Greater Friendly Temple Not Particularly Friendly

[img_assist|nid=138508|title=Greater Friendly Temple|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=203]Poor Website
Sunday I attended the Greater Friendly Temple (Church of God in Christ) on DeBarr Road. Met with a lackluster greeting, I initially thought church had already started due to the group of worshipers in the front of the church sanctuary praising and praying, accented by a keyboardist and drummer. After this group finished, approximately one-half hour after I arrived, I inquired and was told this was only a prayer group. The only functional website I could find for Greater Friendly Temple had an incorrect service time listed (11:00 a.m.). The bulletin listed 11:15 a.m. as the worship time. www.greaterfriendlytemple.org was listed as the website in the church bulletin, but I couldn’t get it to work for me.

Long Service
The service at this predominately African-American church was extremely long by Anchorage church standards lasting about 3 hours. Part of this was due to an extremely detailed order of service. At one point, the Deacon delivering the announcements read letter after letter in their entirety. I felt this section of the service, as an example, contributed to slowing things down. I never knew who delivered the exceedingly lengthy but spirited morning message as he was not introduced. The bulletin listed Bishop Charles D. Williams as delivering the message. However, Bishop Williams was identified and honored in observance of his 89th birthday, so it wasn’t him.

Musical Bright Spots
One bright spot of the service was an energetic praise and worship time led by a talented musical worship leader who wandered all over the church with a wireless microphone. He was supported vocally by a group of six men on the platform and two women and a man in front of the platform. The music was upbeat. I was washed by waves of sound of well known contemporary Christian music such as “High and Lifted Up” and “Lord We Lift Your Name on High”.

The full choir of men and women, led by a spirited young woman provided the other bright spot with a lengthy and lively musical selection. The church filled up slowly in the first hour with much recognition and greeting between the members. One woman did come down the aisle from the front and welcomed me. I had been given a visitor registration card, and an usherette came back to collect it from me but I’d not yet completed it. I don’t normally complete registration forms but felt compelled to complete it. As suspected, my name was announced from the pulpit during the service.

What’s a Visitor to Do?
Greater Friendly Temple, like many churches, assumes visitors know what is going on and what is to be expected during their services. They offer no explanations or helps to visitors, either written or spoken. From my vantage point in the rear section of the church I also noticed considerable attention being given to cell phones. Amazingly, the church phone just offstage in the front kept ringing and someone kept getting up to answer it peering out at the congregation as if to connect with some inquiry being given.

Lack of Information
In doing fact checking for this post, I e-mailed the only address listed on the one functional church website I could find. The response I received was from the wife of a member who had split off from Greater Friendly last fall to form another congregation. This person could not answer any of my simple questions about the church and the service I attended. I called the church number listed and left a message but never received a callback. So, for me, this church is still a mystery. I observed some good things in this strongly charismatic congregation but was left with the feeling I was really not welcome. My hope is that this was just me or that I might have caught Greater Friendly on a bad day.

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