Homer’s oldest church didn’t start out with large numbers, a good band, or even its own building. Instead, it started with just a few homesteaders gathering together for Sunday services.
Because travel was harder — there weren’t as many roads in the late 1930s — some would meet in downtown Homer on the beach, and later at the Women’s Club. The others met in a log schoolhouse until they built the “Homer Heights Church,” near what is now East Hill.
A blue, three-ring binder with old photographs and typewritten pages tells a piece of the church’s story.
The introduction to the album states the following:
“This being 1967, Alaska’s Centennial Year, this album is being compiled as the Christian Community Church Centennial Project. Homer’s first church from inception in 1940 through present time.”
Now, 74 years after it began, Christian Community Church is still present.
The following excerpts and dates are from that book of history.
Cora Taylor, wife of Carl Taylor, first pastor in Homer writes:
“It was July 1940, we embraced and then the train took my fiancé off to the Pacific coast where he caught a ship to Homer, Alaska. Six months later I reached Alaska and we were married that unforgettable Christmas in Seldovia. … Happily married we made our way across the Kachemak Bay to beautiful Homer were we made our first home.”
The Taylors lived in a rented log cabin on the hill and would walk or snowshoe between houses. On Sunday morning, Carl would speak in Homer at the Women’s Club, which was located in Old Town. He would then travel back up the hill to hold services at the Homer Heights Church, followed by another trip down the hill for an evening service in town.
In 1943, the groups decided to build one church in a central location and name it “Christian Community Church.” Three years later, in 1946, the basement for that church was poured on what is now Bartlett Street. A separate parsonage was added, and then later connected to the building. Both remain on the current church property today.
Ray Arno, who is the founder and general director of Alaska Village Missions and Alaska Bible Institute, arrived in 1960 and spent nearly four decades at CCC. A portion of his letter in the centennial notebook describes his early experience.
“During our first ‘term’ here, we learned to love the country as well as the people of the church and the community. The work of the church was often discouraging but these times were always forgotten by times of blessing. … I do believe God has had His hand on the church and that he will continue to bless it and the mission as they endeavor to honor God together.”
In the late 1970s the church voted to start the Community Christian School, which would be owned and operated by the church for 25 years. The church had also outgrown its old building and began plans to build a new one next door.
In April of 1981, after a year-and-a-half of construction, the first service was held in the new church with more than 300 people in attendance. In 2010, that building was remodeled and updated, with the sanctuary turned to face the opposite direction. The most recent addition to the property is a new parsonage, which was completed this year.
David Taylor is the current pastor of CCC. He and his wife, Karen — they are not related to the first Taylors at CCC — arrived in Homer Jan. 1, 2005. What started out as a trip from Los Angeles to Alaska to go salmon fishing has turned into a decade of ministry in Homer.
While planning his fishing trip, Taylor, who holds a Master’s of Divinity from Grand Rapids Seminary and a business degree from Michigan State University, decided to look online for pastoring opportunities in Alaska. There was one in Homer. He sent a resume and some sermons, met with the elders and was hired.
Ten years into ministry at CCC, Taylor describes the church environment as one that accepts and embraces people where they are.
“We believe in the power of the gospel, and pointing people to the gospel,” he said. “There’s nothing better than to know Jesus — and to enjoy Him.”
Around 175 people attend Sunday services, 40-50 of whom are children. Taylor said the church also has a strong youth ministry program, an addiction recovery group, men’s and women’s Bible studies and several small groups also meet during the week.
“We are a place where people who don’t know God can come in and we can help them in that journey,” said Taylor.
Galen Gordon’s journey with CCC began before the first Pastor Taylor came to town in 1940. The former board member and elder is the son of Thelma Gordon, one of the church founders who taught Sunday school on the beach in the late 30s.
With 74 years of history to choose from, what does he want people to know about his church?
Gordon doesn’t choose important names or events, or even the fact that it’s the oldest church in Homer. Instead, he answers without hesitation, “They’re always welcome. The doors are open.”
Footnote: Carl and Cora Taylor left Homer in 1942 after Carl became ill with rheumatic fever. After he recovered in the desert climate of Arizona, the family moved to Brazil as missionaries. Carl died there in an automobile accident in 1989, but Cora, as of July, was still living there and in her 99th year. In 2013, at age 98, she received the Citizen of the Year award in Jacutinga, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. She also attends Christian Community Church.
1936: A group holds church services downtown.
1940: Carl Taylor arrives in Homer.
1942: Building starts on the Homer Heights Church on what is now Skyline Drive.
1943: Log church on the hill completed.
1946: Cement poured for the church basement.
1961: Constitution of the church is compiled and published.
1978: The church begins planning a new sanctuary and additional classrooms. Votes to start Community Christian School.
1979: CCS starts with 15 students.
1981: First service held in new church.
2004: Christian School closes.
2010: Sanctuary is remodeled.
2014: New parsonage completed.