The Crossing @ Birchwood: A Work in Progress

[img_assist|nid=141760|title=The Crossing @ Birchwood – Exterior View|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=114]Summary
Last August I received an invitation to visit The Crossing @ Birchwood from a member. As it’s a bit of a drive out, I didn’t visit until May 24. Greeted by only one person when entering, I was pretty much on my own after that. The music was praise group style, not entertainment, great sounding, and singable. The sermon worked, was Bible-based, relevant, but delivered by a young preacher using poor English, littered with street slang, and a bit jangly for this old schoolteacher. The Crossing is not a particularly warm congregation to visitors, but they are warm to each other. On the way out of church, one gentleman thanked me for coming . A note (from me) on their “registration card” to contact me has gone unanswered for almost three weeks. So much for follow-up.

Why Kim and Her Family Attend
My inviter was Kim Holderbein. She described why her family attends The Crossing.
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“We were active members of our church in California and were looking for a contemporary church where we could be of service and, because we have kids, had an Awana program. We are also a bit jaded by pastors who “borrow” messages from other pastors (like Rick Warren) and were looking for a pastor who preached his own sermons. We visited multiple churches in Anchorage and they never felt like home. After our first visit to The Crossing, my husband and I looked at each other and knew we found our home. Since then we have been welcomed into the church family and plugged into ministries.”

Bit of a Drive for Some
From where I live in South Anchorage, it’s close to 30 miles to drive to The Crossing @ Birchwood. I understand people do the drive, but many members appeared to be from the Eagle River-Birchwood-Chugiak area. A sprawly complex also housing a school, The Crossing is easy to access being 1-2 blocks from the Glenn Highway. Arriving a few minutes late, I found their large (unpaved, and quite dusty) parking lot almost full. Such a hugh area does need paving. It must be a mess in the winter.

Sole Welcomer
After my trudge in from the parking lot, I was warmly greeted by a sole greeter at the door. The services had started. Soon after, a “meet n’ greet” was called and members warmly greeted each other with hugs and glad hands. Only two people greeted me. It felt a bit strange, like I didn’t really belong there. Next up was a baby dedication and then an ordination for an elder.
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Good Music
The musical group leader asked people to stand and we sang a number of songs. It seemed to me the congregation was only half-engaged during the singing, even though the praise group of six was quite good. I’ve seen this before when a church meets in a similar gymnasium/sanctuary setting. It may just be the acoustics or the non-churchlike setting. There were kneelers at the front and several people came up to kneel and pray during the singing. This custom was an unusual departure from my church visits so far.

Unusually-Delivered Sermon
The sermon was given by David Springman, the assistant pastor, a young man in his 20’s. You can listen to it HERE. Clearly Bible-based, it was based on Daniel. Having taught school for years, I found Springman’s grammer liberally sprinkled with street jargon and the type of syntax I strive to correct daily in the classroom. That aside, his thoughts were good, but may have played better with a younger crowd. As the sermon was concluding, on cue, a guitar player came out and stood off to the side playing softly. I thought, “Oh no! Here comes the altar call.”, but it didn’t happen. Don’t really know what the guitar part was all about.

The sermon concluded with prayer and after that another “take a stand” prayer. FInally it was announced “Give the Lord a hand because He did something here this morning.” Just what the Lord did, I don’t know because it wasn’t announced.

Visitor-Friendly Offering Gesture
Pastor Brad called for the offering and, most unusually for Anchorage churches, he told visitors to let the offering plate pass. This most visitor-friendly statement, rarely heard, did not go unnoticed.

During the service, I met the pastor, Brad Rud, in the hallway and introduced myself. After the service, he and Pastor David disappeared. I’d hoped to ask a question or two. I also thought my visitor registration card would have been scrutinized and the requested contact with me made, but so far no one has called. A nicely dressed older man thanked me for coming as I left church, a few minutes before the press of the crowd. I’d like to revisit this church and hear Senior Pastor Rud, but will not do so for a few months. There were pluses and minuses. I appreciate the invitation by Kim. Christians have to be comfortable in their church to invite an outsider to come. Thank you Kim!

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