WHAT A SENDOFF, ATTENDED BY THOUSANDS
At a packed Sunday morning service, the Anchorage Baptist Temple faithful — and several hundred more — gave Dr. Jerry Prevo the send off into retirement that reflected his impact on the community. It was emotional, and as poignant as a church service will ever be. Those who attend the church love and admire Prevo and his wife Carol.
Thousands jammed into the service and at the celebration luncheon that followed in the two Anchorage Christian School gymnasia.
If Sunday morning has been sometimes called the “most segregated hour of the week,” that’s not how Anchorage Baptist Temple rolls. People from all backgrounds came to congratulate and celebrate Prevo’s 47 years at what locals call “ABT.”
A video was shown of Prevo’s ministry, and Gov. Michael Dunleavy and Sen. President Cathy Giessel gave remarks. Don Young, in a very emotional moment, said it was Prevo who led him to Christ, and gave Prevo his bolo tie.
In large gym, gone were the basketball hoops and scoreboards. The room was transformed into a celebratory, twinkly-lit dining hall, where several hundred people of all colors and backgrounds broke bread together and took pictures with their pastor of so many years. It was a reflection of how Prevo’s leadership helped grow a diverse reflection of God’s love and the welcoming spirit of Anchorage’s Christian community.
The event even drew Dr. Franklin Graham, CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, from North Carolina, Congressman Don (and Ann) Young, Gov. Michael (and First Lady Rose) Dunleavy, as well as legislators, including Sen. President Cathy Giessel, House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, and former Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch. Even former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and former Gov. Sarah Palin were in attendance. Sen. Dan Sullivan sent a video greeting, which was played on the big screens.
Prevo was a pastor at Pincecrest Baptist Church in Signal Mountain, Tenn., when he heard the call to Alaska in 1971. He packed a minivan and along with his wife Carol and son Alan, he drove north to help a fledgling mission that would grow into one of America’s mega-churches, one that has had a major influence in the development of Alaska’s political and cultural life.
The church grew. Attendance doubled, tripled, and now is in the thousands. Candidate Sunday is a “must do” for aspiring political leaders in Southcentral Alaska. There’s now a thriving Christian K-12 school attached to the church — Anchorage Christian School — with nearly 600 students. The church and its ministries employ over 100 people, and many more as volunteers.
As he and his wife Carol grew the church, Prevo never shied away from topics that some find controversial: the sins of homosexuality and abortion come to mind. Liberals sometimes picketed the church, and many letters to the editor criticized his brand of Christian theology. Others defended him. But he never wavered on moral issues and is one of Alaska’s preeminent social conservative thought leaders.
Pastor Ron Hoffman, ordained by Prevo in 2005, has been appointed pastor to succeed him. He’s been on the staff for 15 years and began attending the church when he was in the ninth grade. Prevo becomes pastor emeritus, and will retain his salary for life. The church is without debt and has $21 million in the bank.