Jack L. Church, Evangelist, born Aug. 3, 1929 in Hundred, West Virginia (a town named after his revolutionary war era ancestor, Henry Church, who lived to be 109 and was affectionately known as “Old Hundred”), Jack L. Church passed away quietly in the loving arms of his middle daughter, Jackie Taylor Rollison, in her home in Butte, on Saturday evening, Dec. 29, 2018.
Jack grew up hunting, fishing, and boxing in Golden Glove circuits. He graduated from high school in Hundred and met a lovely young lady, Bertie Lou Lancaster, from Brown’s Run, West Virginia, several miles away. A few months later, Jack asked Bertie to marry him. Shortly thereafter, they headed to Freed-Hardeman and David Lipscomb Colleges in Tennessee for courses to prepare them for the ministry in the Churches of Christ. After two years of education they began to make plans to return to West Virginia to prepare for a life of ministry in the “wild west” that was Montana and western North Dakota in the late 1940s. Jack worked to establish new congregations, and to support existing small ones, in Sidney, Plentywood, Glendive, Butte, and Helena, as well as Fairview and Williston, North Dakota. During this time, he also developed relationships with missionaries from Saskatchewan, whose work would capture his spiritual imagination, leading to his many missionary trips to India, the Philippines, New Guinea, and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. After the birth of their first two children, Jack and Bertie decided to brave the Alcan Highway through Yukon territory in 1954 to work with the small congregation in Anchorage, Alaska. Jack and Bertie added to their family with five more children born in Anchorage. During their many years in three separate periods in Alaska they worked with the congregations in Sitka, Seward, and Fairbanks as well as to establish new congregations in the Mountainview and Arctic Circle areas of outlying Anchorage in addition to the homestead community of Anchor Point, Alaska. Before returning to Montana permanently, and working with the small congregations in Butte, Colstrip, Red Lodge, Big Timber, and Roundup, Jack and Bertie returned to work with the congregation in Lewistown, and also returned to West Virginia to work with the congregation in Cameron. Jack had a variety of “side careers” to support his family when fledgling churches were too small to provide a full salary. These included certification as a barber, and working as a house painter and landscaper, in addition to a position with the Alaska Railroad, and a host of odd jobs. Jack and Bertie were skilled horticulturalists, maintaining productive gardens to help feed the family, eventually leading them to own a 40-acre farm on the Yellowstone River in Park City, where they raised many crops that supported their presence at farmers markets in the area. Eventually, Bertie’s Alzheimer’s led them to move into Billings a few years ago. She eventually succumbed to her illness in 2016. At that time, Jack stayed by her side until her passing and lived in the same assisted living community up to a short time ago when he moved to live with his daughter Jackie and her husband Rob, until his recent passing. Jack was an avid hunter and fisherman. In Alaska, he managed to largely sustain his family of seven children with ample supplies of moose, caribou, black bear, mountain goats, snowshoe rabbits, ptarmigan, salmon, and Dolly Varden trout in addition to lush family gardens and berry bushes. He also enjoyed woodworking, carving, painting, and digging for historical treasures. Jack is survived by children Nathan Church, Cindy Guy, Dan Church, Jackie Taylor Rollison, Janet Church, and Steve Church (having lost his son David in May 2018); by fourteen grandchildren; and fifteen great-grandchildren. Services for the celebration of Jack’s life will be conducted by longtime friend and ministerial colleague Bill Goben at the Church of Christ in Billings, 1220 Tenth Street West (10th and Alderson) at 1 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. Gifts in his honor can be sent to Mountain States Childrens Home in Longmont, Colorado and to the Church of Christ in Billings to support missionary activities.