University Baptist Church began in 1958 back when the area around the University of Alaska Fairbanks was still called College Town. John Dickerson, L.A. Watson, and Jim Whisenhant were convinced that ministry was urgently needed for UAF student outreach and worship of the God of the Bible. The first 17 worshipers met on a cold Sunday morning on December 15, 1958 in a double car garage at the corner of College Rd and Hess Avenue. The church grew and was officially organized in 1959 as University Baptist Church with the founding members digging deep into their own pockets to fund the purchase of property and the construction of a building for ministry and worship. Jim Whisenhant's wife, Elizabeth, and John and Ann Shilling were founding members and are still active members to this day.
Jim Whisenhant and John Dickerson were very concerned that Southern Baptist churches would reach out to the student population. In the first couple years, student ministry meetings would have 40 people participating and was well-received by UAF. Dr. Skarland, professor of Anthropology said, "The way you people at the Baptist Mission are all working on campus, is the way missions ought to happen." University Baptist Church received financial support and hard-working mission teams from the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1964 the basement of our current building was dug and concrete walls poured and enclosed for worship, Bible studies, and student fellowships. A number of pastors and Home Mission Board-supported missionaries advanced student ministry and would often have around 100 students in participation as time went on.
In 1967 the infamous Fairbanks flood ruined the basement structure used for worship and ministry. However, the Southern Baptist Convention sent work crews from other states and the basement was cleaned up and repaired that same year. In1968 the superstructure was completed by a work team from Tucson, AZ and we still use this space today for worship through singing, prayer, Scripture reading, giving, and preaching the Bible. In 1994 as the church continued to grow in numbers, a 10,000 square foot education building was built for holding Bible classes for children, college students, and adults.
The Following pastors have preached for and led University Baptist Church over the years:
John Dickerson, 1958-1960
Dr. J.T. Burdine, 1961-1967
Vern Baker, 1968-1972
Gene Medaris, 1972-1975
Omer Erby, 1976-1978
Danny Riggs, 1978-1980
Dr. Franklyn Holley, 1981-1990
Dr. Ronnie Prevost, 1991-1994
Thomas Cocklereece, 1995-1999
Gary Cox, 2000-Present
The church has ordained 7 men to Christian Ministry, and sent and supported dozens of missionaries over the years.
Our church's mission is: "Leading People to Life in Christ." The mission starts right here with students and faculty who are our neighbors in Fairbanks and by God's grace will continue to expand to the rest of our state, country, and other nations.
Taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to every tribe, tongue, and nation has always been important at University Baptist Church. Our budget has always included above average giving to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention to support missionaries and church-planters all around the world. For several years our church led the state in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We also give a portion of our tithes and offerings to the Alaska Baptist Resource Network.
Over the years we have established new churches in Goldstream, Fox, Anderson and Nome. We also played a large role in funding and building Camp Baldwin near Delta Junction. At one time we had a very successful English as a Second Language school directed by Shirley Childers that gave immigrants vital English skills and introduced them to Jesus. We've sent missionaries direct from our church to Tanzania, the Philippines, Mexico, and Russia.
Looking to the future, we have a renewed focus for leading UAF students and faculty to experience life in Christ, inviting military men and women stationed at Fort Wainwright and Eieleson AFB into our faith family, and showing love to people who live and work in Fairbanks. We also feel called to steward the resources (time, money, skills, and above all the Gospel message) to send missionaries once again across Alaska and overseas until every tribe, tongue, and nation confesses Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Whatever your story, we invite you to join our story in making Christ's story most important!