[img_assist|nid=136472|title=Wellspring – Sign|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=379]Summary
Invited by a member, intrigued by his sense of humor, and challenged to learn of a new congregation, I visited Wellspring Church just after New Years. I found a relatively warm and welcoming church. A large praise group played and sang for 35-40 minutes. I found the sax player to be a surprise and delight adding to the musical experience. Pastor Pat Hadley alerted those assembled that there would be many forms of expression during the service. For those new to charismatic services, this was very visitor-friendly and certainly fit these services. There were various forms of dancing and flag and banner waving. Unusually, communion was served before the sermon. This church does the typical “Meet n’ Greet”, something I dislike as it’s forced and not a genuine expression of hospitality. The pastor gave an extemporaneous sermon preaching from the Bible and personally engaging his audience. How refreshing this was and possibly the first time I’ve seen this since starting my church visits in Anchorage. If you’re looking for a new experience in a charismatic vein, this church is worth a visit.
Warm Invitation by a Wellspring Member
Regular visitors to this blog know I occasionally receive invitations to visit a certain church. Usually I accept them, eventually. Such an invitation was received Mid-December 2008. Member Scott Dooley, asked me to give Wellspring Church a try. Having a great sense of humor, he also wrote, “Could you let me know when you plan on attending worship so we can be on our best behavior? (kidding of course)”. After asking a bit more about church membership size (70-100) I replied I’d put it on my short list to which Scott queried whether I was “…looking at sometime this decade?” It’s hard to refuse such an invitation and due to the extreme cold, I delayed a planned Mat-Su visit. So Wellspring moved up on my list more quickly than normal. I love it when church members are so confident of their church, they’ll extend an invitation to the sometimes-critical Church Visit blogger.
Why Did Scott Choose Wellspring?
Scott, Pat Hadley, Wellspring’s Pastor, and Pat’s wife Gayle, all friends, chose Wellspring feeling the Holy Spirit was leading them in a new direction. Through prayer, study, and many conversations with Wellspring Ministries founder Art Mathias, Pat Hadley was asked to pastor Wellspring Church. Scott says a watershed experience for them was the “…amazing testimonial of personal healing by a woman who went through counseling at Wellspring Ministries…”. Dr. Mathias’ book, “The Biblical Foundations of Freedom” was important to their decisions and so remains.
“I have my own personal testimony as to how the Holy Spirit healed my heart in many different areas” Scott notes. Bitterness of a divorce and other painful memories were addressed as “…the Holy Spirit healed my heart…” and were “…replaced with the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. I found spiritual healing for the first time in my life. Others have been healed of diseases. All because we learned how to repent and forgive. And by forgive I mean forgive ourselves as well as others. As you know, most of this…has always been in the Bible. Wellspring Ministries/Church is the first place I’ve experienced it firsthand.”
Welcome Could Be Improved
Wellspring Church, located on the west side of Lake Otis Parkway across from Hanshew MS and Spring Hill Elementary is easy to find and access, having abundant parking. Initially, I turned into the first parking entrance seeing a number of parked cars there. The door was locked and I was baffled. It turns out the church is entered through the 2nd entrance. I suggest the church puts a sign on the door noting this. It turned out this was the church office.
A sole woman in the lobby said hello and handed me a bulletin. Entering the church meeting area, I discovered it was multi-purpose, and was also fitted as a gym. I had arrived about 10 minutes early, found a seat, and observed a number of the congregation greeting each other, while a few were praying for each one another. Before the service Gayle Hadley came from the platform and introduced herself by name. I discovered later she was the pastor’s wife and lead singer on the praise team. Scott also welcomed me briefly after leaving the platform.
Music – Good But Long
Not a fan of praise teams, I was intrigued to find out what Wellspring had in store. It turned out they had ten member singer/players. The music was well done. My inviter Scott was on the team as well. Pastor Hadley played acoustic guitar with his wife Gayle singing lead. A real surprise was the musical glue the sax player brought to their renditions. It brought everything together. The lyrics, projected on the screen for tunes that seemed to have gone on endlessly, were extremely repetitive. By and large the music was unfamiliar to me. While good, the musical group played and sang for approximately 40 minutes which I considered a bit excessive. There were a few smiles but more would be better and be reflected back on the faces they sing to.
Wellspring served communion before the preaching, something unusual among churches. It was set out in front and on a “serve yourself” basis. The worshipers were told to go to the communion table when the time was right for them, but no instructions were given about the partaking of communion, i.e. wait for all, consume immediately, consume at communion tables, etc. Visitors benefit from being directed as to the proper form for each part of the service. The offering taken before communion was the same with visitors not being told about expectations.
[img_assist|nid=136474|title=Wellspring Pastor Pat Hadley|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=191]
Pastor Hadley preached extemporaneously, i.e. did not read his sermon, as is the usual custom in most Anchorage pulpits. He referred to the Bible, certain texts and then made the application of them. His theme, Worship and Ministry to the Lord: Intimacy with God, was the building block of a series of coming talks on core values. He stated that “Bible knowledge without Bible experience is dead”, and that “God designed us for a relationship with Him”. A challenge was given to all believing Christians to really get to know God and His gifts, be restored, and to hang with Him when He seems to be delivering a hard message. I enjoyed Hadley’s remarks very much and wish this congregation the best. Some focus and training on visitor hospitality might produce huge dividends for them. As a new congregation, they are none-the-less commencing on an exciting journey together.