St Mark Lutheran…A Cold Day’s Visit

[img_assist|nid=135592|title=St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church|desc=(used by permission)|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=232]Summary
After receiving queries about omitting Lutherans from my church visits, I chose St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church for a visit. As it turned out, I picked the last day of Pastor Rick Cavens nineteen year pastorate, November 19, for my visit. Just before departing for the service, I perused St Mark’s website to determine their membership and normal attendance. Catching my eye, their latest newsletter contained an article by Vicar Sandra Rudd where my church visits were mentioned, along with tactful suggestions about hospitality to visitors. Members must not have read this newsletter because I received no welcome at St. Marks. I also held the door in the bitter cold for a series of late arriving members, and none of them welcomed me either. My “good morning” from the bulletin passer was it. Pastor Cavens seems to have functioned as the official greeter of the church and spent some time welcoming visitors by name. It was a beautiful farewell service for the Pastor accompanied by a farewell meal at the end of the service. No, I was not invited to join them here either. I did however have a wonderful conversation with the organist about their beautiful pipe organs. It may have been that all of the members were too preoccupied with Cavens departure, but church hospitality should not be the responsibility of one person, and it should always be in full Christian force.

A Beautiful Church
Located one block south of the busy Lake Otis & Northern Lights intersection, St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church is a beautiful church with an active congregation. I was tempted to schedule my visit for another week when I found the reference to my visits in the newsletter, but I need not have worried as it changed nothing. I prefer to visit a church unannounced so I can receive the same treatment any visitor would get. Only after a service, I might mention I’m blogging my visit, usually in the interest of obtaining clarification of certain points connected with the visit.

Pastor a One-Person Hospitality Icon?
Pastor Cavens personal touch with visitors was fine. He informally strolled around the church to point out this or that visitor and the circumstances of their visit. It was a warm touch but in my opinion lulled the members into leaving hospitality duties to the pastor. This was my first visit to an Anchorage church where the pastor was so involved in pointing out visitors and making them feel at home. During the “Peace” Cavens made his way back to me and said, “There you are. I missed you. You disappeared on me.” I had been sitting in plain sight all along. He could have obtained my name and made mention of the miss, but those liturgical schedules need to be adhered to.

Some Good Memories
There were wonderful highlights to my visit. There was handbell music by a special group of church members. Long will I remember their performance. There was much participation by various church members. An elderly reader was helped to the podium to read the Old & New Testament scriptures. That was awesome. Caroline Valentine skillfully and sensitively presented the music from their beautiful pipe organs which wonderfully accented the service. I spent a few minutes with her after the service and she patiently explained the background of the organs and her joy in serving her church with music. Thank you Caroline! The church interior is quite modern with wood beams. It is tastefully appointed but not overdone.

I can see why Cavens was so long at this church as he has an informal style that has broad appeal. He did the children’s story using a hand puppet of a cat, describing his M&M ministry. M&M’s were handed out to the children and to other church members.

Cavens sermon was based on the parable of the talents in Mathew 25. He mentioned the interim pastor told him on his arrival that “All you [St. Marks members] needed was to be loved.” Cavens shared his vision of where he hoped the church would continue to grow, physically and spiritually, ending with the challenge, “What are you going to do with your talents?”

Prayer
The Prayers of the People were especially touching this day with much participation. After the offering, communion was served in a most meaningful manner with Pastor Cavens being joined by his wife and two daughters who assisted him with serving the congregation. The service was closed with a special liturgy for the Departure of a Pastor from a Congregation. Sister Kathleen from Horizon House joined Cavens onstage for this ceremony.

In many respects I did enjoy my visit to St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church. In all honesty I cannot say it is a warm and welcoming church presently. I believe all Christians are sufficiently enjoined by Old and New Testament citations to extend hospitality to visitors. This needs to be a natural and normal part of our faith life and extended through our churches.
[img_assist|nid=135594|title=Kenneth Jones Tracker Organ-St Mark Lutheran Church|desc=(used by permission)|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

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