Monthly Archives: February 2009

Greater Friendly Temple Not Particularly Friendly

[img_assist|nid=138508|title=Greater Friendly Temple|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=203]Poor Website
Sunday I attended the Greater Friendly Temple (Church of God in Christ) on DeBarr Road. Met with a lackluster greeting, I initially thought church had already started due to the group of worshipers in the front of the church sanctuary praising and praying, accented by a keyboardist and drummer. After this group finished, approximately one-half hour after I arrived, I inquired and was told this was only a prayer group. The only functional website I could find for Greater Friendly Temple had an incorrect service time listed (11:00 a.m.). The bulletin listed 11:15 a.m. as the worship time. was listed as the website in the church bulletin, but I couldn’t get it to work for me.

Long Service
The service at this predominately African-American church was extremely long by Anchorage church standards lasting about 3 hours. Part of this was due to an extremely detailed order of service. At one point, the Deacon delivering the announcements read letter after letter in their entirety. I felt this section of the service, as an example, contributed to slowing things down. I never knew who delivered the exceedingly lengthy but spirited morning message as he was not introduced. The bulletin listed Bishop Charles D. Williams as delivering the message. However, Bishop Williams was identified and honored in observance of his 89th birthday, so it wasn’t him.

Musical Bright Spots
One bright spot of the service was an energetic praise and worship time led by a talented musical worship leader who wandered all over the church with a wireless microphone. He was supported vocally by a group of six men on the platform and two women and a man in front of the platform. The music was upbeat. I was washed by waves of sound of well known contemporary Christian music such as “High and Lifted Up” and “Lord We Lift Your Name on High”.

The full choir of men and women, led by a spirited young woman provided the other bright spot with a lengthy and lively musical selection. The church filled up slowly in the first hour with much recognition and greeting between the members. One woman did come down the aisle from the front and welcomed me. I had been given a visitor registration card, and an usherette came back to collect it from me but I’d not yet completed it. I don’t normally complete registration forms but felt compelled to complete it. As suspected, my name was announced from the pulpit during the service.

What’s a Visitor to Do?
Greater Friendly Temple, like many churches, assumes visitors know what is going on and what is to be expected during their services. They offer no explanations or helps to visitors, either written or spoken. From my vantage point in the rear section of the church I also noticed considerable attention being given to cell phones. Amazingly, the church phone just offstage in the front kept ringing and someone kept getting up to answer it peering out at the congregation as if to connect with some inquiry being given.

Lack of Information
In doing fact checking for this post, I e-mailed the only address listed on the one functional church website I could find. The response I received was from the wife of a member who had split off from Greater Friendly last fall to form another congregation. This person could not answer any of my simple questions about the church and the service I attended. I called the church number listed and left a message but never received a callback. So, for me, this church is still a mystery. I observed some good things in this strongly charismatic congregation but was left with the feeling I was really not welcome. My hope is that this was just me or that I might have caught Greater Friendly on a bad day.

Unusual Ecumenical Lenten Service – March 1


Sunday, March 7, at 7:00 p.m., a truly special Lenten experience will be offered in the sanctuary of St. John United Methodist Church. Four churches will combine to present “DayBreak,” a poem that tells the Passion story, accompanied by chamber music, 130 visuals and dance. The choir will be a merged choir from Amazing Grace Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish and St. John United Methodist Church. A free-will offering will be collected for FISH. Child care will be provided for children age 5 and under.
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Today is Ash Wednesday-The Beginning of Lent

According to Wikipedia, Lent, in some Christian denominations, is the forty-day-long liturgical season of fasting and prayer before Easter. The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where according to the Bible he endured temptation by Satan. Different churches calculate the forty days differently.

The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial—for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Western Christianity, for the most part, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday. The six Sundays in Lent are not counted among the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter”, a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.

Many Anchorage churches observe Lent with Ash Wednesday services. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the “faithful” as a sign of repentance.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Good but Noisy

[img_assist|nid=138255|title=Our Lady of Guadalupe – Exterior|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=208]Summary
Personally greeted by Fr. Vincent Blanco as I entered Our Lady of Guadalupe on February 8, 2009 for the 5:30 p.m. service, I felt this would be an uncommon experience. It was in many ways. Rarely do I encounter pastors greeting arrivals at their churches but this was an exception. From the little girl handing me the missal with a shy smile, to the beautiful and reverential music delivered by a large choir and orchestra, I felt I was in the right place. Sadly, the acoustics of this new mission-style edifice magnify every sound and the din became overpowering. Women in high heels clicked and clacked up and down the aisles during the service, even the mass, with little regard for the noise they were creating. Babies cried, for the most part, without restraint. Although Fr. Blanco delivered a great, extemporaneous homily, I heard little of it due to the noise. Although this Catholic church is warmer than most I’ve visited, the noise hampered my worship experience. Still, it is worth visiting if you are of the Catholic persuasion. Fiercely multicultural, this large and growing congregation is worth experiencing, offering many weekend service options.

Muldoon Road Baptist – Visitor Friendly

[img_assist|nid=138509|title=Muldoon Road Baptist Sign|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=231]Summary
A mid-January visit revealed Muldoon Road Baptist Church to be a visitor-friendly church. Entering by the clearly-marked VISITOR ENTRANCE on the side of the church, I was greeted by the pastor who stepped out from his front pew position. Giving me a warm welcome, Pastor Jimmie Woods also gave me a large peppermint candy, a first for my church visits in Anchorage. It turned out this was his final Sunday with this church but unlike another church visit during a final pastoral Sunday, this time I was not totally ignored but was personally invited many times to join the congregation in a farewell lunch. Pastor Jimmie gave a meaningful sermon of hope highlighting that the God of the stars had not lost control. I was surprised this huge Southern-style church was so lightly attended. The special music was the wonderful Southern Gospel song, “Til the Storm Passes By”, one not often heard in church anymore. I wish this church well as they begin to work with their new pastor. An update will appear later this year.
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Community Covenant Offers Much in Eagle River

[img_assist|nid=137695|title=Community Covenant Sign|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=244]SUMMARY
January 25, on a cold and snowy day, I visited Community Covenant Church in Eagle River. What I discovered was an active congregation nourished by good music, great preaching and the kinds of programmatic glue that bind people together. I was greeted in a general manner by three people before finding my seat. However, I feel more attention to this area could easily improve visitor impressions with a sincere welcome and sense of connectedness. Easy to find, I still recommend this church for a visit if you’re looking for a church home.

Lost Without Help
I was lost at the crossroads as I entered the hustle and bustle of Community Covenant Church’s entryway but soon found my bearings and drifted into the main auditorium. A sign with an arrow would have helped me. Although I was greeted by three people before I found a seat, I didn’t truly feel welcomed, which their “meet n’ greet”, like most other churches, clearly did not rectify. At a later picture taking trip to the church I did discover a sign high up in the air but probably not seen normally because it’s not at eye level. An old friend used to rave about this church, which she used to attend when living in Eagle River. With this background, I had to make this visit.
[img_assist|nid=137697|title=Community Covenant Sanctuary|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=207]
Great Siting
Offering gorgeous views of the mountains and Eagle River Valley through it’s floor to ceiling windows, this church effectively uses contemporary architecture. I liked the layout of the sanctuary and seating area. There were many aisles making it easy to be seated without troubling others to get up. Somewhat soaring, the sanctuary was very accommodating.

Coffee Odor Strong
This one of those churches that seems to encourage wholesale coffee drinking. Maybe it was for a good cause financially, but the smell of coffee was strong in the air in the sanctuary. A confirmed coffee drinker, I nonetheless found the smell to be overpowering.

There was Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) being played through the PA when I arrived. Prior to starting to play, I was astounded and gratified to see the musical group of seven bowing their heads in a prayer circle. This is truly a first in all of my Anchorage church visits. Good for you! The music was very well done, sincere, and a good mix of recognizable tunes for all ages. They played for about 15 minutes.

Young Church
This is a family-oriented church and very casual dress. Unfortunately, I appeared to be the only one in suit and tie, and felt I stood out.

What? No Use of PowerPoint Slides for the Bible Reading?
I discovered Community Covenant is experimenting with using Bibles for the scripture reading instead of projecting the scripture on a screen. My hat’s off to you. Church attendees are so spoon fed these days it’s surprising to see a church taking a step backwards. It was refreshing to hear the turning pages of Bibles during the scripture reading. Sadly, using Bibles only for scripture reading is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Little wonder folks don’t read the Bible as much. They don’t know how to use them!

What A Sermon!
Clearly Community Covenant is blessed with great preaching. Pastor Mark Meridith gave a meaningful sermon that was open, free and extemporaneous. He roamed the platform, mostly on the steps in front of the platform. Relying for the most part on scripture and illustrations, he did not hide behind the pulpit as many ministers do, but established an effective dialog with his parishioners. Based on the Holy Spirit, he communicated quickly and effectively, sometimes the words seeming to tumble out ahead of his thoughts. But it was fresh and refreshing. You can listen to his sermon by clicking on this link.

The service concluded with the musical group playing and singing “I Surrender All”. I truly enjoyed my visit to Community Covenant and feel they afford church visitors and members alike, a fresh and spontaneous worship experience.
[img_assist|nid=137698|title=Community Covenant Exterior|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=124]