Category Archives: Church Visits Blog

Wieland World Hunger Print – 2019 – Now Available

For 40 years, local artist Marianne Wieland, with the help of volunteers, has been producing an italiago print based on a religious theme. These beautiful prints are signed and numbered, and are a collectable item to treasure. She started this project as a personal response to her pastor’s challenge to address world hunger. Now, 40 years later, they have generated over $300,000 to help with world hunger. The link below will take you to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s website to order one of these prints. Better hurry, as this year’s edition is only 100 prints. Marianne advises me that she will be at Central Lutheran Church this coming Sunday, December 8, with her prints. She will also have prints of past years available for sale. They make the perfect Christmas gift.

Thank you Marianne, for the hard work you and your volunteers do to personally address the challenge of world hunger.

CT

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.

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.

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! 

Advent Reflection – Bishop Mark Lattime

Immanuel

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness–
on them light has shined.
(Isaiah 9:2)

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:9)

As an adult, and more so after my ordination, I have always struggled against the cultural norm to start celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving (I would never have thought the struggle would eventually begin the day after Halloween!). I’ve always preached the importance of honoring Advent.

Prepare ye the way!

As an “Adventophile” (I just made-up that word), I have always asserted that preparing for Christmas did NOT mean putting up Christmas Trees, or decking the halls, or fa-la-la-la-laing. Indeed, in my way of thinking, Advent should be just the opposite and marked by an ascetic restraint from all festivities anticipating Christmas Day. In fact, I had always harbored thoughts of not putting up the Christmas Tree until Christmas Eve. Becoming a parish priest with Christmas Eve worship responsibilities that did not get me home until well after 1 o’clock Christmas Morning, disabused me of that little bit of “Adventodox” fantasy. Nevertheless, in my estimation, Advent is supposed to be DARK! Broodingly so.

Advent is a Purple season.

Maybe it’s age; maybe it’s living in Alaska and entering into my 8th winter; or maybe it is my hope that we as the bearers of the Light of Christ become more and more people of that Light–Communities of Recovery that shine light into the darkness that hangs around so persistently in this world and in people’s lives; but I am starting to see that LIGHT is what every season is about—even, or especially, the season of Advent.

Sure, if you turn off all the lights and brood in darkness and despair, any light, even the weakest little flame, will hit your eyes like the brightest flash. But Christmas isn’t about a weak little flame. Christmas is the light of the world! The brightest and best of the stars of the morning! The dawn from on high! The Light of God incarnate: God with us!

A little light is adequate in the dark. Growing light, Holy light, is much better.

Advent is a season to prepare for the dawning of the true light. And while I’m still not ready to give-up entirely my vain claims of “Adventodoxy” (I did it again) and my resistance to getting caught-up in the sweep of the world’s pre-Christmas hype, nevertheless, I do see the light that shines through all of it. Light is a good thing in darkness. And if I am truly to claim the light of Christ as my own, it makes much better sense to spread light rather than to grieve or give honor to the of darkness.

Better to spend Advent being converted to light.

Howard Thurman described conversion as an act of loyalty. What one is loyal to converts that person into a “living for instance” of one’s loyalty. Even in Advent, and most brightly at Christmas, I pray that your loyalty to Christ will convert you and make you a living for instance of the Light of the Gospel. Prepare for the Light by being light, even if only a flickering flame. Trust me, there’s enough darkness out there that yours will not be missed. Embrace the light of Christ in this and every season and send the darkness fumbling away.

“Kindle Thy light within me, O God, that Thy glow may be spread over all of my life; yea indeed, that Thy glow may be spread over all of my life. More and more, may Thy light give radiance to my flickering candle, fresh vigor to my struggling intent, and renewal to my flagging spirit. Without Thy light within me, I must spend my years fumbling in my darkness. Kindle Thy light within me, O God!” (Excerpt from: Thurman, Howard. “Meditations of the Heart.” New York: Harper, 1953

I bid you and yours a Blessed Advent, a Merry Christmas, and a New Year full of Light.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Lattime
Episcopal Bishop of Alaska

Bishop David’s Reflections upon the Nativity

During Advent, many Christians who do not observe Advent practices, go immediately to consumer spending binges, and begin singing Christmas carols as if the nativity was already being observed.  The Rt. Rev. Bishop David (Mahaffey, Orthodox Bishop of Sitka and Alaska has kindly consented to share his thoughts on these practices and what we’re losing in the process.

The Nativity of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Rt. Rev. Bishop David (Mahaffey), Bishop of Sitka and Alaska

It seems every year, as we approach the Christmas Holiday, we find it less and less a celebration of the coming of our Savior and more a commercial enterprise. This is not to say that I have a “bah, humbug!” attitude, not at all, but I seek a Spiritual meaning for this time of year.

Aye, there’s the rub! I want to be “Spiritual”, but not religious. But what do I mean by being Spiritual and not being religious? How can I say such a thing, when I am the leader of the largest body of (Orthodox) Christians in Alaska? Aren’t we supposed to be “religious”? Again, it depends on what you mean by religious. Merriam Webster defines it basically as “the service and worship of God or the supernatural (1).” If that is all I was seeking, that is easily completed by attending services, and at Christmas time, there are many. There are Christmas Cantatas, Live Nativity Scenes, Candlelight Vigils, roaming carolers and singers; there’s Midnight Mass for some Faiths, Christmas Eve Vigils and Divine Liturgy for others (I still can’t get over the fact that some churches don’t even have services on Christmas Day unless it falls on a Sunday, but I digress). So, if I want to “satisfy” my religious experience, lots of things will fill the bill. Once done, I can go on with my other “needs” at shopping malls, and all.

There are many people today who say they are “Spiritual” but not “religious”. I want to say here that while I agree with what they are thinking, I disagree that it is something I can fulfill on my own. For me, there is always the need for “the Other” in a spiritual equation. So, whether I am talking about Christmas, or any other major celebration of an event related to Christ, I am always seeking my involvement with the Other.

So being spiritual means that I am meditating or contemplating on what it means to have God become a human being, to be incarnated in the flesh and blood that I am also clothed with, along with every other human being who was, is and ever will exist. I am not just interested in feeding my own soul but with joining in a nourishing “meal” with as many other persons as I can. I want to feed my Spirit and join with others who have the same or a similar understanding of the same motive.

Let me offer a few reasons why this is so important to me. First, very few religions have ever even allowed that God could become a human being, he is simply God qua God, above and beyond everything and anything else that is involved with matter, with “stuff” that exists in our world. It is incomprehensible to those who hold to such an idea (ancient Greek philosophers, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, even some Jewish sects, etc.) that we could associate God with our world because it is a perishing world, finite, and surely God could not be a part of that. But in Christianity, not only to we believe this, we celebrate it and say our Salvation depends on it!

Second, related to the first Christian notion, we Orthodox Christians have no less than
four Major (and three minor Feasts spread throughout the calendar year related to the
Incarnation of Christ (2), not to mention Christmas, itself. In other words, we are preparing
for the coming of Christ throughout the year, not just on December 25. We gather
together in prayer and Liturgy at each event, knowing we are making ready our hearts
for the coming Incarnation.

Third, while many others celebrate the fasting season before Christmas as a “Four-
Sunday Advent” event, this fast for we Orthodox is a full forty days. Beginning on
November 15 (Nov. 28, Julian calendar with Jan. 7 being Christmas) until December 25,
we practice fasting from certain foods, pleasures and entertainment, and increase our
prayer life accordingly. This also helps us direct our attention to the contemplation of the
coming of Christ and of His Theophany as well.

All this is not to find any inadequacy with anyone else’s enjoyment of Christmas, but it is
to say that I need all of these things to enter into my own “Spiritual” celebration of
Christmas. A Spiritual Joy only possible when I join into this celebration with others who
share similar love for the Incarnation of our Lord, and are thankful for His love for us.
I wish all those who are celebrating this Holy Season the Peace of Christ and the Joy of
the Lord!

1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion#other-words
2. Major: Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, March 25; Nativity of the Virgin Mary, September 8; Entry of theTheotokos into the Temple, November 21; and Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, February 2 (Nativity ofour Lord – Christmas – is a given). Minor: Conception of St. Anne, December 9; Conception of St John the Baptist by Elizabeth, September 24; Nativity of St John the Baptist, September 23.