Category Archives: ADN Articles

Beer & Hymns – Sunday – November 4, 2018

The next Beer & Hymns sing will be held Sunday, November 4, 6:00 p.m. at Mo’s O’Brady’s in the Huffman Business Park next to Carrs/Safeway. This a tremendously successful event which features camaraderie, and singing wonderful hymns, something many of today’s churches no longer offer.  Retired Lutheran Pastor Dan Bollerud has encouraged this event into a tremendous asset for the local community.

There is no charge to attend, but donations are accepted for Lutheran Social Services of Alaska. The previous Beer & Hymns raised over $11,000 in just two-hours.  Mo’s food is always delicious and features many “down home” favorites.

I urge you to get there early or you might not be able to find seating.  At the last Beer & Hymns I was among others who were unable to find seating and left.  Personally, I’m not eager to stand for two-hours during a hymn sing.  In my opinion, this wonderful event has possibly outgrown its venue and should consider moving.

I hope this event is as successful as the last one!

 

Alaska Greek Festival –

One of my favorite times of year comes next weekend.  The Alaska Greek Festival arrives at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church just east on O’Malley Road after the Lake Otis intersection.   Detailed information is found here: http://akgreekfestival.com/

2018 Festival Hours

Friday, August 17th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 18th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 19th, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

This festival has annually raised money to complete their beautiful church, and has successfully done so for many years.  Their dedicated members pitch in and cook the food, pour the beverages, and serve the desserts.  The food is traditional Greek and most tasty indeed.  After you’ve eaten, sit back and enjoy the Greek music and dancing.  It is a memorable event you can bring the whole family to enjoy.

Take time to enjoy a tour of the church and lecture provided by their engaging priest, Fr. Vasili Hillhouse.  He’ll describe the splendor of the iconography employed to deepen their member’s religious experience.  No matter how many times I’ve heard him speak, I always hear something new. While in the church, look in their gift shop for items found nowhere else in Anchorage. I’ve found books of great interest. Their awesome parish cookbook full of Greek recipes is also for sale within.

I’ll be at the festival. Say hello if you spot me!

Blessings

Chris

 

Eagle River Institute Starts Today – August 1, 2018

St John Orthodox Cathedral – Sanctuary

St John Orthodox Cathedral’s Eagle River Institute (ERI) is slated to start today at 3:30 p.m.  During this wonderful annual event, scholars from across the U.S. present on topics selected by Fr. Marc Dunaway. I’ve attended a number of their institutes over the years and can only say what a spiritual blessing they’ve been.

This year’s theme is Holiness Among the Ordinary.

One track will address “Marriage as a Path to Theosis”. The presenter is Fr Philip LeMasters who is a professor of religion at McMurry University, Abilene, TX.

The other track addresses “Lay People in the Ancient Church: Women and Men”. The presenter is Dr. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, professor of religious studies, Brown University.

A detailed brochure with presentation times and fees is available at the link below.  This is not to be missed.

https://stjohnalaska.org/files/ERI%20Brochures/ERI_Brochure_2018.pdf

 

Vatican Astronomer Giving Free Faith and Science Talk — Tuesday 11/28/17

Most religions, and pastors shy away from addressing the dynamics of faith and science. In fact, research studies indicate this failure by the church and their members to discuss faith and science, is a prime reason millennials have lost interest in religion.

It is indeed refreshing to discover that APU’s Regina Boisclair, Ph.D, Professor of Religious Studies and Cardinal Newman Chair, is bringing Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., Ph.D. to Alaska to make several presentations on “God’s Mechanics, The Spiritual Life of Techies”.

A free local lecture, Tuesday, November 28 at St. Patrick’s Church, 2111 Muldoon Road, 7:00-8:30 p.m., will allow the public to hear Br. Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome and Tucson.

For a brief, 5 minute, video introduction to this notable astronomer, click here: https://ed.ted.com/on/L5d2wXuE. A lengthier TedX talk is available to watch by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmU2gDbP_Tk.

He believes in the need for science and religion to work alongside one another rather than as competing ideologies. In 2006, he said, “Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism – it’s turning God into a nature god.”

On July 2, 2014, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.  Known as “The Pope’s Astronomer,” he was named by Pope Francis to be the Director of the Vatican Observatory in September 2015.

Come early to claim your seat and have your thinking challenged.

Chris Thompson
churchvisits@gmail.com

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Thanksgiving’s a time for thanks—what are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving will be celebrated soon. This started me thinking about local faith community practices at this time of year. Last week, I noted Thanksgiving Blessing, a huge effort by the faith community and the Food Bank of Alaska. It takes many people to make this event a success and I’m thankful for those in our community who lead or participate in these efforts.

The story of the Pilgrims offers a teachable moment.

It’s a familiar story: After a harrowing transatlantic voyage and a disastrous winter, the surviving Pilgrims were grateful for the bounty offered by their first harvest and Native American neighbors.

Although Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, the story of the Pilgrims links it to American faith traditions. Few of us have ever suffered the privations they endured. It is a proper time to truly give thanks, and to teach others the spirit of the day. Some faith communities show their thanks by emulating that early Thanksgiving by incorporating those around them in that practice of celebrating and sharing.

The Pilgrims fled Europe because they were restricted in free practice of their religion, and sought to return to worshiping as they believed the early church did. I’m thankful for the four freedoms President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated in 1941 that symbolize what our country represents to the world: freedom of speech; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. These were artistically and forcefully expressed by illustrator Norman Rockwell in four paintings, used as covers for the Saturday Evening Post.

Many people in the world do not have these freedoms as we celebrate Thanksgiving. According to Freedom House’s 2016 assessment of liberty, “Of the 195 countries assessed, 86 (44 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 50 (26 percent) Not Free.”

Few non-Catholic churches in Anchorage seem to be offering Thanksgiving services this year (Most Catholic churches do offer Thanksgiving Mass. Check your local schedule for times.). I would guess it’s probably due to preoccupation by families with dinner, football, etc., but many people of faith have found value in using this day to take time to be truly thankful for the gifts God has placed in their lives. And a few churches are offering Thanksgiving dinners prior to Thanksgiving, but just a few.

Clear Water Church, First Baptist Church and Skilled Missions Alaska are embarking on an innovative approach this year. They will be ministering to displaced families with relatives in Providence Alaska Medical Center. They will accomplish this by providing a Thanksgiving meal and fellowship at the Walter J. and Ermalee Hickel House.

For those unfamiliar with Hickel House, it offers an affordable, comfortable “home away from home” for outpatients and their families receiving medical attention at Providence. I think this is an exciting opportunity to show some true Thanksgiving spirit. (If you’d like to participate, call Clear Water member Brian Whitson at 268-8659.)

Joy Christian Center is holding a Thanksgiving service at 7 p.m. followed by a pie social on Thanksgiving Day. It’s located at 4335 Laurel St. A few local churches are offering Thanksgiving services during the week, but I was unable to locate others offering services on Thanksgiving Day through an internet search.

Bean’s Café and Brother Francis Shelter will serve Thanksgiving dinners Thursday. The Downtown Soup Kitchen is closed on Thanksgiving Day. Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission serves Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday because People Mover doesn’t run buses on Thanksgiving.

Bean’s, Brother Francis, and the Rescue Mission would sincerely appreciate donations of items such as turkeys, canned vegetables, mashed potatoes, hams and yams to support these special events.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this coming week, take time to consider things you are truly thankful for. The “Four Freedoms” are a good place to start. Whether or not you are a person of faith, Thanksgiving is an ideal time to pause and reflect on those things for which we are truly thankful.

Merton lecture series was well-attended

The recent Caroline Penniman Wohlforth Lecture Series held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Nov. 4-6 was well-attended and introduced participants to the prayer and meditative concepts of Thomas Merton. Many people are seeking deeper spiritual relevance and time for reflection in their daily lives.

The Rev. Hugh Grant from Washington state delved into the life of celebrated Trappist monk Thomas Merton in a Friday evening talk to a capacity audience. The lecture, captured by church staff on video, can be viewed at St. Mary’s website. Grant summarized Merton’s life, writings, brief time in Alaska and his relevancy to our everyday lives.

Saturday’s lecture was a time of reflection, training in centering prayer, personal meditation, and practical instruction about how to slow down to perceive God’s speaking to us. Sunday’s lecture focused on observations about what nature can tell us, especially about ourselves.

Coming just days before the election, the lectures offered insights about how to deal with stress and contentious issues. Merton, writing about the spiritual life, said “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”

A key lecture topic was contemplation and centering prayer. Merton, writing on the subject, said, “Prayer is then not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart – it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention, and adoration. All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God.”

This lecture series was a gift to the community, and a good number of people took advantage of the opportunity. Thank you, St. Mary’s, and the Wohlforth Lecture Series.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits, at adn.com/churchvisits.

Alaska Dispatch News Story – Fr. Norman Elliott’s Passing – 9/13/16

The Alaska Dispatch News ran a story on Fr. Norman Elliott’s recent death, and brief review of his life.  This link will take you to the story online. There is a factual mistake in that he was awaiting a call to the Philippines rather than India as reported in the story.

http://www.adn.com/obituaries/2016/09/12/norman-elliott-longtime-episcopal-rector-in-anchorage-dies-at-97/

I will be addressing Fr. Elliott’s life from a personal perspective, as well as including comments from others who were also impacted in a major way, within the next couple of weeks.

RIP – Fr. Norman Elliott

The much loved senior clergyman in Alaska, Fr. Norman Elliott, passed on Friday.

A Visitation will be held Monday 9/19/2016  from 1:00pm to 4:00pm with the service starting at 4pm.  It will be held at All Saints, with overflow being in the Egan Center.  A reception will follow at the Egan Center. The burial will be the following day (Tuesday)  at 1:00pm at Angelus Memorial Park Cemetery.

Fr Elliott’s passing will be mourned by scores of Alaskan who owe their connection to God to him. I’ve written several columns about him which can be found using the search tool on the right under the word cloud. Use Elliott for your search. I’ll post a detailed column after his services.
RIP dear friend.