. "There are no barriers for the experience of God. Culturally, there's no barrier for the experience of God; racially, there's no barrier for the experience of God; traditionally, the experience of God is universal. That's what the Iñupiat people have taught me. They say 'amen' the same way African- Americans say 'amen' — only they say it in two languages." Established by Presbyterian mis- sionaries, Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church had just 13 Alaska Natives in attendance at its first service, on Easter 1899. Today, more than 250 members and visitors attend services regularly. Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church on a mid-winter's day. The church was established by missionaries on Easter Sunday in 1899.

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