Monthly Archives: February 2010

Music In Anchorage Churches: Interview #1 Peggy McBride of First Congregational

Why Write About Church Music?
In visiting Anchorage churches, I’ve experienced virtually every type of church musical style. Part of the time the music accentuates the spiritual tenor of the service, and sometimes not. Sometimes the music is unadulterated Pop 40 entertainment, and narcissistic with no reference to God, salvation, or the mission of the church. You, the reader of this blog, have also sent me many emails complaining about the music you hear in your churches. I’ve asked a number of musical directors of churches in town share their thoughts about music as used in worship. I’ll be sharing these interviews, every other week, for some time to come.
[img_assist|nid=149226|title=Peggy McBride|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=281]
Interview 1 – Peggy McBride
Peggy is an extremely talented musical figure in Anchorage. She teaches music at Ptarmigan Elementary School. As a Certified Master Director in Sweet Adelines International, she is currently Co-Director of the award winning, Alaska Sound Celebration Chorus. If that is not enough, she is the musical director at First Congregational Church.

Chris: Musical styles are exploding in our churches. Some use music to draw different groups of “seekers” to services, while others use it in support of the liturgy. What do you believe the true role of music should be in today’s church service?
Peggy: I believe that music is its own ministry within the church service. It should be used to strengthen and support the liturgy as well as celebrate the spirit. At times it is difficult to make the musical choices always fit with the liturgical message. In my church the liturgical message is not decided upon with enough time to choose music that supports it. I often choose pieces of music that fits the liturgical calendar but that does not mean it always supports the ministerial message. So when you ask about the “true role” of music I think in the ideal situation it is melded with the church service that supports the liturgical message, celebrates the spirit and ministers to the soul.

Chris: Do you think music should be used as a persuasion device to connect people to God?
Peggy: Music is the great communicator that connects, reminds, celebrates and encourages the spirit of the Lord. So yes it definitely connects people to God.

Chris: What is your greatest challenge with the role of music in your church?
Peggy: The greatest challenge of music in my church is maintaining a church choir population. So many things are out there that takes up their time. Keeping the music at a high level that motivates our singers and makes them want to come out and practice on a week night when they may just want to stay home is a tough job.

Chris: What is your greatest joy associated with the role of music in your church?
Peggy: My greatest joy is after working on a musical piece and then performing it in the service and you feel the spirit of the Lord move through the music and touch the members of the congregation. That Rocks!

Chris: What will church music be like in 10 years?
Peggy: I believe that church music will continue to have many different styles and expressions. There will be more and more praise and contemporary music coming into our services. As a choir director I will always want to use all different types of musical styles to get the different messages of God’s love and joy out. There is strength in the traditional and classical styles that I will always put into my musical ministry. However there is more out there and in the future I feel more styles will be represented throughout the calendar year.

Chris: What is your favorite Christian musical piece?
Peggy:Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant

Chris: Who is your favorite musical composer?
Peggy:I have two: George Fredric Handel and Gabriel Faure.

Chris: Who is your favorite contemporary Christian composer?
Peggy:Jeff Lippencott

Chris: Who is your favorite Christian artist?
Peggy:I still love Amy Grant.

Chris: Thank you for sharing your Christian musical perspectives Peggy.

It’s Ash Wednesday: Lent Has Started

Many Christian churches, the world over, mark the beginning of the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday services. Most often celebrated by Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, this time of reflection and fasting begins the 40 days leading up to Holy Week and Easter. An excellent resume of the history and significance of Lent is here . If you’ve never experienced an Ash Wednesday service, I urge you to do so. Many Anchorage churches offer services. Using the following words to do a Google search, I located many Anchorage churches conducting Ash Wednesday services today. “ash wednesday services 2010 anchorage alaska” Substitute your city and state if you are not from Anchorage, Alaska.

Today is Shrove Tuesday

Celebrated around the world for over 1000 years, Shrove Tuesday marks the day before the beginning of Lent. It marks a traditional day of penance, confession, and quest for absolution. In the U.S. it is observed mainly by Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Roman Catholic Church traditions. Many of these churches celebrate by serving pancake feasts, sometimes quite ornate or unusual. The significance of the feasting is Lenten observances of fasting, and spiritual redirection. A number of Anchorage churches will be serving pancakes today, sometimes without fee, but requesting a freewill donation for a charity or mission project. Take advantage of fellowship and explore another church’s tradition.

Scenic Park Bible Church: A Refreshing Visit

There’s not a lot of fireworks at this church but the inner fires burn brightly. Scenic Park Bible Church, the recipient of my visit on January 24, is a small church but friendly. The music was simple but heartfelt. Their bulletin showed no order of service, leaving me unsure of what was coming next. But, from my initial greeting to the last goodbye, I felt the genuineness of their fellowship. A solidly Bible-based church, I very much enjoyed my visit.[img_assist|nid=148255|title=Scenic Park Bible Church – View From Patterson St|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=137]

I’d been wanting to visit this small church in E. Anchorage for some time. Headed there and running late this summer, I decided to make a last minute stop at the CME church which was the right decision. However I finally made it to Scenic Park Bible Church on this sunny late January morning. It looked smaller than their website picture, but once inside it seemed bigger. I was greeted, handed a bulletin and took a seat. There were about 50 people in attendance this day. Just as the services were starting someone coming down the aisle, patted me on the shoulder and murmered “welcome”.

Unusual Prayer Focus
After the announcements, it came time for prayer. Something unusual from all of my visits then happened. They announced their prayer for Church of the Week was for All Saints Episcopal Church. Later, talking with a member, I inquired if there was some problem at All Saints Episcopal. I was told no, but that they prayed for a different church in Anchorage each week. I was impressed by this strong solidarity with Anchorage’s church community. In turn they also prayed for the Family of the Week, the Missionary Focus of the Week, and the Country of the Week (Bangladesh). Each was preceeded by brief detail and discussion of the importance of the prayer. For a small church they have a strong missions focus.

Unusual Offering Declaration
Uncharacterstically departing from standard Anchorage Church practice, Scenic Park has this prominent statement on the main page of their bulletin:

Welcome Visitors: As our special guest today, please do not feel obligated to contribute to the offering.

I applaud them for this. This was only the second time I’ve seen this spoken or printed in all of my Anchorage church visits. Clearly setting the visitor at ease, I’m certain it does not unduly deprive any church of any significant financial support. Personally I believe they are apt to receive more because of it. It is so visitor friendly. There was special music during the offering of piano, trombone and flute. About this time someone handed me a very nice welcome packet, a rare event in most of my church visits.

Bible-Based Preaching
At the time for the message, I deduced the trombone player was the speaker. Later I discovered he was an elder, one of three. He spoke for about 35 minutes with his sermon titled The Soft Soil. Strongly Bible-based, Len Elliott used Mark 3 and 4 for the basis of the majority of his remarks. Not an extemporaneous speaker, using notes, he covered much ground. You can find his sermon recording here.

In all, the service lasted 80 minutes. After the service a couple in my pew talked with me and introduced me to several other members. This is not a pushy church, and is friendly and warm. My thanks to the congregation for their hospitality.[img_assist|nid=148256|title=Scenic Park BC Interior – Len Elliott Preaching|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

Anchorage Bible Fellowship: Hiding Again on Elmore

I’m puzzled by Anchorage Bible Fellowship’s huge sign on Elmore Road. Last fall I wrote in this blog post that their prominently situated sign carried a cute phrase but no worship times. I was thrilled to discover ABF had started posting the worship times on the sign about a week later and acknowledged it in this blog post. Lately I’ve noticed another phrase is once again gracing the sign and the worship times are missing. Maybe a reader knows why ABF took the worship times down. If so, post a comment here.

Signage with worship times clearly posted and readable by passing traffic is a critical factor in attracting visitors. It says the church is open for worship at this time. People remember critical worship time information long after the catchy phrase, so typical of these types of signs, is forgotten. In a future blog post I intend to give a brief history of this genre of sign and what a commercial success they’ve been.[img_assist|nid=148038|title=Anchorage Bible Fellowship Sign – February 4, 2010|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=208]

“Three Cups of Tea” Author’s Mother at St. John UMC Saturday

Many readers of the Church Visits blog have doubtless read the long-running bestseller, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School At A Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The author’s mother, Jerene Mortenson, will be at St. John United Methodist Church from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, February 6 to share information about Pennies for Peace , a program of Greg’s Central Asia Institute. A penny in the United States is virtually worthless, but overseas a penny buys a pencil and opens the door to literacy.

Come share refreshments, meet Jerene Mortenson, and learn first-hand how this life changing program is making a difference to education and literacy in this far-flung area of the world. A flier containing further information about this wonderful program is attached at the bottom of this post.

You may also discover further information at the following websites:

St. John United Methodist Church

Pennies for Peace

Central Asia Institute