Monthly Archives: April 2012

Faith Presbyterian – Palm Sunday 2012

Faith Presbyterian was selected as my Church Visits church on Palm Sunday because it listed at the top of a Google search of Anchorage churches offering Palm Sunday services. They meet at Tanglewood Golf Chalet on Brayton Drive in South Anchorage. Although technically a Palm Sunday service, it clearly was not in the traditional sense.

I came in through a knot of people in the foyer, was not greeted, and found a seat. Before the service a gentleman came over, handed me a bulletin, CLICK HERE TO VIEW and said “You missed a bulletin. You’re going to need that.” Music was playing as I entered, played by a woman at an electronic piano. The room was very noisy with people talking noisily so one could barely hear the hymns being played. The atmosphere did not seem reverent, and was most unlike church. The nameless and unannounced leader then took the podium and said it was “Time to quiet our hearts”. Clearly it was too late for his announcement of being quiet. After church, I discovered this person was Pastor John Jones who was listed in the bulletin, along with four other men as Elders. People in the congregation dressed a bit more formally than most other churches I visit.

Visitors were not welcomed or greeted, with the exception of a missionary to India who was pointed out and commented upon. The bulletin was key to the service as the readings, prayers, and scripture references were all included. Page 13 of the bulletin contained a very good and helpful section for parents (see below). There were many small children in the audience and I liked this approach, a first in my many Anchorage church visits.

A Note for Parents of “Little Theologians”
At Faith, we love having our children with us during the worship service! As they listen and sing and stand, we believe that they are really being ministered to by God’s grace. You are not imposing on the body as you help your children to make it through an entire service (we try to finish by 12:15). The small disruptions that children bring to a worship service are most often reminders to the body (and the pastor) of Jesus‘ deep affection for “little theologians.”

That said, if you prefer, we do offer a safe nursery downstairs for children age 4 and under (and for particularly wiggly children!). You are more than welcome to take advantage of this.

Our elders believe that one gauge of a good sermon is its clarity to “little theologians!” Here are some ways you can help the pastor speak to your children.

1. Let your child see you open your Bible to the sermon text:
Luke 19.28‐36
2. After the pastor prays, whisper to your child the proposition of the sermon:
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a willing participant in God’s plan.
3. Gently alert your child each time the pastor begins a new main point. For older children, tell them that each main point will say something about sin, and something about Jesus. The main points are:
A. There is a plan.
B. Jesus, the willing participant.
C. The glorious role of a disciple.
4. The pastor will announce the conclusion of the sermon; help your child to recognize this (they may be very ready!) and encourage them to listen carefully.[img_assist|nid=160928|title=Mother Guiding Child Through Hymn Words at Faith|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=248]

What happened next was unprecedented in all of my Anchorage church visits. The pastor continued onstage and single-handedly led all portions of the service until its conclusion, 1¼ hours later. Church is a meeting of the body of believers, and it’s very telling when only one person is seen for such a length of time. Had I read their website closely I would have discovered that the VISIT FAITH section clearly described the entire service for a prospective visitor. Jones’ sermon was a good one and very Biblical. However, he kept concluding his sermon for over ten minutes. A sermon recording is not available, with February 12, 2012’s sermon by him, one of five on iTunes, being the latest available. This congregation is allied with the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).[img_assist|nid=160929|title=Faith’s Pastor John Jones Leading the Liturgy|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=171]

During the offering Faith’s small choir beautifully sang while it was received. Visitors were not excepted from giving to the offering, a visitor-friendly gesture. Their website, as of this writing, is woefully out-of-date with the worship bulletin from April 8, 2012 being the latest posted. The Easter Schedule is still present plus the worship bulletins from March 11, 2012 to April 8, 2012.

Faith appears to be a solid Bible-believing church with a serious worship service, definitely not contemporary Christian. To me it was not visitor-friendly in any aspect of their service. Faith’s website presents their MISSION as:

At Faith, our expectation for the Christian life is that Jesus Christ will impel us into our neighborhoods and city with the message of His gospel of grace displayed in our words and our actions. We have such hope in the life and message of Jesus that we expect His gospel to touch not only just neighborhoods and city but, through this contact, to move out into the entire world.

As a first-time guest, I did not feel the focus of this stated mission. In fact, only one person talked with me, and that when I asked who the speaker was. Their website, unlike most of Anchorage church websites, uses the technique of munging to eliminate spam. For example their website lists the following if you’re trying to contact an elder.

“Contact a specific elder, or you can email all of the elders at: elder (at) faithanchorage (dot) org.”

Many people won’t know the above

A number of church writers, and technical experts say this really doesn’t stop spam, and is confusing for users. I believe only a fraction of people trying to contact the church by email would know this.

I liked Faith’s focus on the Word, their traditional liturgy, and concern for their children. But during my visit, I did feel like a nameless/faceless person in their midst. A few visitors will acculturate over time, but can defect when the reality of what they’ve accepted hits them. However, usually, the average guest decides in 5-8 minutes whether or not to return to a new church.

I really missed the Palms for Palm Sunday. Just because a church is on top of the Google search for Palm Sunday in Anchorage doesn’t mean they believe in using this tiny symbol of Christian faith.

Sabbaticals: Does Your Pastor Get One?

Trinity Presbyterian’s Senior Pastor, Tom Letts, has received a Lilly Clergy Renewal Grant for a sabbatical. His departure will be marked at a special Sabbatical Sendoff party at 11:30 a.m. after their regular 10:30 a.m. service this coming Sunday, April 29. I don’t know what they are planning, but it should be a fun time, knowing the Trinity folk.

Sabbaticals, if you’re unaware of them, are based on the Sabbath concept of the 7th day, except years are used. In academia, churches, and some businesses, leaders are given a portion of every 7th year to take time off for study, rest, and reflection. The purpose of Sabbaticals is to give leaders this opportunity to rest and grow, coming back to their classrooms, congregations, etc. refreshed and re energized.

According to Letts, his sabbatical’s purpose is:
A sabbatical, in short, based around a pilgrimage to discover: practices lost to Protestants after the reformation (monastic/common life, hermits, pilgrimage, living under a common rule, lectio divina, fasting…), the effect of the loss on Protestant spiritual development, and how Protestants might reengage in these practices.

Tom’s sabbatical will continue until August 2012. He’ll be meeting with a number of religious figures in the U.S. and Europe. They include Rev. Dr. Darrel Guder: Former Dean of Theology at Princeton Seminary, Rev. Dr. Richard Mouw: President, Fuller Theological Seminary. Christopher Webb: executive director of Renovare, author on the interior life. Rev. Dr. Robert Mitchell: Former president, Young Life International, former vice-president World Vision (U.S.), Presbyterian pastor, spiritual director (Renovare), and the man who introduced Tom to Pascaline. Sr. Pascaline Coff, OSB: Spiritual director to Tom Letts for 27 years. A founding member of the ‘Osage Monastery, the Forest of Peace.’ Sr Anne Lise: Prioress of Dominican Monastery, Oslo, Norway. Fr. Robert Anderson, OSCO: a hermit outside of Telemark, Norway. Rev. Dr. J. Philip Newell: Former warden, Iona Community, Scotland -resides in Edinburgh. Dr. Elizabeth Liebert SNJM: Dean of San Francisco Theological Seminary. Todd Hardesty: Emmy award-winning videographer and member of the contemplative prayer group at Trinity who will accompany Tom to stage and record the interviews and oversee production of a DVD based upon these interviews.

During Tom’s sabbatical, his wife the Rev. Tamara Letts will be preaching, and managing pastoral care, along with the deacon board.

I asked Anchorage pastor Rev. Martin Dasler of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church about his sabbatical experiences and was fascinated by his account.

Dasler shares “My last Sabbatical was in 2002. I received a grant from the Lilly Foundation and did it on Global Missions. My travels took me to Ethiopia to visit mission sites and churches that were supported by Western Washington congregations. I visited and taught at the MaaSae Girls Lutheran Secondary School in Monduli, Arusha, Tanzania, and visited other missions in that country. On my way back to the USA I stopped for a brief stay in the Taize’ Community in France. I believe that my ministry and the congregation greatly benefited by this trip. I came back with new energy, a new perspective on faith and culture, and an infectious joy in my faith rediscovered in Africa.”

Sabbaticals can be enriching experiences for pastors and their congregations. Sadly, some congregations do not recognize the value of sabbaticals for pastors, instead preferring to expect them to be available 24 x 7 with no real breaks for spiritual and physical refreshing. For a sober look at why pastors burn out, I strongly suggest reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s recent book, “Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith”. I’ll share other pastoral sabbatical experiences in future posts.

Have a great sabbatical Pastor Letts. We’ll be looking forward to an accounting of your experiences when you return.

Loud Music in Anchorage Churches: The Problem

I’m seeing a disturbing trend in some Anchorage churches. They dish out sound at potentially ear damaging levels. In most cases the music in question is contemporary Christian or Christian Rock. Some musicians even quote scripture in defense of this practice, and put down worshipers who object.

At one recent service I attended, the worship leader stated that their sound levels were consciously set loud, exactly where they wanted them. He further bluntly suggested that if you didn’t like it, you should choose another congregation. What a charitable statement to any seeker after truth – Our way or the hiway!

At another church visit, toddlers were seen dancing around in the front of the auditorium holding their fingers to their ears to stop the harshness of the sound, while their parents sat feet away not seeming to know their children’s hearing was being damaged in front of their eyes.

During my church visits, I have electronically measured music levels, and found startlingly high levels of 105-110 decibels during worship services, for extended periods. Professional sound engineers note that music at these levels can damage sensitive ears in minutes. Some churches defend this practice as they are seeker-oriented, i.e. attracting newbie’s who, they say, demand a more contemporary sound like they get on the radios in their cars. Others say it is more in step with the times than the boring old hymns, choirs, and organs of the past. Regardless of the argument, professional sound engineers state that 80 decibels should be the maximum music volume during the service and that the remainder of the service should ideally be at 65-70 decibels.

In addition to the potentially permanent ear damaging sound levels being heard in some churches, studies show that these high sound levels introduce unhealthy effects. Professional sound engineer Leon Sievers recommends the following sound levels for churches.

“I recommend operating your church sound system at no more than 80dB peak during worship and averaging 65-70dB during the service. Sound Pressure Levels, which exceed these parameters, will cause ear fatigue, loss of concentration and potential hearing damage.” Sievers further observed “The National Association for Hearing and Speech Action (NAHSA) also reports that exposure to 85 dB or more for any length of time is potentially dangerous.“ Click HERE to read his entire report HOW LOUD IS YOUR CHURCH?

If people come to church to worship and learn more about spiritual matters, why would a church encourage a practice which actually lessens concentration? Studies are beginning to emerge regarding people’s inability to concentrate after being exposed to loud music, even in church.

John Stackhouse, a theology professor at Regent University – Vancouver, BC offers some great advice in a Christianity Today article titled “Memo to Worship Bands: Five sound reasons to lower the volume”.

First, I know it’s breaking the performer’s code to say so (the way magicians are never supposed to reveal a secret), but cranking up the volume is just a cheap trick to add energy to a room.

Second, when your intonation is not very good—and let’s face it, most singers and instrumentalists are not anywhere close to being in perfect tune—turning it up only makes it hurt worse.

Third, the speakers in most church PA systems cannot take that much energy through their small, old magnets and cones, especially from piano, bass, and kick drum. So we are being pounded with high-powered fluffing and sputtering—which do not induce praise.

Fourth, consider that you might be marginalizing older people, most of whom probably do not like Guns N’ Roses volumes at church.

Fifth, let me drop some church history and theology on you. By the time church music matured into Palestrina and Co. in the 16th century, it had become too demanding and ornate for ordinary singers. So Christians went to church to listen to a priest and a choir.

The Protestant Reformation yanked musical worship away from the professionals and put it back in the pews. Luther composed hymns based on popular melodies, including drinking songs. Calvin insisted on taking lyrics from the Psalms. This was music in which almost anyone could participate. The problem today, to be sure, is rarely elaborate music. We could use a little more artistry, in fact, than we usually get with the simplistic and repetitive musical figures of many contemporary worship songs. No, the contrast with the Reformation is the modern-day insistence that a few people at the front be the center of attention. We do it by making six band members louder than a room full of people. But a church service isn’t a concert at which an audience sings along with the real performers. Musicians—every one of them, including the singers—are accompanists to the congregation’s praise. They should be mixed loudly enough only to do their job of leading and supporting the congregation.

Now, I like Palestrina and I like good Christian rock. So, church musicians, if you want to perform a fine song that requires advanced musicianship, by all means do it. We will listen and pray and enjoy it to the glory of God.

But when you are leading us in singing, then lead us in singing. And turn it down so we are not listening to you—or, even worse, merely enduring you. I know that is not what you want to happen. But I am telling you that’s what is happening.

It’s not my intent to point out or embarrass any church in Anchorage, but I’m firmly convinced many “loud music church” members have allowed their leaders and musicians to make decisions about musical loudness that potentially fosters hearing loss and impairs concentration. I can’t believe either of these exemplifies Christian virtues. If lawsuits for hearing damage begin cropping up, it’s possible church leaders finally might start taking this issue seriously.

Easter Sunday: 3 Expressions of Celebration

I enjoy celebrating Easter in ways that bring glory to God, and de-emphasizes man. There is already too much “self” and not enough of God in much of today’s religious expression. To this end, I visited three churches on Easter Sunday to experience the joy of “He is Risen”. The following a brief account of each of those services I visited.

Sunrise Service – Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church

A small but intense group of worshipers met in this beautiful south Anchorage church. Many Easter lilies covered the front of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church. Starting at 7 a.m. we were led through a Lutheran liturgy form with singing, readings, prayers, an Easter sermon, and Holy Communion by Pastor Dan Bollerud. Personally, I loved the start of service call by Pastor Dan, “He is Risen”, to which the congregants answered, “He is Risen Indeed”. This was repeated twice more with increasing volume. What a testament to the Christian faith!

Other world religions cannot make this claim; only Christianity. At the end of the service, Pastor Dan invited all to a breakfast brunch served in the fellowship hall. I especially liked this service as it was attended by a small group of devotees, who like Christ’s disciples of old, experienced the fullness of His resurrection in the quietness of early morning. [img_assist|nid=160743|title=Christ Our Savior Lutheran Sanctuary|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

Cornerstone Church – 9:30 a.m. Service

I was warmly greeted with a hug by long-time greeter Mary at this South Anchorage Church. She’s one of those unique individuals who learned my name at my first visit several years ago, and uses it every time I infrequently show up. It seems like she knows everyone’s name or will shortly. People like this are truly a gift to a church, generating much goodwill that adds to a church’s hospitality profile.

Cornerstone has an excellent musical group which plays primarily contemporary Christian music. I admire the manner in which this group has prayer each service, in a circle upfront, before the start of the service. Pastor Brad Sutter joined them in prayer this morning. The music was excellent and themed right. Joy Sutter’s solo “Alive” by Natalie Grant, was especially poignant. [img_assist|nid=160745|title=Cornerstone Worship Leaders in Prayer Before Service|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

There was little outward sign it was Easter in the church, except for groupings of candles in various lantern-type holders across the stage, but Pastor Sutter’s message changed that. Titled “Everything Changed” it was very listenable. If you would like to listen too, click HERE. (Be sure to click on the ARCHIVES tab and select Everything Changed. The date may be wrong but this is the sermon.) In his sermon Sutter talks about the various things in the world that changed due to Jesus’ resurrection. From the resurrection’s impact on Christ’s first followers to famous musicians such as Bach and Handel, scientists, education, social change, the reformation and so forth were covered. It was an interesting change of sermon model for the resurrection. This was an excellent service which drew me in.[img_assist|nid=160746|title=Pastor Brad Sutter Preaching “Everything Changed”|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=234]

Faith Christian Community – 11:00 a.m. Service

Faith’s sign advertising Easter service schedules had been out for about a month. A phalanx of helpful safety-jacketed parking volunteers were on hand to shepherd traffic from Wisconsin Avenue to Faith’s vast parking lots, eliminating potential traffic jams due to their many Easter services. Quickly finding a spot, I hurried in to not be late, but received neither greeting nor bulletin. The church was packed for the 11:00 a.m. service as I would have expected it to be.

What followed was a spectacle of sight and sound starting with onstage participants bringing out an assortment of “I Am” cards with key phases on the back tied to Bible quotes, e.g., “I Am” and on the reverse side“The Salt of the Earth”. I thought the “I Am” cards were great, but what followed was a half-hour of eardrum-unfriendly music (105+ decibels was clearly inappropriate for the numbers of small children and older adults present). The lyrics were spiritual, but loudness did not make them more spiritual. During this time the worship pastor did a scripture reading that was trashed by a musician playing over him to the extent I could barely hear the words. This annoying trend of playing music during scripture readings, or altar calls, etc. is seen in many churches today. Personally, I think it’s tragic musicians feel the Word of God needs a soundtrack or a little extra emotional bump to get it down! Click HERE for the music portion of the service. I do believe Easter should be celebrated by shouting the ‘Good News’ from the housetops, but also believe music should set the tone for the service instead of being the service for a lengthy time.[img_assist|nid=160747|title=Faith Christian Community Stage Performers|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=176]

There were several baptisms before the message, and a good sermon by Pastor Steve Holsinger. His theme was John 11, the story of Lazarus. He’s a relatively low-key speaker, but he had an important message, one of a series based on the theme “I Am”. To listen to Holsinger’s sermon CLICK HERE . To me this service was more about entertaining a large crowd in an uncomfortably warm auditorium, rather than an encounter with the Risen Christ on the anniversary of His resurrection.

After the service, I talked with the couple sitting beside me; they were divided as to the musical aspect of the service. She liked the music and its loudness. He felt the blasting of the music was too loud and inappropriate. In my next post, I’ll discuss some of the serious issues loud music poses for worshipers.

I’ve learned to expect the unexpected from Faith. I think they are a good church but after this service, I was also left with the feeling they were marketing a product instead of insightfully shepherding Christians. No one talked with me proactively at Faith or even gave me direct eye contact, but at Cornerstone and Christ Our Savior they did.

I don’t know if I was the only one in Anchorage that went out of their way to attend three Easter services, aside from church leaders of course, but it took half of my day to do so. I’m glad I did. No doubt I could have picked any combination of churches in Anchorage and come up with different results, but these were my choices. I’ll guess over 2,000 worshipers attended these three churches on Easter Sunday.

Several key lessons learned from these visits.
• Bigger is not necessarily better
• Loud music does not equate to better worship
• Guests can be ill-treated even at Easter
• Personal connection works best
• Hospitality wins out
• A smile and hello goes a long way
• Offerings are usually received without guests being excepted
• The “Still Small Voice” has the greatest impact
• Special signs announcing Easter services/times do work

Happy Easter 2012!

I’ll be attending several services around town, tweeting the ones I’m at, as appropriate.[img_assist|nid=160671|title=Celebrate & Share the Good News!|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=189]

Well-known British theologian, and prolific author N.T. Wright offers some great Easter celebration advice in his book Surprised by Hope.

Easter 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. It is any wonder people find 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? It is 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? It’s long over due that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system.

I believe and will certainly be celebrating Christ’s resurrection today!

Still Looking For An Easter Service?

If you still searching for an Easter weekend service, the Anchorage Daily News Easter Worship Guide centerfold in yesterday’s paper is loaded with choices. Although churches pay for these ads, they are representative of a good cross-section of local church Easter services.

A Google search may not be as successful because many local churches use beautiful graphics to announce their Easter services, but Google tends to read words in searches. Pictures are undependable. Another reason churches don’t always benefit from being their own webmasters.[img_assist|nid=160642|title=ADN Easter Service Listing in 4/5/12 Paper|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=261]

Good Friday 2012 Reflections

After a wonderful Good Friday hour of hymns, John Rutter’s Requiem worshipfully and beautifully rendered, scripture readings, and removal of religious articles at St. John United Methodist Church, the choir and congregation departed the sanctuary in silence. I came home to ponder the impact of Good Friday. Basically, if we don’t get the significance of this dark day, we won’t get the plan of redemption. Without the plan of redemption for man, we have no hope.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann’s thoughts capture many Good Friday emotions perfectly with his poem, “The Terrible Silencing We Cannot Master”.

The Terrible Silencing We Cannot Master
“Holy God who hovers daily round us in fidelity and compassion,
this day we are mindful of another, dread-filled hovering,
that of the power of death before which we stand
thin and needful.
All our days, we are mindful of the pieces of our lives
and the part of your world
that are on the loose in destructive ways.
We notice that wildness midst our fear and our anger unresolved.
We mark it in a world of brutality and poverty and hunger
all around us.
We notice all our days.

But on this day of all days,
that great threat looms so large and powerful.
It is not for nothing
that we tremble at these three hours of darkness
and the raging earthquake.
It is not for nothing
that we have a sense of our helplessness
before the dread power of death that has broken loose
and that struts against our interest and even against our will.
Our whole life is not unlike the playground in the village,
lovely and delightful and filled with squeals unafraid,
and then we remember the silencing
of all those squeals in death,
and we remember the legions of Kristy’s
that are swept away in a riddle too deep for knowing.
Our whole life is like that playground
and on this dread-filled Friday we pause before
the terrible silencing we cannot master.

So we come in our helpless candor this day…
remembering, giving thanks, celebrating…
but not for one instant unmindful of dangers too ominous
and powers too sturdy and threats well beyond us.
We turn eventually from our hurt for children lost.
We turn finally from all our unresolved losses
to the cosmic grief at the loss of Jesus.
We recall and relive that wrenching Friday
when the hurt cut to your heart.
We see in that terrible hurt, our losses
and your full embrace of loss and defeat.

We dare pray while the darkness descends
and the earthquake trembles,
we dare pray for eyes to see fully
and mouths to speak fully the power of death all around,
we dare pray for a capacity to notice unflinching
that in our happy playgrounds other children die,
and grow silent,
we pray more for your notice and your promise
and your healing.

Our only urging on Friday is
that you live this as we must
impacted but not destroyed,
dimmed but not quenched.
For your great staying power
and your promise of newness we praise you.
It is in your power
and your promise that we take our stand this day.
We dare trust that Friday is never the last day,
so we watch for the new day of life.
Hear our prayer and be your full self toward us.

Good Friday/1991

Taken from Walter Brueggemann’s Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth
[img_assist|nid=159858|title=Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth by Walter Brueggemann|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=293|height=490]

Good Friday Service Recommendations

It’s not often I recommend particular Good Friday services, but I have two this year. Good Friday observances reflect upon the darkest side of Christ’s life, his trial, death, and burial.

This is not a time for magnificant outpourings of spectacular music and stagey performances such as I witnessed at last year’s Citywide Good Friday service at West High Auditorium. No, for true Christians, it can only be a time of quiet and serious reflection of the nature of the price the Son of Man paid for man’s redemption. Scripture records only pain, suffering, and fearsome displays as the life of Christ slowly came to an end.

In keeping with this theme, I recommend two local church presentations for the public in keeping with this solemn time.

Rutter Requiem at St. John UMC
St. John United Methodist Church is presenting John Rutter’s Requiem with choir and instrumental ensemble. St. John’s choir is an excellent choir superbly led by Karen Horton, the choirmaster and organist. This fine unpaid choir has been practicing for months to present this musical offering at the conclusion of Holy Week. I guarantee this beautiful and lyrical piece, adapted from the Roman Catholic requiem form, will bring tears to the eyes of many listeners. Ms. Horton, a longtime music teacher at ASD, will be retiring at the end of the year. This will be the local public’s few remaining opportunities to observe her fine directing. The performance commences at 7 p.m.[img_assist|nid=160633|title=Rutter Requiem – St John UMC|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=469]

Seven Last Words at All Saints Episcopal
All Saints Episcopal Church will present the “Seven Words From the Cross” from 12 – 3 p.m. on Good Friday. Based on the seven last words of Christ, it will present talks by various local community, scripture, hymns, and musical keyboard offerings by Maestro Robert Ashens of the Anchorage Opera. A perennial favorite, this program will offer a midday worship and reflection opportunity at this fine downtown church.

I’m so pleased that many Anchorage churches honor Good Friday and infuse it with traditional meaning, while adding new emphasis of its relevance for today’s Christian. There are many meaningful offerings at local churches. I selected these two as they offer unusual opportunities for this most solemn of days for Christians. Actually, the significance of Good Friday and Easter are the only reason we call ourselves Christians.