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50 years of Northern exposure (reporting from Wasilla, Alaska): Alaska lectureship celebrates a half-century of promoting unity among Churches of Christ.

Third Place, Leisure Writing, Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

WASILLA, Alaska — This state known for its natural beauty, midnight sun and independent spirit boasts an estimated 3 million lakes, 100,000 black bears and, oh, about 2,500 adherents of Churches of Christ.

Here in “The Last Frontier,” hundreds of miles and — in some cases — rugged terrain accessible only by boat or plane separate many of Alaska’s 28 congregations.

Yet Christians in this vast land one-fifth the total geographic size of the Lower 48 states maintain close ties.

For 50 years, the Alaska Statewide Lectureship has played a major role in helping unite the faithful — along with the Midnight Sun Bible Camp, the annual Alaska Youth Forum and frequent hunting and fishing excursions involving members all over the state.

“The joke is, when you leave your back yard in Alaska, you enter the food chain,” said Robert Kuenning, minister and elder of the Valley Church of Christ in Wasilla, about 45 minutes north of Anchorage.

“Life and death become a little more obvious up where you can die from exposure and die from bear attacks pretty quickly,” added Kuenning, whose growing congregation of about 250 organized the recent three-day lectureship. “Maybe the issues of faith and of destiny become a little more focused.”

This story appears in the June 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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