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Having visited no Nazarene churches yet in my Anchorage church visits, I found Chapel of the Cross Church of the Nazarene after a difficult slog through the Alaska Nazarene District website. Located on the upper hillside, this small church received a visit from me on June 28. I received warm greetings from several men greeters upon entering, and exiting. The regular pastor was not there nor was their accomplished music minister, and no mention was made of their absence. The music was traditional to slightly contemporary with a small praise group on stage, accompanied by piano, violin and conga. A beautiful prayer was offered, specifically mentioning members by name who had requested prayer. The sermon by Pastor Don McCullough was well-delivered, even if read, and was based on the gospel story of Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:1-16. I enjoyed my visit. A few visitor friendly practices, commented upon below, could have added to my visit.
The Hardest Step is the First One
Wanting to include the Nazarene’s in my visits I located their Alaska District website here. A somewhat confusing site, it offers a button for “Our Churches”. When clicking on it, one is presented with a map of their area breakdown of churches in Alaska. Anchorage churches are listed by name under Southcentral with seven of the eighteen listings. There’s no way to tell where the churches are located without visiting each church website, a real pain. I discovered Chapel of the Cross was close to where I live and picked them. They’re conveniently located on the upper hillside on Hillside Drive between O’Malley and DeArmoun.
Warmly greeted by two gentlemen in the foyer, I was given a bulletin and looked for a seat. Walking by the sound guy he greeted me as well. A smallish church, seating 75-100, I took a seat on the back row. Ultimately there were around 50 people in attendance that day. The music started with a piano accompanying hymns and some contemporary Christian music. Hymn books were used as well as two monitors above the stage and one in the back, presumably for the praise group. The praise leader stood at the pulpit, and 4-5 people stood toward the back of the platform singing into microphones. Like a recent review noted, I wasn’t sure of the purpose of the praise team other than perhaps, moral support. A woman in a wheelchair came over and offered me a hymnbook. I thanked her, saying no. Very kind of her to offer.
And All the People Gave
The offering was taken very early in the service. I say this often, but few churches make a point of telling visitors they are not required to feel compelled to give. Visitors feel uneasy when an offering plate is thrust in front of them, especially during their first visit. It was no exception this day.
Pastor McCullough called people to prayer, asking if anyone had special requests. People raised their hands and he prayed in a heartfelt manner for them by name, addressing particular needs specifically and tactfully. He then prayed in general for the congregation. It was, however, one of those prayers where the person praying, although addressing God, seems to be telling God what is happening. Mention was made of the Nazarene Church’s ongoing General Assembly in Orlando. In praying to God this way, it appeared as though prayer was being used to inform the worshipers about ongoing events, rather than addressing God directly – interesting practice.
McCullough’s sermon about Nicodemus appeared to have been read, but was easy to listen to and informative. I enjoyed it. It was brief and to the point. After the sermon and closing prayer it was over. The entire service was short, around 45 minutes. Upon exiting several people thanked me for coming, as did Pastor McCullough. Later, during the week, I inquired as to the absence of the pastor and music minister. I was told they were at the General Assembly in Orlando and that it had been announced on the previous Sunday. There had been no mention of this on their website, and it was not mentioned at all during the Sunday services. I do not recall hearing a single mention of visitors during my visit, although it was certainly obvious I was a visitor. All in all, my visit went well.
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