Rachel: Good morning and welcome. I’m Rachel Kerr Schneider and this morning we are at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Ketchikan, Alaska. And I am joined by the lovely Miss Asa who is a parishioner here and she has graciously agreed to give us a little bit of background about Saint John’s and point out some of the unusual features of this church. So Miss Asa, if you would, kindly share with us a little bit about what makes Saint John’s so special.
Asa: Yes, it is indeed special. Originally it was from land which was given to the church group but the man who gave the land was a trapper and he claimed it by being a squatter. But the squatting was honored and along came the missionaries and the man said, “All right. I’ll give you this land if you’ll promise to build a school for the local Indian children.” He was kind of cranky but he had a heart for children. He said, “All right, build a school and I’ll give you this land”. And his transfer was honored.
Asa: Then there used to be a school which was where the parking lot is but it’s gone now. So they built this church and it was originally one floor lower because it was built right on pilings and the tide would come up.
Asa: This continued for quite a while however, the tide would come up and it was no good. But you could row a little boat up to the church. Go up the little stairs and come right in the door. You could row a boat to church. Then came the army corp engines, came to all the town and so if you go out and look at the land, it’s filled – a really big field and there are still pilings. And this is still on big rocks and pilings. So there’s water underneath us. You just don’t know it.
Asa: But there is. Anyway, to build the church took money but the local Indians liked the missionaries and they listened. They did listen. They said, “All right. We’re, we’re free.” You see they didn’t work nine to five. So they said, “We’ll come over and we’ll do the work and further we’ll chop down the trees – red cedar or yellow and white cedar.” And they were so skillful, they did the main part of the building with no nail. You’d think it would fall apart. No, it doesn’t because of the way they built it. The more the winds blow, the stronger the pistons come together and it becomes stronger in a storm. Now there’s a point there.
Asa: Now, some people say they can smell it – I can’t – but there’s the cedar smell and cedar is naturally insect resistant. They say because of the smell, insects don’t like it. And notice also the arch. It’s not really a gothic arch but it’s an arch. It’s like a ship turned upside down. Because those Indians were very very skillful men, they make good arches. Look at how large this thing is. They would make a ship loaded with their trade goods – smoked salmon, fur pelts, antlers, things like that. They would go all the way down to California to meet the Californian people ‘cause Californian Indian people has something that people here want. So they would trade. They actually did their own kind of swapping and bartering and they’d come back later with California goods. So they had a good life and the Indians here really did live well. They would eat fish, clams and seaweed. They’re very much into seaweed. Now the windows originally were good quality clear glass with blue decals, just for a little bit of decoration but then around the nineteen sixties, several families started to remember and honor their older members. So they would get together the money and look at the inscriptions. It’s in memory of grandma or a couple or just look at the little – you know how people put the name.
Asa: And that’s why all of them have a blue border just because they used to have blue decorations. Now you can go to the old church of Saint Elizabeth and which was a sister church. And they still have the plain glass with the blue decals. All right, now. That church is all things what I have been looking for. I couldn’t figure out when I came here. What do they do with someone who passed away? I felt the church basin is the local mortuary and the upstairs, or course it was a church. That’s the funeral home. Makes sense, right?
Rachel: Yes. Very practical.
Asa: Now, but I’ve never gone in there. They say it was kind of a matching building. But this church then took in those members and has continued since that time. So we have about a total list of a hundred. Maybe sixty below ten on a Sunday and we have a good time. We have first service and second service and we have coffee time and I always make sure to – this is how I keep my sanity. I make sure to bake a good big batch of something like coffee cake. Otherwise, I can not keep my sanity. I have to be in the kitchen. Someone else may think, “I don’t like that. I don’t want to bake.” No, no. I want to be in the kitchen. And I do it for God’s people. We always sit around and have – ‘cause other people do things too. It’s very nice. We have a very nice hospitable time. It’s really great.
Rachel: Well, Asa. I can feel your spirit. And if you are any indication of the type of individuals that worship here at Saint John’s, Ketchikan is a wonderful place to be. I can’t thank you enough…
Asa: Oh, you’re welcome.
Rachel: …for sharing with us this beautiful space where you worship in fellowship and just enjoy God’s nature and His goodness. And I just thank you for being a part of our little educational plan today. If you’ve got any more questions, visit us on our website. This is Rachel Kerr Schneider saying we will see you soon from who knows where. Looking forward to it. In the meantime, share your spirit with someone.