Monthly Archives: July 2010

Coordination Issues Mar 2nd Visit Attempt at First Assembly of God

Previously, I’ve attempted to visit First Assembly of God. A year and a half back I passed on attending after noting there were few cars in the parking lot minutes before church services were due to start. Instead, I went to another church, pleasantly discovering a wonderful life changing service.

Websites Are Important
Due to repeated functionality issues with First Assembly’s website, I put off going back until those were resolved. Websites are rapidly supplanting all other forms of advertising for churches. Churches with well designed websites are attracting significant numbers of guests, potential members. It’s my standard practice to avoid visiting churches without websites, or that have them but are not fully functional. Fully functional means they must be kept up-to-the-minute, not out-of-date by a week or more.

Trying Again
Attempting another visit at First Assembly on Father’s Day, I first checked their website that Sunday morning. It informed me the services started at 10:30 a.m., at least I guessed it did (see comment on website picture toward the end of this post). I also noted through a small graphic they were offering a Father’s Day brunch NEXT SUNDAY. (Note the June 13 spaghetti feed notice to the left of the brunch notice.)[img_assist|nid=152436|title=First Assembly’s Website Brunch Notice on June 20, i.e., Father’s Day|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=450|height=230]

Walking into the church at 10:30 a.m., I discovered the Father’s Day brunch underway with many people seated and eating at tables set up in the foyer and hallways. I was warmly greeted by the pastor’s wife who was serving food to those seated. She invited me to sit down to eat. I mentioned I had come to worship, not eat. (I’d already eaten and was ready for a service.) Her answer was that church would begin in a while, so I left. In the parking lot, I discovered I was not the only person who was leaving. There were others too who had come for church at the normal time.[img_assist|nid=152438|title=Are the times for worship, a picnic, or playtime? Or does this graphic indicate it’s time for church?|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=232]

Should Churches Adhere to Published Worship Times?
I think it’s wonderful to celebrate Father’s Day with a brunch. However, I believe the worship service should not be replaced by brunch, or any other distracting activity. Perhaps an earlier brunch start might have helped. Maybe it’s an Assembly of God practice to ignore set times and activities. I posted my experience with Wasilla Assembly of God earlier this year, one similar to this. (click here to read)

I was also confused by their website picture (above), unsure if the indicated times were for a picnic, playtime, or whatever. There’s no religious symbolism shown. You decide. Nothing is mentioned about worship. I look forward to a completed visit at this church, but remain convinced these experiences easily deter other potential guests.

Where Where Did the Church Visitor Go This Time?
I ended up at friendly First Christian Church (FCC) on LaTouche, pastored by relatively new Rev. Paul Boling. FCC starts on time, is visitor-friendly, and loves their fathers, including them in this Father’s Day service. They also show their Christian love, graciously fellowshipping with each other and their guest at the end of each Sunday service, sharing beverages, snacks, and conversation. What a blessing that service provided. Consistent, loving congregations are always safe havens for those seeking to experience God.

Planning and Zoning Commission Discussing Karluk Manor Proposal – July 19

The Municipality of Anchorage’s Planning and Zoning Commission is meeting July 19,6:30 p.m. in Assembly Chambers at the Loussac Library to discuss the Karluk Manor project. Karluk Manor (currently the Red Roof Inn) is intended to provide a housing alternative for chronically homeless individuals living on the streets or camps around the city. 24 deaths among this group have occurred since May 2009.

This model has been successfully deployed in Seattle with attendant significant reductions in medical and criminal justice system expenses, while providing a humane response to homelessness and alcohol addiction.

People of faith are urged to attend this meeting to show support for doing the right thing for our neighbors. You’ve heard the sermons. Now vote with your feet and presence at this meeting.

A flyer is attached for your use.

Trinity Presbyterian Sunday Surprise: Woman Pastor(94) Baptizes Serviceman(24)

Sunday, July 4, I visited Trinity Presbyterian on a tip. A 24 year-old serviceman, on brief leave, soon to return to his overseas active duty post, wanted to be baptized with his family present. Pastor Tom Letts, his wife Tammy, and other ordained staff were out of town at the Presbyterian Church USA’s 219th Assembly in Minneapolis, so other arrangements needed to be made. Rev. Alice Green, Alaska’s first ordained Presbyterian woman pastor was pressed into service. A wonderful write-up of her life’s story can be found here. Rev. Green performed admirably. It was a joy to witness this shared expression of faith, a bonding of distinctly different generations, but one common belief. This was a first-time experience for me, and possibly for many present. An engaging, and exceptional sermon was delivered by guest pastor, Rick Benjamin, recently retired from Abbott Loop Community Church. Friendly Trinity Presbyterian never ceases to amaze me with its consistency, hospitality, and refreshing approach to worship.[img_assist|nid=152313|title=Rev. Alice Green Baptizes Derrick|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

Music in Anchorage Churches: Interview #2 Chris Barnett of Amazing Grace Lutheran

Why Write About Church Music?
In visiting Anchorage churches, I’ve experienced virtually every type of church musical style. Sometimes the music accentuates the spiritual tenor of the service, and sometimes not. Often the music is unadulterated Pop 40 entertainment, and narcissistic with no reference to God, salvation, or the mission of the church.

The readers of this blog have written many emails complaining about the music they hear in the churches. I’ve asked several musical directors of various Anchorage church traditions to share their thoughts regarding music as used in worship. I’m running behind with these interviews, but felt an extra sense of urgency as Chris Barnett, Amazing Grace Lutheran Church’s music coordinator and church administrator, the subject of this interview, is leaving Alaska this month to live in Texas. Sorry it has taken so long to print your interview Chris. Thank you for your service to Amazing Grace and the community![img_assist|nid=152268|title=Chris Barnett, Amazing Grace Lutheran Music Coordinator & Church Administrator|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=218]

CT: Musical styles are exploding in our churches. Some use music to draw different groups of “seekers” to services, while others use it as support for the liturgy. What do you believe the true role of music should be in today’s church service?
Chris Barnett: Musical styles have been exploding in churches since the beginning of time. Andrae Crouch was accused of diluting gospel music by using contemporary music. Mozart borrowed “pop” songs for his operas. Martin Luther used bar songs for melodies for his hymns. We’ve sung Amazing Grace to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky! I’ll use any musical genre if it makes the words more accessible to our people.

In response to the question about the role of music in worship I guess I don’t think of worship music in that sort of fashion. Our worship just does not function without music. For us, music sets the tone of worship (Gathering song), teaches or illuminates (hymn of the day), is meditative (communion songs), and then sends us out to the world (Sending song). It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’ve set foot in church, your first time in a long time, or you’ve never missed a Sunday. It should always lift you up, challenge you, and remain with you after you walk out the door.

CT: Do you think music should be used as a persuasion device to connect people to God?
Chris Barnett: Absolutely! I always go back to the original church music: the Psalms. These beautiful works of art connect us to God through all channels: joy, sadness, sorrow, grief, rejection, celebration. You name it, it’s in the Psalms. I would so love to hear what these originally sounded like. The great music of the church connects us to The Word. Music and song is just prayer with a melody.
However, I also believe music’s equally important role is to connect us to each other. Ask a room full of people if they’ve had ice cream this week and you’ll get them to respond. Ask them “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” and you’ll make connections.

CT: What is your greatest challenge with the role of music in your church?
Chris Barnett: Our congregation is a busy one, so while people play instruments and enjoy making music its very challenging for them to find time to make music in church. We always want more folks making music in worship but it’s a challenge to coordinate.

CT: What is your greatest joy associated with the role of music in your church?
Chris Barnett: For me, the greatest moments always involve children and young people.

CT: What do you think church music will be like in 10 years?
Chris Barnett: I cringe to think about this sometimes. The way we consume music as a society has changed so much in the last ten years. We expect our music to be highly produced entertainment and this does not serve the worship setting well. Worship is meant to be participatory. Liturgy is something you do. Unfortunately, many churches have programmed their worship to be more of a rock concert that you watch rather than music that challenges you to sing and think. My prayer is that we will continue to enjoy the great hymns and music of our church at Amazing Grace.

CT: What is your favorite Christian musical piece?
Chris Barnett: Mozart’s Requiem.

CT: Who is your favorite Christian composer?
Chris Barnett: Bach. I find it interesting that Bach’s music is so very challenging and yet he reveled in using the Bible as his libretto.

CT: Who is your favorite Christian contemporary composer?
Chris Barnett: Bono and the band U2. Their lyrics always challenge me to think about the world beyond my own head and my own small problems. One of my all time favorite lines comes from their song, “One” and says that “we get to carry each other.” I’m still ferreting out the meanings of this but I love the word “get” in that phrase. We have been commanded to love one another. This is our directive and our privilege to carry each other from time to time. Oh, and I do like a good Fanny Crosby song too! How about that for eclectic?!

CT: What do you think Jesus thinks of Christian music today?
Chris Barnett: I think he thinks we’ve lost focus in some areas. Much of our most popular music is based solely on simple repeated praise choruses. These have a place but they are the appetizer in the meal, if you will. They come from a theology of arrival, of having the answers. We need to get to the main course, the hymns that challenge us and teach us theologically. The songs that ask us hard questions push us to ponder. The praise song is nice but we’ll have eternity to sing them!

CT: Who was the greatest musical influence in your life?
Chris Barnett: The greatest musical influences in my life were three of my high school teachers: my band teacher, my choir teacher and the English teacher who directed our musicals. While I studied music in college and learned so very much there, these three men were there during my formative years and helped me learn to love music and creating music and to honor the theater of creating worship.

CT: What are some of your thoughts when playing flute obbligato to the musical liturgy at Amazing Grace? I think it adds so much to the service!
Chris Barnett: I really enjoy playing the flute in worship at Amazing Grace. People seem to really enjoy it. Our sanctuary is such a fabulous acoustic space for playing live instruments; it’s really a treat to play there. I picture the notes of my flute floating out high across the congregation, drifting up like smoke. It’s not about me playing a great solo; it’s about joining in and helping to lift up our song.