[img_assist|nid=142297|title=First CME Church Sign|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=132]Summary
Curious about the distinctive, but unknown to me, church on 36th between the Seward Highway and Lake Otis Boulevard, I stopped mostly because I was running late for my other planned church visit. I discovered the church was First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Warmly greeted, I located a pew in their distinctive sanctuary. The music was lively, upbeat, and in the black gospel style. Even the meet n’ greet was fun with lots of hugs and warm contact. Communion was beautifully delivered before the sermon. The preaching was Bible-based and animated. Pastor Paul Everett gave a wonderful lesson based on Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. If you want to join a group of warm, dedicated Christians for worship, this is the place.
Almost by Accident
In rushing to a church visit on the east side of Anchorage, I found myself on 36th, Sunday July 5. I’ve always wanted to know more about this church and stopped in. Some of my best visits happen this way. The church, First Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, has a very distinctive architectural layout, inside and out. I arrived just in time. Church was about to start. Warmly greeted from the moment I entered, I sat in a traditional pew.
Small Group – Big Sound
There was a six member choir, more like a good praise group, accompanied by piano and organ. They clearly set the tone for the music. Though small in number this church loves to make joyful music. The opening song “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” was sung by everyone in a rousing style. The choir special, “We Declare Your Presence in This Place” was just beautiful. The music was lively, but reverent in the black gospel tradition.
Unlike most churches, communion was served before the preaching service. They followed a lengthy ritual of readings from the hymnal. Deaconesses dressed in white came forward to prepare the communion table. People were dismissed by row to come forward to get their bread and wine, returning to their seats to partake on cue with the pastor. As a visitor, I was a bit uncomfortable as no mention was made of their practice, i.e. was communion open or closed. Churches need to be visitor friendly, especially in this area and in the taking of the offering. The choir came down, singing, and received their sacramental tokens. It was soul stirring. After the communion, the pastor hugged the deaconesses at the rail. Most touching.
Pastor Paul Everett gave a wonderful sermon based on Hebrews 11, noting this chapter (faith chapter) was a history lesson, given as to “not forget”. He was very extemporaneous, and kind but forceful with a rapid style of deliver Eventually he stepped down from the pulpit and stood on the main floor in the front of the church so close it seemed he could be touched by the congregation. He urged all to “Praise God for what he’s done, when you have a testimony.” Clearly conveying a sense of excitement and urgency as he preached, people often stood up in answer to his distinctive call and response style of preaching. He closed with an altar call, backed up by the organ playing “Just as I am”. The platform ministers and participant came down and joined him below. Everett’s final words were “Get it right with God today. Only God knows your heart. We can speculate but only God can emancipate.”
After the dismissal, I went up front and talked with several people. They were warm and open. I believe this church would warmly welcome anyone into their midst. First CME didn’t believe it was an accident I was there that day. In a special welcome sheet for visitors they say, “We’ve been waiting for you! It’s true, because we believe that every person who comes into the circle of this special fellowship was sent by God Himself. It’s not by accident we have the joy of meeting you. So, above all else we want to express Christ’s love to you with genuine, heartfelt warmth.” Clearly, this church is doing something few other churches in Anchorage do.
[img_assist|nid=142326|title=First CME Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=174]