Monthly Archives: November 2013

Bean’s Cafe – Helping in Love By Serving Thanksgiving Meals

Thanksgiving Day, Bean’s Cafe will continue to serve meals with love and warm attitudes to demonstrate to the less fortunate that they are loved by the Anchorage community.

Lisa Sauder, Bean’s Executive Director offered some insight on the extent of their meal activities on Thanksgiving. They plan to serve approximately 1,200 meals. Because they are excellent financial stewards of community donations, and other financial resources, they are able to provide dinners where the average meal cost, for food alone, averages under $3.00.

Ms. Sauder further noted “We are so grateful for the amazing support we receive each year for Thanksgiving and the Holidays. We see such an increase in giving this time of year. It really helps so much.”

“Bean’s meal is served at noon”, she said, “and Brother Francis Shelter will serve dinner on Thanksgiving for those clients who are residing there. We are helping them with their dinner by donating the vegetables to be served. Providence provides all other food for the meal.”

From my volunteer work at Bean’s, I know Bean’s clients enjoy a tasty, well-prepared lunch, made and served with love by volunteers. I can attest to the rewards of volunteerism at Bean’s. They are especially grateful for monetary assistance during the winter months, as that is when their client load, and expenses, are at their highest. Rather than giving expensive gifts to each other during this time of consumer extravagance, I urge you to consider Bean’s and Brother Francis Shelter during this critical time of year.

St. Mary’s Episcopal – Open Arms – Helping Hands

Maybe it was the 1,000’s of jars of peanut butter lined up behind the altar at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church , destined for the less fortunate. It might have been the closing invocation in Inupiat, spoken by the aged native elder as she stood by Rector Michael Burke. Or it could have been the multitude of interactions between those two events last Sunday, November 24, the Last Sunday after Pentecost in liturgical time. But it all conspired to make it a meaningful Sunday service for me.

My revisit to this warm and friendly church was made to update how time changes this congregation that meets on the rise overlooking Tudor and Lake Otis. The folk music of Wade Hampton Miller and St. Mary’s Praise Singers greeted my ears as I entered last Sunday Morning. No untheological repetition or ear blasting rock volumes here, just Christian goodness with many tunes and lyrics directly from the hand of talented Miller.

Rector Burke delivered an awesome sermon on this special day designated the Celebration of Christ the King. He opened with the following illustration.

Jerry Schmalenberger, the former President of Pacific Lutheran Seminary in California, used to tell a story dating back to the time of the Nazi terror in Germany. In Wittenberg-Lutherstadt, a large statue of Christ stands in front of the Castle Church. Today, it is patched and repaired: for, on one Sunday afternoon long ago, a group of Nazi youth beat the statue to pieces with clubs. They painted the following words on a nearby fence: “The Reign of Christ is over.”

Later, several Christian youth saw what had been done. They repaired the broken statue. Then, taking the same discarded paintbrush and paint can the Hitler Youth had used, they added three letters to the Nazi message: “a-l-l.” The slogan on the fence now read: “The reign of Christ is over all.”

Burke challenged his parishioners to consider what role Christ played in their lives. In three closing questions he asked them to consider Christ’s role in their lives.

How important is Jesus to you?
Where have you placed Christ in the ordering of your life?
Is the reign of Christ “over all” in your life, or is the reign of Christ “over” in your life?

Yes indeed, the clear Christian theology is still intact at St. Mary’s!

After the serving of the Eucharist, Rector Burke invited this congregation to a Thanksgiving Day breakfast at St. Mary’s at 9:00 a.m. to be followed by a Thanksgiving Day worship service at 10 a.m. This church works for me, and it truly works in the community. Anyone could show up for these events and be warmly welcomed, fed, and ministered to.

I consider St. Mary’s to be a bright spot in Anchorage’s church community.

Thanksgiving Blessing Tomorrow

I was unaware of Thanksgiving Blessing Project commencing tomorrow until I saw a flier in one of the schools where I substitute-teach. Doing a little checking I found out it’s a huge effort on the part of the Food Bank and a number of local organizations. The Food Bank was kind enough to answer some questions about this incredible community effort. Their response is printed below after the list of distribution sites and related zipcodes. From 3-8 p.m. tomorrow families can receive a turkey and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal by going to one of the seven (7) sites listed below. Recipients are asked to bring proof of address with them.

Crosspoint Church
Dimond and Minnesota, in the Burlington Coat Factory Mall
Zipcodes: 99507, 99511, 99515, 99516, 99518, 99522, 99523, 99540, 99587

Faith Christian Community
4240 Wisconsin in Spenard
Zipcodes: 99502, 99517, 99519

Central Lutheran Church
Cordova and 15th
Zipcodes: 99501 addresses WEST of Gambell, 99503, 99510, 99512, 99513, 99520,99524

St. Patrick’s Church
2111 Muldoon Road
Zipcodes: 99504, 99509, 99521

Alaska Native Cultural Charter School
550 Bragaw Street
Zipcodes: 99501 addresses EAST of Gambell, 99508 addresses SOUTH of Glenn Hwy

Mt. View Community Center
315 N. Price, off of Mt. View Drive
Zipcodes: 99508 addresses NORTH of Glenn Hwy

Joy Lutheran Church
10111 E. Eagle River Loop Road
Zipcodes: 99505, 99506, 99567, 99577

Karla Jutzi of the Food Bank kindly answered some key questions I posed. A flier covering many more details of the Thanksgiving Blessing Project is also attached.

CV: Church Visits
CJ: Carla Jutzi

CV: How long has Thanksgiving Blessing been in operation and who funds it?
CJ: Thanksgiving Blessing began in Anchorage in 2004 and in the Valley in 2010 as community-wide collaborations to be more effective and efficient in distributing food to those who might otherwise go without a Thanksgiving dinner. It is funded by donations of food and financial gifts that members of all the involved congregations and agencies give or raise and by Food Bank of Alaska, which furnishes the turkeys and produce. Food Bank of Alaska supports its part with a combination of government and private grants and donations from businesses and individuals.

CV: What are the qualifications to receive the food?
CJ: There are no qualifications except need identified by clients themselves. Recipients are asked to go to the site serving their zip code to facilitate planning and are asked to bring proof of address.

CV: How were pickup sites selected?
CJ: A committee of involved congregations and agencies (LSSA, Catholic Social Services, Love, Inc.) makes decisions about how Thanksgiving Blessing is organized and run. Food Bank of Alaska facilitates this planning process.

CV: What does a typical recipient/family receive?
CJ: Families have the chance to “shop,” so they can select what they want and will use and are not required to take a prepackaged box. Available are a turkey for every household with a roasting pan, canned vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, gravy mix, a bag of potatoes, a bag of apples, dinner rolls, pies, and butter or margarine. The amount depends on family size.

CV: What is the average cost per distribution?
CJ: We are estimating the average cost per household this year at $45.

CV: How do you ensure recipients do not collect from multiple organizations doing such distributions, i.e. churches, non-profits, etc.?
CJ: Minimizing this is one of the reasons the coordinated, community-wide distribution began. Blessing sites register families when they arrive and ask families to go only to the site serving their zip code and to bring proof of address with them.

CV: How is the local community involved in preparing and distributing this?
CJ: Leaders of the local faith community do the planning, solicit donations of food and funds, and solicit and deploy an army of volunteers who do set up and distribution. Food Bank of Alaska facilitates planning, does bulk food purchases based on site orders, receives and processes donations for the event and individual sites, prepares materials and coordinates media outreach, and warehouses and distributes purchased food. Alaska 211 handles information and referral.

The Thanksgiving Blessing Project is a wonderful holiday project involving our local community. Last year Thanksgiving Blessing provided meals for 7,479 Anchorage families. I believe this project would be significantly helped by your online contribution in any amount, or mail your gift to Food Bank of Alaska, 2121 Spar Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501.

I believe a hearty thank you is owed to all those in our community who care that everyone in our community has a meal on our national holiday Thanksgiving. My thanks is extended to all those involved in this worthy cause.

Grandview Baptist Church – Some Rough Moments

I’ve often driven Debarr Road in the Airport Heights area but haven’t visited churches in that area as much as I’d like. On November 10 I decided to visit Grandview Baptist Church located just east of Alaska Regional Hospital. Grandview Baptist has been in my view and on my mind for years, so I thought it was time. Although I enjoy visiting churches to survey their guest friendliness, and to worship, a bit of trepidation also accompanies me as I enter each church door. This visit was no exception.

Moderate Welcome
I was greeted by the bulletin passer at the door, and two people in my pew introduced themselves immediately. The congregation was quite noisy as I sat, in fact, it was so noisy I had a hard time hearing the announcements initially. A general greeting to visitors was given from the pulpit which was appropriate. I rarely hear Anchorage churches even greet their guests from the pulpit. It seems to indicate those churches are holding services for their own benefit, not also for guests who may happen to wander in. Guests often can become members, and to not greet them with warmth and courtesy is akin to shutting the door in their face.

Veteran’s, Meet ‘n Greet & Embarrassment
The person making the announcements asked all veterans to stand to be recognized. He then proceeded to ask everyone to go find veterans and greet them. It was a bit of an awkward moment for me. This emphasis was incorporated in a general Meet ‘n Greet, which I feel is one of the biggest and most embarrassing wastes of time in any church. During this time, the announcer came up and greeted me. I asked him if he was a deacon, as deacons often make announcements at the start of Baptist services. To my shock, I discovered he was the pastor! I mentioned it might have been helpful to guests had he introduced himself, so that people unfamiliar with him might understand his relationship to the church. He then found a deacon to introduce to me. It felt as if he was intentionally trying to embarrass me for my comment, which I felt was absolutely appropriate.

Music Program Done Well
The music was rendered by a band of eight, and a choir of 12-16 (singers came and went so I never knew who was really there). However the music was skillfully led, performed well, theologically correct, and sounded great. The music director also led the church in the singing.

Good Dramatic Presentation – “Lazarus”
A teenager, dressed in simulated grave wrappings, came out after the prayer and gave a monologue as though it were Lazarus speaking. His lines were well rehearsed and I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation even though it seemed a bit “flip” in places. This was well worth the price of the trip.

Sermon Typical Baptist
Pastor Randy Graham gave what I considered to be typical Baptist fare. He’s a relatively good speaker but the sermon didn’t really grab me. Parts of his remarks were based on 1 Corinthians 13. No title was given in the bulletin for his sermon, and no replays are available at the church website. Pastor Randy ended with the traditional Baptist altar call but no one came forward.

Hand Holding Awkward Closing
A closing chorus, “On Eagles Wings”, was sung. I quickly discovered their practice was to hold hands during the singing of this. The person to my left took one hand and the person in the pew in front of me turned sideways taking my other hand. I audibly discovered I was saying “awkward”! If this church was truly visitor friendly they would have mentioned this practice in advance. Another visitor friendly gesture would have been for them to say they were taking an offering, but guests were not required or expected to give.

Although Grandview Baptist fared well on some points I always look for, in other areas I felt they were unprepared for guests when they arrive. Their website was designed so one had to hunt for worship times, buried under two pull down menus. A church’s worship times are the main reason potential guests visit their website. They should be prominently displayed so one does not have to scroll down or click other menus to find them. The splash screen on their website displays a changing cornucopia of coming events, but sadly nothing about the time of worship or the pastor’s topic.

To me, the lighting in the church seemed to detract from my ability to see what was transpiring during the service. It was quite dim. I found it made for some difficulty in reading my Bible and the bulletin. In some ways Grandview felt very family oriented, with a good mix of ages and programs. It seemed to have some of the “right stuff” but I left to brave the trip home on ice-slicked roads without anyone saying goodbye.

Thanksgiving Sermons – Will Preachers Upset or Avoid?

Thanksgiving sermons are interesting. The Sunday before Thanksgiving is an ideal time for preachers to remind parishioners about the dangers of Christians shopping on our national holiday, a day for family and friends to give thanks. Our consumer-driven economy is an antithesis to the vision Christ painted over 2,000 years ago. In that spirit, true Christians would not “shop ‘til they drop” at this time of year because “It’s not your birthday…” as Pastor Bob Mather noted in his Advent thought last year. (Click HERE and HERE) (Hyplerlinks unavailable at the moment)

However, the merchants of America keep pushing forward the dates of the Christmas selling season. First it was Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Now the big sell has intruded into the hours of Thanksgiving itself. Thanksgiving was symbolic of family and friends meeting once a year to break bread together, and give thanks for what we have.

The Bible is chock full of counsel to Christians against accumulation, consumerism, and love for the things of the world. When I grew up, and as recent as a few years ago in Texas, if you needed a last minute item at Safeway on Thanksgiving Day, it was closed. It is rapidly becoming business as usual. You might say, what about the Jews, Muslims, Buddists, etc? Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. It’s a national holiday, advocated by presidents and signed into law, to set aside and recognize a day of thanks.

Matt Walsh, a Huffington Post blogger posted his thoughts on this issue November 20 entitled “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem”. I am shocked by the number of commentators who were vehemently opposed to his thoughts and supported treating Thanksgiving like any other day.

I’m curious how many Alaskan pastors will actually tell it like it is, this Sunday before Thanksgiving, in a sermon denouncing the spirit of acquisition and consumerism. Their parishioners might not be happy with such a sermon, but it is the right spirit of religion. I do note that while many churches do not celebrate Thanksgiving as a religious holiday, they do use it as a springboard to extend help to those less fortunate in our community. They do this by having Thanksgiving dinners where all are invited, giving generously to food banks for distribution, and volunteer to work in the many non-profits who actually feed the less fortunate, and give money to support these causes. One such cause is the Thanksgiving Blessing which I’ll be writing about tomorrow.

Finally I applaud those merchants who are courageously standing firm and not opening on Thanksgiving Day to honor our country’s national holiday. This Huffington Post article honors those merchants “Costco, Nordstrom Refuse To Ruin Thanksgiving”.

Beer & Hymns for LSSA – Sunday@6:30 pm

Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church (COSLC) Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church (COSLC) is hosting its 2nd Beer & Hymns session at Mo’s O’Brady’s, 1501 Huffman Rd., Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

A most fitting date, Sunday is also the 530th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth. From this humble Catholic priest grew the roots of the Protestant Reformation and the Lutheran Church. Martin was a great writer of hymns, penning over 35 of them, including “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”. He was also a proponent of the consumption of beer and ale. My favorite Luther quotes are “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” and “I’d rather my people were in the alehouse thinking of church, than in church thinking of the alehouse.”

It’s simple. You come, admission is free, buy food from O’Brady’s tasty menu, along with your favorite beverage, including adult beverages. Eat, drink, and sing during a this two-hour hymnfest. Freewill donations to LSSA’s food bank can be made during the hymn sing (no pressure). Last year just under $5,000 was raised. LSSA is well known for making a sizable dent in meeting the needs of those in our community who cannot feed themselves and/or their families in these trying times.

COSLC members are among some of the most personable and friendly church members in town. Pastor Dan Bollerud shares that “God is not confined to our churches. Worship comes in many forms. Come join us for food, fellowship, and fun, knowing that with Christ and your brothers and sisters, all are one”. I’ve come to know Pastor Dan as a marvelous connector, has a great voice, and leads the music during the singing. He can also direct you to some great brews. I guarantee you’ll make some new friends at this event. I’ll also be there enjoying this wonderful time, and recording my impressions for the Church Visits blog.

You can download this illustration in a larger format below.