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The Ward That Meets by Phone in Alaska

by | Aug. 24, 2016

Mormon Life

With a renewed focus on Sabbath day observance, many wards and branches have instituted ways to improve their Sunday worship services. From devotionals to bishops' notes in the ward newsletter, the worldwide Church places a strong emphasis on keeping the Sabbath day holy.

And for most members that makes getting out of their pajamas and going to church a high priority on their list of must-do Sabbath day activities.

However, that's not the case for a branch in Alaska. In a state where the weather gets bad and the roads become unpredictable, members of the Anchorage Bush Branch in Alaska meet over the phone.

According to Alaska Dispatch News, lifelong Latter-day Saint Brother Chip Sharpe shared how he and his family make the most of their uncommon Sabbath situation.

"Attending services over the phone is pretty unique," Sharpe said. "My wife and I dress up in our Sunday clothes and we have a picture of Christ in the room we call from. We try to make it more than just our house. It is about feeling the Spirit and feeling good. We sing songs and hymns."

Comprised of approximately 200 members from 36 families, the Anchorage Bush Branch calls in to the stake center in Anchorage from remote regions of western Alaska. While bigger communities like Bethel, Nome, and Kotzebue have LDS meetinghouses, areas in Alaska can be wide-spread and secluded, making it difficult to congregate weekly.

"Our Bush Branch maintains a small room the call-in worshippers reach for service, within the larger building of the Anchorage LDS Church," Katrina Campbell, who is a convert to the Church, told Anchorage Dispatch News.

"In the other part of the church, regular service is happening. What we hear when we call in is a separate sermon from what the attendees in Anchorage hear. Typically we interact with President Andersen, his wife and a missionary couple and anyone who is visiting."

Campbell, who converted to the Church after a senior missionary couple shared the gospel with her in Togiak, Alaska, attended church over the phone for two years before attending in a meetinghouse. However, that did not impede her Sabbath day observance.

"We pray and partake of the sacrament, the bread and the water," Campbell says. "We pray, sing and listen to the speakers. The speakers are members of the congregation who have been asked to prepare a message on a certain topic by the priesthood. Talks are usually three to five minutes and cover anything from tithing (or) the power of prayer to missionary work."

However, to create a more interactive Sunday worship service, Campbell also described how they participate in Sunday School lessons.

"Members of the Bush Branch mute and unmute themselves to read passages from the Bible," Campbell says.

Although the Anchorage Bush Branch meets in an unusual way, they keep the Sabbath day holy regardless of challenges. Refusing to make excuses, the members in remote regions of western Alaska make the most of their Sunday worship.

"It's what you make of it," Sharpe says. 

You can read more about the Anchorage Bush Branch and its members on Alaska Dispatch News.

Lead image from Getty Images.