Church leaders strive to better community

Nikiski pastors putting together nonprofit group

Posted: Monday, July 30, 2001

The pastors of the Nikiski churches have a plan for the area. The Church of Nikiski would encompass six Nikiski churches as a nonprofit organization developed to help improve the community.

"The main thing is to make our community better," said Denver Copeland of the North Kenai Baptist Church.

Pastors from the churches have gotten together and filed the 501(c)3 paperwork to become a nonprofit organization. The pastors and churches include Copeland of North Kenai Baptist Church, Harold Lewis of First Baptist of Port Nikiski, Rufus Tallent of Aurora Heights Assembly of God, Paul Hartley of Nikiski Church of the Nazarene, Brad Cason of North Kenai Chapel and John Henry of North Star United Methodist Church.

While Henry is not involved in the nonprofit status of the group, Copeland said he is supportive of the Church of Nikiski idea.

Copeland said the churches have met together several times during the year for films, dinners and holiday services. The pastors also have met weekly for more than a year to discuss issues in Nikiski. Prior to the weekly meetings, they met monthly for almost two years.

"We have a lot of need in our area," he said.

Copeland said as a result of the meetings, the group found that together, the congregations add up to almost 600 people.

"Instead of everyone doing a little bit, we have combined to do a lot for the community," he said

Last year, the group purchased, provided and served breakfast to Nikiski Elementary School students.

"All six churches have had a hand it it one way or the other," Copeland said.

Besides getting members to work together for the good of the area, Copeland said the group also gathers together for fellowship.

He said the goal is for the churches to gather together at least once a month.

"We try to get other people in other churches to know each other. We are all serving the same purposes in the community."

Church of the Nazarene pastor Hartley, the newest of the area pastors who came from Vancouver, Wash., last November, said while the idea of pastors working together is not new, the idea of a community effort is one of merit.

"I think it is a very solid biblical idea," he said, adding he knows of a large group who is supportive of the idea.

One upcoming project the Church of Nikiski has planned to include is an after-school reading program for school-age children. It also will offer kids help with homework and tutoring.

Copeland said the group has approached the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and superintendent with the idea. He is anticipating the program will be approved, but for know the project is still in the beginning phases.

The group also plans to bring up 250 workers from the World Challengers program next June to work on low-income housing and provide a facelift to area homes. The group worked on 37 homes in the Anchorage area this year.

The long-range plans for the group are to purchase land and build a building to use for community service.

The building would house an extension of the food bank, a closed ministry and offer the community counseling and training services. The group also hopes to have enough room for public meeting rooms.

"It is really just to meet the needs of the community," Copeland said. "What this will do is put it together so people will know where to come for help."

Hartley said he believes the Church of Nikiski is what the higher power would like to see in the area.

"I think there is potential on the North Road, within the body of Christ, to set a new standard of what God wants the church to be."

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