Small Alaskan Church Invites Its Entire Community to Thanksgiving Dinner

Bivocational pastor Todd Buck, who travels by boat or ferry to Tenakee Springs, Alaska, will lead a Thanksgiving gathering as church members count God’s blessings. Photo submitted

A small church in southeast Alaska is inviting its community to Thanksgiving dinner.

The invitation is extended to all 100 residents and anyone else in Tenakee Springs who may not have local gatherings of family and friends that day.

Tenakee Springs Community Church has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for most of the 10 years bivocational pastor Todd Buck and his wife Jodie have served there.

“Initially I went out there on a request for supply preaching, and I just kept going,” Todd said. “After about a year I was definitely the pastor.”

To get “out there,” the Bucks travel 120 miles round-trip from their home in Juneau to Tenakee Springs on Chichagof Island. Todd is a civilian marine information specialist with the U.S. Coast Guard. Jodie owns a sewing and quilting shop.

The Bucks go to the island on Thursday and return to Juneau on Saturday after the church’s worship service and a fellowship meal. They go once a month in winter when they usually take the ferry, and every other week in the summer when they sometimes make the trip in their own boat.

“We have about 15 to 25 people who come on a regular basis,” Todd said. “And it has just grown in community. It’s grown a little bit in size, but mainly in community.”

The Bucks attribute recent growth in community to the purchase of a cabin in Tenakee Springs last summer. For 10 years they rented places to stay, camped on a boat or stayed with friends. Their own cabin, Todd said, gives them a place to relax and where “people can come and see us.”

Members of Tenakee Springs Community Church in Alaska filled 33 Operation Christmas Child boxes in October. Bivocational pastor Todd Buck (right) noted, “The amazing thing about it is there is no Walmart or Kmart or Target or dollar store or anything like that out there. One gal actually flew to Juneau on a float plane so that she could have stuff to put in two of the boxes. But that’s the type of church that they are.” Pictured (from left) are Calvin Carter, Alice Carter, Jodie Buck, Arnie Strong, Tomi Strong, Cynthia Meyer, Dordie Carter, Debbie Carter, Isabella Strong, Laura Strong, Kirsten Strong, Baly Jones, Mary Heath, Bev Patch and Todd Buck.

“We’ve already seen some very significant growth in the couple of months since we’ve been able to spend more time there,” Todd said.

The Thanksgiving dinner has become a significant community-building occasion in Tenakee Springs. The church started it to provide for those who might not be able to prepare a traditional holiday dinner. Many residents live in tiny one-room cabins with limited means for cooking and makeshift plumbing that’s prone to freezing before Thanksgiving.

So the church invites town residents and visitors to Thanksgiving dinner at the community center where the church regularly meets. The facility’s plumbing is freeze-proof, and there’s a kitchen and other amenities for putting on a big meal.

The church provides the turkey. “People will bake desserts or other dishes. It’s essentially a potluck,” Todd said. “We usually have about 30 to 35 people,” about double the number of people who attend church services.

The gathering will include a brief time “to share how God has blessed over the year and then just a time of fellowship,” Todd said.

Laura Strong, a 12-year Tenakee Springs resident and church member, said the Thanksgiving event is just one important expression of the Bucks’ witness, leadership and influence.

“I think that Todd and Jodie bring a lot more than just the Thanksgiving ministry,” Strong said. “They’re well-known and respected in our community for a lot of the other volunteer aspects like Fourth of July, which is a really big deal here. For years they’ve found ways to volunteer and help out with that.”

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Source: Baptist Press