Monthly Archives: June 2010

Karluk Manor Housing First Community Forum-June 30

Rural CAP has announced a community forum for June 30 on the Karluk Manor (Red Roof Inn conversion) project. Regardless of your belief system, this is an important meeting for the community. Come hear more about this critical first-step solution to the spiraling cycle of homelessness and death in Anchorage.

From Rural CAP’s Melinda Freemon:
This is your opportunity to save the lives of many homeless people in Anchorage. Please attend the Karluk Manor Housing First Community Forum on Wednesday June 30th at the Anchorage Senior Center at 1300 E. 19th Ave from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. to show your support for this critically important housing program for chronic homeless alcoholics. Without your support, the project may not move forward.

Thank you in advance for your attendance at this important meeting. Please contact me for more info at 279-7535 or go to for more info.

Meeting flyer attached below.

Homeless Camps Ordinance: Faith Community Totally Missing

Not a single voice from Anchorage’s faith community was raised pro or con at the June 22 Assembly meeting which addressed amending Assembly Ordinance 2010-43. This ordinance governs the clearing of homeless camps in Anchorage. As amended it now provides five business days notice before the camps may be cleared.

At the June 8 Assembly Meeting, there was faith community testimony and support for longer notice times. The Assembly postponed further action until June 22 to allow for further deliberation.

With tens of thousands of members of the faith community in Anchorage, one would think at least one member of the faith community, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, would have offered an opinion as to how their faith would be willing to address this issue. Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) seems to be the standard solution for business, professional, and faith leaders. As a Christian writer, I’m totally surprised, given the nature of Christ’s remarks about who will inherit the kingdom, the Christian faith community was absent and silent.

How many more deaths will it take until we face up to the reality of this problem, and that we all have a responsibility to our fellow man to address it?

Go here for a stark replay of the Assembly’s debate and action in this mini-drama.

Our Fairbanks neighbors to the north seem to be experiencing the same problem and the same apathy toward forwarding meaningful solutions, especially from the faith community. I’m guessing all those social gospel sermons heard from so many pulpits in Anchorage have fallen on deaf ears.

Congregationalists Holding National Conference in Anchorage June 26-29

Carolyn Rinehart of Anchorage’s First Congregational Church has kindly shared information about a unique opportunity for Alaskans. [img_assist|nid=152107|title=NACCC Meeting Illustration Created by Diane Barske – First Congregational Church – Anchorage|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=170]

Alaskans and Alaskan churches will be able to benefit from nationally known speakers and workshops during the Congregationalists’ annual national meeting here Saturday through Tuesday, June 26-29. The 56th Annual Meeting and Conference of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches will take place at the Hilton Anchorage Hotel.

The conference, expected to draw about 400 attendees, will feature Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, an Old Testament scholar and theological educator; Dr. Elizabeth Bingham, senior minister of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Pomona, California, and former minister at First Congregational Church here; and Rev. Wayne Riggs, minister at Plymouth Congregational Church in San Diego and an expert on church finance.

There will also be workshops on contemporary church music, long-range planning for churches, and church development. Missionaries will talk about their work at a Missionary Society Breakfast.

First Congregational Church of Anchorage is hosting the conference to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The church began in August 1960 when eight people met in a founding member’s home.

The complete conference schedule is at and at The conference brochure is available for download below.

The public is welcome. Those not preregistered may register at the welcome table. Events on Sunday, including the worship service at 9 a.m. and a workshop on contemporary church music at 10:30 a.m., are free. Admission on Saturday is $25; on Monday, $50; and on Tuesday, $50.

Thank you for sharing this information and invitation Carolyn. I plan on attending key portions of the conference to gain a first-hand perspective to potentially share on this blog. It’s not often national church organizations pick Anchorage as a meeting spot due to our distance from their constituencies.

Anchorage Faith & Family Church: A Mixed Experience

Located in the Huffman Business Park, Anchorage Faith & Family Church, a small church, offered me a warm greeting, tempered by the perennial guest-distancing question, “Is this your first time here?”. Visiting on May 30, I then experienced a near first in my Anchorage church visits when my greeter actually showed me the way to the worship area, kindly pointing out the bathrooms on the way. A 5-piece praise band played very upbeat contemporary Christian music for about 20 minutes.

The largely unsmiling pastor, Brant Barker, spent a significant amount of time with preliminaries, announcements, etc., including a lengthy offering appeal. One hour and twenty minutes after the service started, Pastor Brant, as he’s known, began preaching. I wish readers could listen to his sermon but it’s since been removed from AFFCs website. To me it felt like a tirade against everything wrong in America, dressed in patriotic clothing, and delivered with more than a pinch of condescension. He spoke for an hour making the services two hours and twenty minutes long. In my opinion this is much too long for a service of this type. I’ll detail my mixed experience below, but as a guest, I’ll give it some time before attempting a revisit.

Greeting With Heart
The heart of any church has to be the quality of the greeting given by someone who really cares about people. Why? Because it’s a supreme act of sharing love for one’s faith to do so. St. Paul often reminded believers to greet each other warmly and to be kind to strangers. If you are a greeter, it’s never about you; it’s about those you are welcoming to your church. This day my greeter smiled, warmly welcomed me, but then asked me the guest-defensive question, “Is this your first time here?” The guest is immediately thinking, “What’s the next question?” The friendliest thing a greeter can do is to offer their own name, willingness to help, and a warm thank you for “…choosing to worship with us today.” My greeter warmly showed me to the worship area, an unusual act for a greeter, pointing out the washrooms on the way.

Music Worked
The 5-piece musical group was up-tempo. I liked their sound. Playing for 20 minutes this talented and dedicated group seemed focused on praising, not entertaining. The congregation was young to middle-aged. I may have been the oldest attendee. Maybe it’s their music. You can’t forget those hymns for folks over 50. The brightly lit church was peopled by 45-50 this day. Getting up, the pastor started with prayer, and abruptly ended with “Anybody have a word to share that God is speaking to them?” There were no sharers and he seemed disappointed.

Coffee Ministry Report
The pastor next attempted to report on a recent trip to serve coffee throughout the day at the Hope Junction rest stop. Unfortunately it was preceded by significant dead air space due to fruitless attempts by the techies and the pastor to get a PowerPoint presentation started. In all fairness this should have been postponed until another day. It was a bit tense. Through all of this the pastor’s demeanor was deadpan, which was discomforting and distancing for me, their guest. The presentation was ultimately given, with lots of pictures and dialogue.

And All The People Gave
Their website warned the offering appeal would be a lengthy ten minutes but it turned out to be an overly long twenty minutes tinged with prosperity gospel catchphrases. One good thing they did was to verbally exclude visitors from giving, a guest-friendly and virtually unseen practice in most churches. The pastor had four individual people offer prayers before the offering was taken. It is their practice to hold their offering envelopes or checkbooks in the air during these prayers. Code language was used a number of times including “kingdom builders”, “kingdom advancers”, and “next generation ministry”. Churches should never use acronyms, or code language without explanations.

Visitors Identify Yourselves
This church chooses to ask first-time guests to identify themselves, a guest-unfriendly practice guaranteed, in many cases, to discourage further visits. At this point, one hour into the service, we were asked to do a meet n’ greet. Several people greeted me and engaged me in conversation, including a nice woman with a walkie-talkie, and the band lead. For me, it was a long 5-10 minutes. This portion of the service concluded with several members giving lengthy testimonies at the podium.

Finally the Sermon
At 11:20 a.m. Pastor Brant finally started preaching. In the first five minutes he explained he didn’t believe in taking up politics from the pulpit but as the sermon progressed, he got heavily into politics. Wars, homosexuality, financial markets, politics, “don’t ask, don’t tell”, Palin, Obama’s agenda for redistribution of wealth in America and more were covered during the course of his remarks. A number of military/ex-military were present to which he kept referring for support. This went on for an hour; I was personally uncomfortable as well as for those present. For me, church had ceased and was transformed into a platform for railing at the American system. At this point I would link Pastor Brant’s sermon here for your listening enjoyment. I downloaded it recently from their website, but find they have since removed it. I’ll post a copy soon on my new Church Visits website under construction ( or you can email me ( for a downloadable copy.

I did not find Pastor Brant’s unsmiling delivery appealing. It was delivered in a manner akin to condescension. His constant calls for “Amen?”, and phrases such as “Is this ringing a bell for anybody?”, “Y’all still here or have ‘ya gone home?” wore thin with me. This may have been a bad day for Pastor Brant as possibly signified by his sermon being removed from their website after being posted for the public. I have asked Anchorage Faith & Family Church for clarifications about certain visit details, including the removal of his sermon, and will update this post when I receive more information.

AFFCs website is difficult to use to obtain meaningful information. Their first screen is almost totally covered by a beautiful mountain picture. If their ministry is based on selling beautiful views of Alaska, then it’s ok, but I don’t think it’s in any church’s interest to just show Alaska scenes instead of critical information such as location, times of services, phone contacts, etc. If you only wanted this church’s worship time, which tab would you click on: HOME, WELCOME, IDENTITIES, CALENDAR, DIVINE CONNECTIONS, YOUTH AND NEXT GENERATION, MEDIA, WE BELIEVE or GIVING? Click on their website here (, check it out and give me your opinion. Confusing isn’t it? Their website is not in touch with what most people look for on church websites.

I’m sure there are sincere people attending Anchorage Faith and Family Church with a real hunger for God. I’ll place them on my revisit list.

Cornerstone Church – Still Solid and Warm

Great Guest Basics
A warm welcome, a good cup of coffee, refreshing contemporary Christian music, a mission team sendoff, and an empowered sermon. Cornerstone Church provided this and much more during my May 23 revisit. The way Cornerstone treats guests and members ensures eager returnees.

Blame It On The New Sign
I’ve been attracted to Cornerstones new south-facing sign on the Seward Highway (below). To me, an infrequent guest, it provided real meaning, and…it’s absolutely truth in advertising. Whoever dreamed this one up deserves the church advertising equivalent of the Pulitzer.[img_assist|nid=151937|title=Cornerstone’s New Eye-catching Sign|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=261]

It Was Just a Pop-In
One of my enjoyments in church visiting is doing the “pop-in”, a term popularized by Seinfeld. I love to do a quick pulse of congregations I’ve previously visited that have demonstrated warmth, vitality, Bible-based teaching, and great worship music. Inquiring if my favorite pastor, Brad Sutter, was preaching that day, I was informed he wasn’t as he was off during part of May. Crestfallen and unprepared to stay, my greeter Mary encouraged me to stay and hear their new children’s pastor, Matt Friese. Tempted to leave, I stayed on and was glad I did.

Praying With Music Team
Often I sit on the front row in large churches to obtain better pictures. Waiting there for the service to start, I noticed the music team gathering in front of me for their customary pre-service prayer. This is something unusual in churches I’ve previously noted in a Cornerstone post. One of the team said they seemed to be surrounding me or boxing me in, but then asked me to join them in prayer. As we held hands, one person prayed asking for the Lord’s blessing on their music and on the pastor. I was blown away by this act of devotion to their music, church and God, and…for asking me to join them. I’ll never forget this moment. Thanks team!

Music & Missions
An excellent music service commenced with good congregational participation during the 15-20 minute music service. A mission team, soon departing for Mexico, was asked to come forward and onstage for prayer. Wearing identical red shirts it was a touching moment of unity and shared joy for this congregation.

Surprise Sermon
Matt Friese, a newer member of the pastoral team, took the stage. Obviously an avid outdoorsman and hunter, he talked about being away in the wild but bringing his Bible and a good book to read and study during these trips. He shared he would recite Paul’s epistle to the Phillipians, not for personal glory but for the glory of God. Noting he might lose his way a time or two, he openly asked people to have their Bibles open, following along to help him if that happened. He did well with only a couple of lapses. It’s wonderful to hear an entire book of scripture recited as opposed to hearing just a text here or there. It was an apostolic experience I thoroughly enjoyed. Friese’s sermon tied to his recitation and can be heard here.[img_assist|nid=151938|title=Pastor Matt Friese Preaching|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=289|height=490]

Warm Experience
There are many churches in Anchorage but Cornerstone would be on my top ten list if I had one. I enjoy their warmth, hospitality, Bible-based teaching, and outreach. Their well-prepared bulletin is almost worth the trip. Cornerstone has one of Anchorage’s best church websites. Everything members and guests need to know is there on the first screen page. Both the website and bulletin advertised a “Summer Body Building”. Offered on Wednesday evenings, I thought it was some type of physical exercise routine, but discovered it was fellowship, food, brief worship, and group study. What a great idea! An equally intriguing idea for men was “Become Fishers of Men”, a fishing trip on the Gulkana where church men were invited to bring a friend who did not yet know the Lord. Wow!

Thanks again Cornerstone for providing me with another great spiritual experience![img_assist|nid=151939|title=Cornerstone’s Sanctuary Logo Wall Says It All|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=171]