[img_assist|nid=128596|title=City Church – Sign on Side of Church – (Main Sign Missing)|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=180]I’ve long intended to attend Anchorage City Church. I was intrigued during my Abbott Loop visit when Dick Iverson mentioned he needed to finish his sermon as he was due to speak at City Church that day at 12. The City Church main webpage used to describe what one might expect during a visit. However, it had been removed prior to my visit. A charismatic church experience was suggested in the previous verbiage on the website. Not having a charismatic background, but prepared to be a witness in worship, I was traveling blind. I arrived at 11:50 A.M. July 27 for the 12 p.m. service.
Walking in the front door, expecting to be greeted by the dozens of people sipping coffee and chit chatting in the foyer, I finally realized something. This church was going to be no different in this respect than most of the other Anchorage churches I’ve visited over the past 6 months. No greeting or recognition was given. No one was handing out bulletins at the door to the worship room. I found a seat in the back to facilitate a quick exit should it be required (my normal habit during church visits). The worship venue resembled a gymnasium and had many flags hanging down from the ceiling. Dual large screens were hanging above the stage to facilitate display of song lyrics, and as it happened that day, a wonderfully entertaining children’s ministry video. As 12 o’clock neared it was obvious that less than half of the seats would be filled.
At 12 p.m. the nine person band and musical group assembled commencing to play and sing. I found the music quite loud and in praise style. Over the course of the service the band played about 40 minutes which I personally felt was a bit long. The bass volume was so intense I felt it in my chest more than any other service I’d attended in recent memory. I wondered if this would present a medical challenge for a person with heart issues. As noted in previous posts, I’ll be posting well-researched information about the use and misuse of religious music and musical beat in a future blog.
Although City Church is charismatic, there were just a few evidences of it. Charismatic worship is often accompanied by speaking in tongues, raised hands, “holy laughter”, dancing, and other manifestations. Clicking on the bolded charismatic words in this blog entry will take you to a explanatory Wikipedia entry.
Visitors in a Box
My favorite part of the program is always the “Meet n’ Greet”. (Just kidding here.) This is the moment most churches, in my experience, try to get their members to extend themselves to each other and outsiders. Most everyone around me seemed to do their best to avoid me, greeting the ones they did know, despite the pastor’s request to welcome someone “you don’t know”. I extended welcomes to others around me and finally gave up due to low interest, which is a term for when a person turns their back to you when you head in their direction. City Church also has this wonderful moment (I’m also kidding here.) when visitors are asked to stand and make themselves known. The visitors are recognized and are told to go to the information counter at the end of the service. I dropped by to pick up a bulletin but the sole person attending the booth was so busy with another she didn’t seem to notice I was there so I left.
Unusual Start to the Sermon
The pastor, Dick Irwin?, (remember, I didn’t have a bulletin), finally came out to center stage with two questions, “How is everyone? Groovy?” and sat down on a stool behind a stand for his notes. He stayed there for the entire time of his remarks; another FIRST for this church visitor. I only learned the title of his talk because during the offering, which you took to the front of the church to deposit in attended offering containers; sermon notes were offered on the stage. The title was CONFLICT: Keeping God’s Purpose in Mind. I will not describe the sermon. You can listen to the 10 a.m. version of it here. Irwin closed by inviting people up front for prayer groups and it was over.
Suffice it to say, Anchorage City Church was not a great experience for me. A very casual church that outwardly appears to love the Lord, but they also seemed to be a contradiction in terms, somewhat closed, and clearly not welcoming to visitors.
[img_assist|nid=128597|title=City Church – View from Minnesota|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=106]