First Christian…Warm & Welcoming

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Conveniently located, Midtown Anchorage’s First Christian Church offers warm welcomes, participative services, and delightful cameraderie missing in many local churches. I felt welcomed from the very beginning. Although I visited them on December 14, the Third Sunday of Advent, I left feeling their warmth was not unusual for this or any other day. Offered a name tag, I was on a first name basis with everyone immediately. A poignant recognition by the church of a long-term Sunday School teacher was a great sharing point. Pastor Dale Kelley’s childrens story time and the star gift for each child helped underscore the importance of children to this slightly older congregation. The sermon was the first, among my Anchorage church visits, to be delivered by a woman. A sad but true sticky thought from her sermon was “Mary’s song will not be heard as often this Christmas season as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Open communion was served followed by a time of food and fellowship to which I was invited numerous times. Many parishioners greeted me warmly during this time engaging me in meaningful conversation. No question about it. This is a great church to visit!

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Why First Christian?
A smaller congregation than I normally visit, I’d been wanting to visit this church because I’ve been
going there regularly. No, not to worship but to practice with a local men’s chorus to which I belong. Sited on LaTouche just off Benson past the BP building, First Christian Church, an affiliate of the Disciples of Christ, is easy to find and access. Unlike many church websites, their worship times are prominently shown on the first screen page. Thank you!

Pinned at Last
Upon entering I was immediately greeted by Pat who inquired if I had a “pin” (name badge) on the wall behind her. This is a wonderfully unobtrusive way to determine if one is a regular attendee at a church. Saying no she then offered a blank badge to me which I merely labeled with “Chris”. Congregations that have member pins usually do not offer a name badge to a visitor as a rule. This distinguishes members vs. visitors and usually in a way that is not visitor-friendly. From this point forward, I was greeted by name by everyone I met. Even before the official “Meet n’ Greet” I had several members introduce themselves. This is not a shy church.
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Full & Effective Liturgical Order
First Christian offers a standard liturgy with good parishioner participation. I particularly noted their sharing of Joys and Concerns which offers a sharing opportunity and time to corporately present them to God. Many churches do not take the time to do this but it is one of the only times attendees are offered an opportunity to have a voice in the service. The Lord’s Prayer notation indicated Debts and Debtors, an advance warning of the form of the Lord’s Prayer to be recited. This is visitor-friendly language.

I make many Anchorage church visits and know there are several women who serve as clergy. I’ve only heard one other woman pastor deliver a sermon in Anchorage. Pastor Kelley’s excellent sermon entitled “The First Joy to the World” was accompanied by a memorable phrase “Mary’s song will not be heard as often this Christmas season as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” What a sad commentary on the Magnificat. I feel her sermon could have been more effective if extemporaneously delivered rather than read, but that’s a small quibble with a great morning. It’s my opinion that written sermons are more formal sounding than sermons delivered free of the printed page.

A small choir on the podium provided musical leadership for various portions of the service. The service closed with communion, open to all believers, effectively and quickly shared. Their practice is to partake of the loaf and the cup immediately as you are served.

Hospitality and Welcomes Rule Here
On my way out after the services, I was invited to join them for coffee many times and was glad I accepted. Their coffee hour, designated “On Holy Grounds”, is hosted by a different family/couple each week. An incredible assortment of sweets and munchies was offered, as well as delicious coffee and other beverages. The room (intimate) and atmosphere invites sharing. So many people came up to me to introduce themselves that I lost count. One of their mission projects was being shown and available for access. I’m glad I visited this church. It demonstrated how people-friendly churches can be.
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