Huddling with the Congregationals

[img_assist|nid=123950|title=First Congregational Church Sign|desc=First Congregational’s sign on Northern Lights Boulevard prominently identifies this landmark church.|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=79]
I had been curious about the Congregationalists that worship at First Congregational Church. In passing their soaring sanctuary at 2610 E. Northern Lights, I often wondered what manner of service was offered in this beautiful location. Sunday, May 4, I selected this church for my weekly church visit.

FCC’s sole service commences at 10:30 a.m., a bit earlier than other churches with a single service. I find it important to do a little homework prior to doing a new church visit as worship times do vary.

This is easier today with the internet access most technologically progressive churches use. Sometimes I have to do some extensive searching of a churches website just to find the times of services.

In a future column, I plan to suggest 10 things churches can do to ensure their information is clearly user friendly and available. For example, there should be a clickable link on every churches homepage titled WORSHIP TIMES. You can’t believe how often this is buried in some obscure place.

Being greeted

Upon entering the church I was greeted by the official greeters, a husband and wife team who offered the typical official but sterile greeting.

During the official “meet n’ greet” segment, I shook about 7 hands with similar effect. So far in all of my church visits in Anchorage, only one person inquired as to my name and whether I was a visitor.

Having a long career in sales, I have a hard time understanding meeting someone with whom I might be doing business, without inquiring as to their name. Churches can do much in learning how people buy products. Mainly product choices are based on the believability or crediblity of the sales person, and it all starts with being friendly and exchanging names

[img_assist|nid=124007|title=First Congregational Exterior View – Rear|desc=

Look and sound of the church

First Congregational’s beautiful architecture is even more inspiring in the interior. There is abundant parking available.|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=199]FCC has a set order of service typical of many mainstream protestant churches. A fairly musical church, they use the organ and a small but surpisingly good choir to augment their service, both of which I considered to be pleasing to the ear. The service lasts about one hour.

FCC is a beautiful church on the interior and features wood beam accents and a soaring ceiling. This huge church sanctuary was only filled 1/3 to 1/2 of capacity.

Listening to the message

The Senior Minister and presider was Rev. Mark E. Long whose topic, Huddled in Faith, dwelt on worship styles and church community over the ages. He emphasized the growth from the center of worship being the ark of the covenant, a movable symbol, to an emphasis on bricks and mortar. Unfortunately what got sacrificed was the emphasis on inner faith.

Rev. Long said we need to answer the question of what is church really, emphasizing that we are the church, but we must give up what we have to others in order to survive.

That is the riddle of faith communities. This certainly trued up with Long’s remarks about Congregationalists emphasis on funding two major initiatives.

Special initiatives

One project is the endowment of a Center for Congregational Leadership at Olivet College to focus on equipping individuals and churches for ministry in both traditional and emerging forms. The other initiative is to increase the knowledge, influence and growth of the Congregational Way via the creation of a Fund for Congregational Growth and Renewal. This will provide member churches with financial resources for new and renewed ministries.

Long was erudite and had good thoughts to share. I found it difficult to follow him due to his reliance on a printed text. So few ministers ascend the pulpit today without a script. God must be amused because there is so much to share. Maybe these initiatives will bear fruit and I’ll want to worship again at this church. Until then, I have a sense this congregation is still searching, but at least they are searching.

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