On Tuesday night, True North Church hosted the first Mountain View park party of the year.
Two brightly colored bounce houses and an inflatable obstacle course were set up on the grass at Davis Park. Hundreds of people lined up for free hamburgers and hot dogs. Kids clutched bags of cotton candy, melting snow cones and balloons; kicking off their shoes to bounce through the obstacle course over and over again.
Led by Pastor Brent Williams, True North is different than many local churches. The 5-year-old congregation, which previously gathered in an auditorium at the Loussac Library, began meeting in a rented space at Clark Middle School in March. It has an office in Spenard. With no physical church building to maintain, the congregation of about 300 people focuses on pouring its resources into the city around it.
They volunteer at Covenant House and the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association, Airport Heights Elementary School and the Downtown Soup Kitchen. And since March, they’ve focused much of their attention on Mountain View.
“We just want to join the community where they’re at,” said Amanda Elkins, a longtime member of the congregation and operations manager for the church. “You can be the hands and feet of Jesus right where you’re at.”
In the spring, they brought cotton candy and a bounce house to the Mountain View Boys & Girls Club. Members of the congregation turned out in force during the annual neighborhood cleanup this year. Last week, the church sponsored the Mountain View Street Fair Jam, and fielded dozens of volunteers to help put on the annual event. The pastor spent the day directing traffic in the middle school parking lot.
James and Rebecka Delcastillo, 29 and 30, said they were drawn to the church four years. Members of the True North congregation come from all sides of town, but it didn’t take long to feel like family. There was room for everyone. Tuesday, the Delcastillos spent the evening at Davis Park with their 11-month-old son, Riot; snapping photos and enjoying the festivities. Serving the community around them — sharing food and good times — is important, they said. Jesus broke bread with people from all walks of life.
And on Tuesday, people from all walks of life gathered in Davis Park. There were families with young children, teenagers, elderly Mountain View residents and a handful of people who live in camps in the woods nearby. They shared picnic tables and conversations. The church hung flyers on doors throughout the neighborhood Tuesday morning, and when the party kicked off at 6 p.m., the parking lot was already nearly full.
Elkins manned a table with release forms for the bouncy houses. Members of the congregation served food and supervised the inflatable play-places, wearing t-shirts printed with the same slogan: “True North Loves Anchorage.”
“It can’t just be words,” Elkins said. “It has to be actions being lived out.”
A second neighborhood park party is set to take place at Davis Park on Thursday, July 2 from 6-8 p.m.