Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Pastor Patterson

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke on the Senate floor yesterday in recognition of Pastor Alonzo B. Patterson. Pastor Patterson has been the pastor of Anchorage’s Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church for the past 47 years and before that, founded the Corinthian Baptist Church in Fairbanks. In November, Pastor Patterson will be retiring. He has touched thousands of lives and has helped make a more just country, state and community for us all. Pastor Patterson was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

The following is the statement submitted to the Congressional Record:


Mr. President, nearly every week I have been coming down to the Senate floor to recognize someone in my State who has made a difference for Alaska and really has made a difference for all Americans. It is my favorite part of the week to actually come down and talk about Alaska to my colleagues in the Senate, to the folks in the Gallery, to the press, and to the American people watching. It is what I refer to as our time to talk about the Alaskan of the Week.

Many watching and on the floor and those who have visited our great State know that Alaskans think it is the most beautiful place in the world. There are natural wonders everywhere. We had a beautiful summer. We have resilient, warm-hearted, fiercely independent but accepting people. We have challenges in Alaska just like the rest of the country, but at the heart of our State are kind, generous people full of different cultures and backgrounds that we celebrate.

Most people don't know this about Anchorage, AK: My hometown is probably the most culturally and ethnically diverse city in the country. We have places of worship all over the city and the State that reflect that great diversity of Alaska and America.

One of the stalwarts of our faith community for the past 47 years has been Pastor Alonzo Patterson of the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, and he is our Alaskan of the week. Every Sunday he fills his church with spirit, joy, and gospel music punctuated by ``amens'' that float through the church, down the street, and work their way into our community and into our hearts. That is what he has been doing for 47 years. For decades, those sermons have inspired countless Alaskans to help feed the hungry, provide homes for those without, and strive to create a more just country, State, and society, and a more just community.

Let me tell you a little bit about Pastor Patterson. He was born in Wilson, LA, and raised in New Orleans. Like a lot of Alaskans, thousands of Alaskans, he joined the military and made his way up to Fairbanks, AK, in the 1960s, where he founded the Corinthian Baptist Church, and he ministered to the congregation there. Then, in 1970, he was called to Shiloh, one of the few African-American churches in Anchorage. He designed and rebuilt Shiloh at its current location, and under his leadership, Shiloh's membership, its facilities, and its energy took off.

He has conducted thousands of marriages and baptisms. He has given thousands of eulogies, celebrated graduations and anniversaries, counseled countless couples, people who are grieving, people who are rejoicing, people who are suffering, and he has helped turn that into action--not just for the African-American community but for all people and all races in our community and in our State.

Pastor Patterson told a reporter:

“The church was and always has been a sanctuary in the Black community. It is the meeting place, the community center, the focus for support and help, the place you come to be important, the psychologist for your particular problem, the time to shout out your frustrations and the only place to be significant.”

He continued:

“You could be a Deacon or something in the church where in the rest of the community you were just another Black person. The church was for us a panacea for many of the social ills that existed then and still have relevance.”

That is what he talked about. That is his heart and soul, how he saw his church and congregation. Thanks to Pastor Patterson and Shiloh, the city is a more inclusive place for all. He has helped heal those social ills for thousands of our fellow Alaskans.

One of his friends, Celeste Hodge Growden, a member of the church, said:

He and the church have led the way for a lot of things that have been accomplished here [in Anchorage]. Pastor Patterson always says, ``leaders lead.'' That is the way he has lived his life. He is not in the background.

During election time, Pastor Patterson organizes a huge ``get out the vote'' campaign. He was instrumental in getting a Martin Luther King memorial in Anchorage--a 10-year-long endeavor.

She also talked about the groups he chaired, founded, and led beyond his congregation, including Bridge Builders of Anchorage, the March of Dimes Foundation, the Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation of Alaska, and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Anchorage.

You know, with leaders like this, the list goes on and on. In addition to Corinthian Baptist Church in Fairbanks and Shiloh in Anchorage, Pastor Patterson also planted Eagle River Missionary Baptist Church and Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Palmer.

I have been uplifted to the core when my wife Julie and I have gone to Shiloh and listened to Pastor Patterson preach and listened to the beautiful--and I mean beautiful--Shiloh choir sing. It is a spiritual and energizing experience like no other. I love attending services at Shiloh.

On November 5, 2017, Pastor Patterson's 80th birthday, he will be giving his last sermon as pastor of Shiloh, and I certainly plan on being there. He is stepping down for Pastor Undra Parker, who will be the new and dynamic leader of Shiloh--another great Alaskan, another veteran--and I know he is going to do a great job. But of course it is a bittersweet time for Shiloh's parishioners because of the foundation Pastor Patterson built.

The church, the singing, and the amens will continue on Earth and the church in Anchorage, AK, as it is in Heaven. God bless Pastor Patterson, his wife of 61 years, First Lady Shirley Patterson, and the congregation of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church for all they have done and continue to do for our community.

Congratulations to Pastor Patterson for being our Alaskan of the Week.