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Arriving ten minutes late for a service at Hillside-O’Malley Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Saturday, May 23, 2009, I was pondering why I was attending church on Saturday morning. Although greeted cheerily by one person, I discovered a musical service let by an uncertain praise team, lengthy preliminaries, a baptism, and that was just the beginning. Their young pastor Donovan Kack, finally began preaching one hour after the start of church. Concluding his excellent, but lengthy Bible-based sermon, he dismissed the congregants to meet the newly-baptized member. Crying children signaled this 1 3/4 hr. service was probably already too long for some. A judicious pruning of the preliminaries might have provided an hour plus service of greater impact. If you’re hungry for good Bible-based preaching, Hillside-O’Malley SDA, while not visitor friendly, is a good option if you time your arrival to avoid the lengthy preliminaries.
I couldn’t believe it but there I was at 10:50 a.m., ten minutes late to Hillside-O’Malley Seventh-Day Adventist Church on May 23, 2009. Greeted cheerily with “Happy Sabbath” by a young greeter with a bulletin, I headed into the sanctuary only to find they were already into the music portion of their service. The music was being “led” by a praise team of three holding mikes, music sheets, and aided by words projected on the wall. They seemed unfamiliar with the lyrics and tunes of the traditional hymns being sung. The piano and organ accompaniment were excellent, however, and the worshipers were almost all singing.
The church itself has no visible stained glass, and no apparent source of natural lighting which is so atypical of our churches here, being surrounded as we are by our beautiful mountain vistas. The décor was simple, warm and contemporary accented by pastel interior decorating flourishes. A well-dressed church, with contemporary casual being the lowest point of dressing down, it’s not a “jeans” church. Although the announcements were printed in the bulletin, one church leader still took time to read them. While not considering this church “visitor friendly” overall, visitors in general were welcomed in a brief mention from the podium and invited to a potluck following the service.
The pastor interviewed the baptismal candidate at length. There was a prayer service for a military chaplain recently promoted to the rank of colonel. Many of the spiritual leaders of the church gathered on the podium, knelt, and placed their hands on this chaplain while prayers were offered.
Children’s Offering & Story
An interesting tradition, a first for me, is practiced at O’Malley SDA. Children gather at the back of the church, then wander to the front collecting paper money from parishioners on the way down. I didn’t note the purpose of this offering. The children’s story was conducted after this.
Seventh-Day Adventists, like Baptists, believe in full immersion water baptism. This was a touching service for the candidate and a very exuberant pastor. However, a visitor to this church might benefit from an explanation of the baptism and it’s symbolism.
After an opening hymn, there was a time of prayer for people with particular concerns. Many in the church came forward to kneel and pray, while one prayed for all.
The offering taken up with no mention of visitors not needing to feel pressure to give. Visitor-friendly churches make it a regular practice to put guests at ease with a brief “no offering required” note.
Finally, assuming the pulpit a full hour after the start of O’Malley’s church service, Pastor Kack gave a wonderful sermon based on Matthew 12 click here for replay. Unusually, for Anchorage pastors, he spoke extemporaneously, preaching from his Bible. Teaching solely from the Word, not relying on PowerPoint slides as do so many other pastors, Kack ended his sermon 40-50 minutes after starting, a long sermon even by Anchorage standards. Closing with a song and prayer, he invited the members forward to meet the newly baptized member. I left at this point and one person at the door said goodbye.
In conclusion, I do not consider this church visitor friendly. As a visitor I sat through portions of the service which could have used a brief word of explanation. Other than the one time noted, I was not talked to at any other time during my stay. A judicious pruning of their order of service might have shortened the service, in my opinion, and upped its’ effectiveness. I personally believe an hour and forty-five minutes is too long a service, not only for children, but for many adults. Other Anchorage churches I’ve visited having this length of service, would have had 30-45 minutes of entertainment style praise music preceeding the preaching. Nonetheless, I believe the members of this church are sincere, are strong Bible believers, and enjoy going to church.
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