Alaska Greek Festival –

One of my favorite times of year comes next weekend.  The Alaska Greek Festival arrives at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church just east on O’Malley Road after the Lake Otis intersection.   Detailed information is found here: http://akgreekfestival.com/

2018 Festival Hours

Friday, August 17th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 18th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 19th, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

This festival has annually raised money to complete their beautiful church, and has successfully done so for many years.  Their dedicated members pitch in and cook the food, pour the beverages, and serve the desserts.  The food is traditional Greek and most tasty indeed.  After you’ve eaten, sit back and enjoy the Greek music and dancing.  It is a memorable event you can bring the whole family to enjoy.

Take time to enjoy a tour of the church and lecture provided by their engaging priest, Fr. Vasili Hillhouse.  He’ll describe the splendor of the iconography employed to deepen their member’s religious experience.  No matter how many times I’ve heard him speak, I always hear something new. While in the church, look in their gift shop for items found nowhere else in Anchorage. I’ve found books of great interest. Their awesome parish cookbook full of Greek recipes is also for sale within.

I’ll be at the festival. Say hello if you spot me!

Blessings

Chris

 

Eagle River Institute Starts Today – August 1, 2018

St John Orthodox Cathedral – Sanctuary

St John Orthodox Cathedral’s Eagle River Institute (ERI) is slated to start today at 3:30 p.m.  During this wonderful annual event, scholars from across the U.S. present on topics selected by Fr. Marc Dunaway. I’ve attended a number of their institutes over the years and can only say what a spiritual blessing they’ve been.

This year’s theme is Holiness Among the Ordinary.

One track will address “Marriage as a Path to Theosis”. The presenter is Fr Philip LeMasters who is a professor of religion at McMurry University, Abilene, TX.

The other track addresses “Lay People in the Ancient Church: Women and Men”. The presenter is Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, professor of religious studies, Brown University.

A detailed brochure with presentation times and fees is available at the link below.  This is not to be missed.

https://stjohnalaska.org/files/ERI%20Brochures/ERI_Brochure_2018.pdf

 

Beer and Hymns – This Sunday! Come join in this joyous experience and help your neighbor at the same time!

This Sunday, April 22, retired Lutheran Pastor Dan Bollerud presents 2018’s first “Beer and Hymns” in Anchorage.  A wonderfully social and spiritual event, it has raised $63,000 over the past four-years. These funds have gone to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska (LSSA), which provides a panoply of services to Alaskans. Most importantly, LSSA’s Food Pantry supplies thousands of Alaskans with needed nutrition.

Pastor Dan hopes this Sunday’s event will raise over $7,000 to push the four-year total over $70,000.  There is incredible comradeship in singing hymns, dining together, and experiencing the joys of Christian fellowship. Jamie Berge’s masterful piano playing, along with Pastor Dan’s rich baritone, compel enthusiastic  audience participation.  Oh, by the way, these hymns are not sung mournfully as some local churches often do, but with an up-tempo spirit and richness they rightfully deserve.  There is intense competition among those present to request their favorite hymns.  Everyone is accommodated.

Mo’s O’Brady’s Restaurant in the Huffman Business Park next to Carr’s Huffman is hosting this Beer and Hymns once again.  There is no admission.  An LSSA representative will be present to accept donations via check, cash or a card reader, and to answer your questions about their services. At the last Beer and Hymns, over $11,000 was raised in the two-hour event.  I plan on being there as well.  If you’d like to discuss issues regarding local churches, seek me out. The event starts at 6 p.m. and concludes promptly at 8 p.m.  Spiritual highs are no-charge. My hat is off to the generosity of local Christians of virtually every faith who support this awesome event!

 

Easter 2018 – He is Risen! Rejoice!

Easter 2018 is almost over. Of course, Easter week, according to N.T. Wright, below,  “ought to be an eight-day festival” and so believe I.  The power of the passion story is magnified by its retelling by children.  I urge you to click on this link to watch a short video of two children telling the story of Holy Week and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. https://youtu.be/FYdP7nozxUQ

At Easter time, I love to perennially share the beautiful N.T. Wright quote from his book “Surprised by Hope” for it inspires a true re-examination of the way we celebrate Easter.

“Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday,” Wright says, “It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?”

Finally, I conclude with theologian Walter Brueggemann’s Easter poem.

An Easter Prayer
“…On our own, we conclude:
that there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short

of money
of love
of grades
of publications
of sex
of beer
of members
of years
of life

we should seize the day…
seize the goods…
seize our neighbor’s goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit;

You come
You come giving bread in the wilderness
You come giving children at the 11th hour
You come giving homes to the exiles
You come giving futures to the shut-down
You come giving Easter joy to the dead
You come … fleshed … in Jesus

And we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing.

We watch … and we take

food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbors who sustain us
when we do not deserve it.

It dawns on us, late rather than soon, that
You give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

By your giving,
break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance…mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.

Sink your generosity deep into our lives

that your much-ness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving, we may endlessly give,

so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder
without coercive need, but only love
without destructive greed, but only praise
without aggression and evasiveness…
all things Easter new…

all around us, toward us and by us
all things Easter new.

Finish your creation…
in wonder, love and praise. Amen.”

I wish you joyous Easter greetings, HE IS RISEN!

Chris

FINAL REMINDER: Free Public Lecture By Noted Author/Professor, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine – March 1

It’s rare that important voices in the area of religion and faith come to Anchorage to share their thoughts and perspective. Amy-Jill Levine, PhD is a professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. She will be giving a free public lecture at APU on March 1.  The topic of her lecture is, “Jesus, Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations.”

She has held office in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Association for Jewish Studies. She is the author, co-author, or editor of numerous books, including The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus; The Historical Jesus in Context; the Jewish Annotated New Testament; and Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi. If you’ve seen her name before it has possibly been connected to The Great Courses where she’s taught Old and New Testament and other related subjects.

She is an erudite, witty, and listenable voice that helps us challenge our assumptions about faith. I can’t wait to hear her remarks. Her lecture promises to be well-attended. It will be held March 1, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Alaska Pacific University’s Earl R. Brown Auditorium, Grant Hall.

A pdf flyer is attached. Amy-Jill Levine Lecture v8

Free Public Lecture By Noted Author/Professor, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine – March 1

It’s rare that important voices in the area of religion and faith come to Anchorage to share their thoughts and perspective. Amy-Jill Levine, PhD is a professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. She will be giving a free public lecture at APU on March 1.  The topic of her lecture is, “Jesus, Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations.”

She has held office in the Society of Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the Association for Jewish Studies. She is the author, co-author, or editor of numerous books, including The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus; The Historical Jesus in Context; the Jewish Annotated New Testament; and Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi. If you’ve seen her name before it has possibly been connected to The Great Courses where she’s taught Old and New Testament and other related subjects.

She is an erudite, witty, and listenable voice that helps us challenge our assumptions about faith. I can’t wait to hear her remarks. Her lecture promises to be well-attended. It will be held March 1, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Alaska Pacific University’s Earl R. Brown Auditorium, Grant Hall.

A pdf flyer is attached. Amy-Jill Levine Lecture v8

From Christ to Chalcedon: A course of exploration of the early church

 
“Do you believe we are now living in a post-Christian era?  Does the Christianity you observe really begin, for example, with Martin Luther, John Calvin, The Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham or some other historical figure?  Is your experience with God similar with those believers at and after the time of the apostles?
These perplexing questions will be addressed in an Early Church History discussion and study group starting February 22, 2018.  One evening per month, over five months, you will have an opportunity to hear presentations about the life and growth of the early church.  As a participant, you will study the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and engage with Church History Scholars such as Regina Boisclair, PhD Cardinal Newman Chair at APU, and Fr. Vasili Hillhouse of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church.  The sessions will be moderated by Chris Thompson, Church Visits writer/blogger, and co-moderated by Heidi Marlowe, lay monastic of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
Trevin Wax, prominent pastor and religion author, writing in “3 Reasons Why I Quote the Church Fathers When I Preach, says “church history is a treasure box, not a map. We err if we look to the past in order to chart the precise path of faithfulness for the future. We are marching to Zion, not retreating to Constantinople or Geneva. For this reason, we should look to the past in order to retrieve the resources we need in order to fortify and renew our faith in the present as we discern with wisdom and prudence the way forward. This is how we best honor those who have gone before us: learning from both their strengths and also their sins, and praying that we will be faithful today. As the primary teaching pastor at my church, I quote regularly from the church fathers when I preach. I don’t do so in every sermon, but my congregation is now familiar with names like Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Athanasius.”
If shining a light into our shared heritage (and possibly shaking our own lethargy) by tackling the history and writings of the early church sounds appealing to you, consider joining us for five months of reading, learning and discussing the years from the crucifixion of Christ (AD 33) to the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). The age of the apostles ended at the end of the first century. From the start of the second century (AD 100) to the reformers, approximately AD 1500, a period of over 1,400 years of church history transpired which are rarely or never heard about in many religious communities. The purpose of this 5-month study group is to shine light into the early development of the Christian faith.
Please indicate your interest in joining us by responding YES to churchvisits@gmail.com Detailed information will be sent you. There will be a modest fee covering meeting facilities at APU and course materials. Each participant will also need to purchase an inexpensive volume: “Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers” (ISBN-13: 978-0140444759)

 

 

Merry Christmas Church Visits Readers

The stores are closing or will be shortly.  Services all over town are starting. Another Christmas/Advent season will soon be a distant memory.  As we close out Advent and begin Christmas, I’d like to share a quote from my favorite theologian, Walter Brueggemann. In his new book, Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent, sharing thoughts about Christmas Eve he writes, “The gift of Christmas contradicts everything we sense about our own life. Our world feels unsavable, and here is the baby named Jesus, “Save.” Our world and our lives often feel abandoned and here is the baby named Immanuel, “God with us.” Be ready to have your sense of the world contradicted by this gift from God. Rest on the new promise from the angel that you may be safe and whole and generous.”

May the blessings of this wonderful gift attend your Christmas celebrations and continue into the new year.

Merry Christmas!

Chris Thompson
churchvisits@gmail.com
churchvisits.com

Not feeling holiday cheer? Maybe a Blue Christmas or Longest Night service is for you!

At this time of year, many are suffering from illness, death of a loved one, loneliness, or sadness.  Often, the cheery greetings of the Christmas season ring hollow compared to the pain many feel.  I can certainly relate to these feelings as I too have experienced loss during the past year, and have just passed the anniversaries of my mother’s and sister’s deaths.

Several local churches extend themselves to offer solace to anyone needing a time to escape from the cheery atmosphere surrounding this time of year, to reflect and more effectively confront these issues. Some offer “Blue Christmas” services while others may have “Longest Night” services. These coincide with the time of year where the darkness exceeds the light by many margins.

Finding these services can be a challenge however. A Google search (blue christmas anchorage) revealed one such service on the first search page; St. Mark Lutheran on December 20, 7 p.m. via a Facebook post. (see https://www.facebook.com/events/323053711510959/) On the second search page Trinity Presbyterian Church (trinityalaska.org) announces they are holding a Blue Christmas service at 6:30 p.m. on December 24. The third page contains an outdated Lutheran service reference which no longer applies.

What a shame that so few churches can be found posting such services. Most people don’t delve beyond the first two or three search pages.  Many churches believe that internal newsletters, tweets, or Facebook posts are all that is needed to get the word out.  The Christian term for this is taken from Matthew 5:15, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” It’s little wonder that Christmas has degenerated in this post-Christian era. Too many Christians have totally surrendered themselves to the consumer-driven hijacking of Christmas.

Looking for “Longest Night” services is equally challenging. A Google search (longest night service anchorage) reveals similar, with one ray of hope. The first search page revealed only one local church, St. John UMC as having a longest night service on December 21, 7:00 p.m.  (see http://www.stjohneagle.com/upcoming-events.html) St John has diligently gone from having a problematic church website to one of the best in the city. Their crowded calendar is easily picked up on Google.  Unfortunately Google search pages two and three revealed no other Longest Night services locally.

I’m also aware that St. Mary’s Episcopal Church is having their annual Blue Christmas service on Wednesday, December 20, at 5:30 p.m.  Rector Michael Burke told me, “It is a time of silence, prayerfulness, and healing for those overwhelmed by the holiday season, and its sense of merriment.” St. Mary’s newsletter further states, “In previous years, some of those who attended spoke of loved ones who have died, and of other losses in their life over the past year. We will once again light candles and pray for and with one another. The service will conclude with all of us singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Our very own Dave Rush will again provide his beautiful instrumental guitar music. Come join us for a beautiful, quiet, and reflective time.

My personal thanks to those few churches that have chosen to not “hide their light under a bushel” but are providing a meaningful forum for those aflicted by pain and suffering during this holiday season. Isn’t this what the Beatitudes of Jesus addressed?

Chris Thompson
churchvisits.com
churchvisits@gmail.com

Evening of Silence – December 2017

This time there’s more notice.

Many in our faith community say they would have attended the last Evening of Silence at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church if they had known about it in advance. Here’s your notice.

This coming Thursday evening, 6:30-8:00 p.m., St. Mary’s Episcopal will once again open it’s doors for a period of silence to come, sit, kneel, reflect, and pray in a holy setting.

Many of us need to come apart from our dwellings to experience the joys of communing with the divine.  There are so many distractions which separate us from practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, and fellowship.  It’s a benefit to us all, that St. Mary’s is one of the few churches in the local area that open its doors for this purpose.  Due to vandalism, theft, desecration, and lack of respect, many churches do not open their doors other than for established meeting times and purposes.

You are free to come and go as you please during this time at St. Mary’s.  A litany book was prepared by Heidi Marlowe for the last evening of silence.  It was a thoughtful, quiet method to bring ones heart to a time of quiet internalization through Christian litany.  Come for a few minutes or the entire hour and a half. It’s up to you.

Thank you St. Mary’s community for leading out in this meaningful opportunity of faith.

Chris Thompson
churchvisits@gmail.com