Author Archives: Chris Thompson

Mitzvah Mall Offers Unique Giving Opportunities – Sunday, November 17

What is Mitzvah Mall?
It is a holiday gift from Congregation Beth Sholom to the Anchorage community. Think about a non-denominational bizarre bazaar that is an alternative gift fair. In a room filled with decorative and informative tables, there will be 30 non-profit organizations with representatives to share their stories of the assistance they give to those in need.  The non-profits range from those supporting the arts to animal welfare agencies, from health and food assistance to safe places for troubled youth, several international aid groups, and many more. Although most of the organizational representatives are human, we will have birds, both rehabilitated wild and pets, and therapy dogs to help shoppers learn about three of the organizations.

What could be better than the gift of helping those agencies who help others?  And isn’t that better than another candle or pot holder? It is a fun event. Performers play acoustical music during the event.

“Gifts” are in various price ranges beginning at $5. Donors can receive a lovely card, filled out by a calligrapher, to send to the person honored by the gift.

Don’t Forget Hymn Sing Tomorrow, October 20 @ 6:00 p.m.

Do you miss singing the good old hymns of yesterday? Does your church primarily use “Top 40” contemporary Christian music in it’s services? Does your church use “7-11 songs”, i.e. where a congregation is enticed to sing the same seven words repetively, for what seems like eleven times in a row? Many churches in Anchorage use all of these forms of music in worship, wearing out the worshiper. It’s no wonder so many churches have praise bands, as these are the only ones seemingly able to keep up these musical worship forms. Look around during a service, and you’ll see what I mean.

Tomorrow, you have an opportunity to sing those good old hymns, at a great tempo, and associate with good Christian folks. It’s called Beer and Hymns and the action starts at 6:00 p.m. at Mo’s O’Brady’s Restaurant in the Huffman Business Plaza next to Carr’s. I’d get there early as tables go fast, and people tend to save seats for those who’ve not yet arrives. There is no admission, but you’ll have an opportunity to give to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska to be used for their many great community services, including a Food Pantry.

Enjoy!

Next Popular Beer & Hymns Sing – October 20, 2019

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It’s Beer & Hymns time again. Pastor Dan Bollerud is preparing for a record crowd at Mo’s O’Brady’s in the Huffman Business Park, Sunday, October 20. I urge you to arrive early or you may not find a seat at the table. The singing starts at 6 p.m. Pastor Dan leads, while Ms. Jamie plays the hymns at the keyboard, and everyone sings using the provided songsheets.

The last hymn sing in April raised over $11,000 in two-hours, bringing the total raised in the past four-years to more than $100,000. Attendees traditionally are most generous in supporting these wonderful events with their attendance and funds. Pastor Dan also shares that “it’s a great deal of fun, and brings Christ to the world.” A call for the faiths represented always reflects a wide cross-section from Anchorage’s faith community who support this event.

The funds raised go to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska whose work is known statewide for it services to Alaskans in need. Read more about their services at:

https://www.lssalaska.org/

O’Brady’s food is always tasty, service rendered with a smile, the beer and other beverages are cold. As always, this is not a rowdy drinking crowd but merely a group of friends who enjoy food, fellowship, and singing great hymns.

Last word, arrive early or you might not have a place to sit. The love of hymn singing and genuine Christian fellowship is a great draw.

Alaska Greek Festival Time at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church – August 16-18

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church – August 2018

If you haven’t experienced the Alaska Greek Festival at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church on O’Malley, you’ve been shortchanged. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a number of their festivals, and have come to appreciate the purpose of them. This faithful congregation has used these occasions to raise funds for their beautiful church. Thousands of house go into the planning, preparation, setup, and presenting of the food and entertainment.

Entertainers – August 2018

This event with a purpose deserves the support of the local community it receives. Admission is free and parking is plentiful, the food is tasty, and the Greek dancing is wonderful. So, get into that car and head up today, tomorrow, or Sunday.

Fr. Vasilli Hillhouse also offers tours and talks about their beautiful sanctuary. Hours are posted at the entrance to the church.

2019 Festival Hours

Friday, August 16th, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 17th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 18th, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church
2800 O’Malley Road in Anchorage

Strange Time for Some Protestant Churches

For years, stories of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church have provided fodder for the media. The general perception has been that Protestants were above this type of behavior. Recently, stories have begun to emerge that Protestants, too, have similar issues to deal with. The heartwrenching stories of many abuse victims are now beginning to be seen in the national media.

The Southern Baptists, at their recent convention, came to grips with the reality of the inroads abuse has made within their denomination. In a story this week, NPR stated “Earlier this year, The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News reported that nearly 400 male Southern Baptist leaders or volunteers had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, involving more than 700 victims.” The Washington Post, in article this past week, detailed efforts the Southern Baptists are taking to address this issue, but many question whether it’s too little, too late.

In it’s June 3 issue, The Washington Post Magazine highlighted the work bloggers are doing to expose abuse in Protestant churches. (see full article) Their efforts are in response to decades-long actions by a wide variety of Protestant churches to bury or minimize this abuse.

During my many church visits over the years, I’ve heard some Protestant pastors express anti-Catholic sentiments. I sincerely hope the events I’ve described should help non-Catholic churches to refrain from such language and address their own issues. As is said, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Latest Beer & Hymns Event Pushes Giving Over $100,000!!!

Who would have thought that singing hymns provides more than food for the soul? A dedicated group of hymnsingers gave over $11,000 during the April 7 Beer & Hymns event at Mo’s O’Brady’s. This pushes the four-year total of these events over the $100,000 mark!

I find it interesting that Christian contemporary music has not seen the same type of acceptance for raising funds for charitable work in local communities. Oh yes, some Christian artists pass through town and do concerts, mainly for personal gain.

My sincere congratulations to retired Pastor Dan Bollerud and his team of musicians who continue to provide these popular hymn singing events, and friendly fellowship opportunities. The funds collected are used by Lutheran Social Services of Alaska to support their food pantry and other charitable outreach programs. For further information, see www.lssalaska.org.

Beer & Hymns Sunday – April 7

It’s Beer & Hymns time again. Pastor Dan Bollerud is preparing for a record crowd at Mo’s O’Brady’s in the Huffman Business Park this coming Sunday. You are urged to get there early to grab a table before they are all gone. The singing starts at 6 p.m. Ms. Jamie livens things up at the keyboard, while Pastor Dan leads the singing which uses customized songsheets for all attendees.

He hopes this hymn sing’s proceeds will bring the total for these events will bring them over $100,000 raised. Attendees have been most generous in supporting these wonderful events with their attendance and funds. Pastor Dan also shares that “it’s a great deal of fun, and brings Christ to the world.” A roll call of faiths represented always reveals a wide cross-section from Anchorage’s faith community in attendance at this event.

The funds raised go to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska whose work is known statewide for it services to Alaskans in need. Read more about their services at:

https://www.lssalaska.org/

The food at O’Brady’s is always tasty and the beer is cold. Teetotalers have no fear; this is not a rowdy drinking crowd but merely a group of friends who enjoy food, fellowship, and singing great hymns.

Oh, did I forget to mention you will likely not find a place to sit if you time your arrival at the last minute? Even though I support this event with funds and my writing, I, along with others, have not found a seat several times.

Get Ashed? Really?

Well, it’s Ash Wednesday 2019. It seems it’s very stylish this year to refer to this special day, for over half of Christendom, as the day to “get ashed”. I even saw it on a local church sign. In this post-Christian era, it’s becoming very popular to employ “slanguage” in referring to major Christian events. I’m sure “get wined & breaded” is not far behind. Some local Fundamentals (fundies) refer to immersion baptism and “being dunked”.

Of course, if you don’t have a church you’re “unchurched”; if you do, you’re “churched”. We can quickly undo the wonderful language and terms of Christendom with a bit of irreverance.

For those who long for the Christian era, you can rescue part of it by not trivializing the work of, and major events of the church. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent which precedes Easter. A 40-day period which is marked by prayer, sometimes fasting, spiritual introspection, and spiritual renewal.

May your Lenten season be filled with grace, peace, and introspection.

Blessings

Chris

Advent Reflection – Pastor Andy Bartel – St. John UMC

Today is the 4th and final Sunday of Advent, Pastor Andy Bartel has generously offered his Advent Reflection for the season. Thank you to all the pastors who have contributed to this year’s Advent Reflections!

Advent Reflection – Waiting – Pastor Andy Bartel

I don’t like waiting. When purchasing my groceries, I try to spot the fastest checkstand clerk at Costco or Fred Meyer or Carrs (failing more often than not) and mumbling when I’ve made the wrong choice. I don’t speed in my vehicle, but I also don’t like following behind cars driving slower than the posted speed limit on dry clear pavement, giving instructions out loud to a driver who cannot hear me. When streaming a favorite TV show or holiday movie and I get the dreaded “buffering” lag, I am reminded: I. Don’t. Like. Waiting.

And yet, the season of Advent is all about waiting. This is the time of year when we are reminded that the world waited for millenia for the arrival of the Savior, the Christ Child, and we too are now awaiting his Promised return. A very significant aspect of discipleship is engaging in and claiming the spiritual discipline of waiting.

But what if saw waiting in a different light? Rather than striving for the efficiency of time well spent, what if I embraced the time of waiting? Rather than worrying about getting out of this infernal line to get to my next appointment, I took a moment to breathe, thank God for the ability to buy this food, and look around me and notice who God has placed in my presence at that moment? What if I stopped cursing the driver in front of me, and instead used the opportunity of a slower pace to take in the incredible artwork of God all around us in Alaska’s mountainous beauty? What if instead of waiting on a finicky internet connection, I shut off the screen altogether and engaged with family or friends over a puzzle, or board game, or (gasp) conversation…

In a society that values efficiency over most all else, Advent is a reminder that God probably doesn’t care at all about efficiency. But God cares deeply for every living soul in this world and is just waiting for us to spend some time with God. Maybe in our waiting, we can remember that our souls are longing for the same thing.

This Advent season, may we wait upon the Lord as the Lord has so faithfully waited upon us.

Pastor Andy Bartel – St John UMC

Advent Reflection – Fr. Marc Dunaway – St. John Orthodox

Today’s Advent Reflection comes from Fr. Marc Dunaway, pastor of St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River. Thank you Fr. Marc!

Advent Reflection
For Orthodox Christians the time of Advent is to be one of preparation that leads to the celebration of Christmas. In the last week before Christmas, however, we at last begin to decorate our Churches and our homes as we prepare to receive our Incarnate King, Jesus Christ, God become man. Still we fast and still we wait for the Great Feast of December 25, but now the approach of Christmas is being signaled in our hymns and prayers. All of this sense of preparation and anticipation is difficult to maintain against the tide of shopping, parties, and all sorts of holiday events. Nevertheless, we try as we can. Still will come the day of celebration, and on that day we will celebrate and remember what Christians have remembered and joyously sung around the world for centuries. Even amidst our shortcomings, it still comes. And what Christians celebrate on that day is the same as it has always been. A Syrian school teacher in Syria and Deacon in the Church, described it in this poem written 1600 hundred years ago.

A Christmas Prayer by Saint Ephraim the Syrian (4th century)
Child of Bethlehem, what contrasts Your embrace! No one has ever been so humble; no one has ever wielded such power. We stand in awe of Your holiness, and yet we are bathed in Your love. 

And where shall we look for You? You are in high heaven, in the glory of the Godhead. Yet those who searched for You on earth found You in a tiny baby at Mary’s breast. We come in hushed reverence to find You as God, and You welcome us as man. We come unthinkingly to find You as man, and are blinded by the light of Your Godhead. 

You are the heir to King David’s throne, but You renounced all of his royal splendor. Of all his luxurious bedrooms, You chose a stable. Of all his magnificent beds, You chose a feeding trough. Of all his golden chariots, You chose a donkey. 


Never was there a King like You! Instead of royal isolation, You made Yourself available to everyone who needed You. Instead of high security, You made Yourself vulnerable to those who hated You. 


It is we who need You, above anything in the world. You give Yourself to us with such total generosity, that it might almost seem that You need us. There never was a king like this before!