Monthly Archives: November 2010

Advent Begins Today: 11/28/10

First Sunday of Advent
Many area churches commence their liturgical years with Advent services. This preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus is marked in these churches by different vestment and church decoration colors.

There are three purple or blue candles and one pink candle, all surrounding a white candle, the Christ Candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve or Day. A different Advent candle is lit each Sunday to signify the weekly passage to Christmas. The Advent candle today is colored either purple or blue and is called the Hope candle.

If your faith tradition celebrates Advent, this is a wonderful day to begin to enjoy the tradition leading up to Christmas.

Thanksgiving Eve/Day Services 2010: Churches Unusually Quiet

Recently I’ve observed many Anchorage churches put significant effort into collecting food for distribution to those in need. Last Sunday many churches also emphasized Thanksgiving with sermons and church feasts. However, few churches appear to be conducting Thanksgiving Eve or Thanksgiving Day services except for two I located.

Consulting Google, I found only one church offering a Thanksgiving Eve service on the first two search results pages. Trinity Presbyterian is holding their service at 7 p.m. tonight. Pastor Tom Letts shared “A homily will be given by one of our congregants. The service will be followed by a pie social where we bring two pies, one we share, and one we give to homeless organizations. Over half of our congregation comes. It’s their service and family friendly. The families then take the pies to Beans or the Rescue Mission. This is also our night for our hanging our greens in preparation for Advent.”

Similarly, Google results showed only one church conducting Thanksgiving Day services. St. Mary’s Episcopal starts the day with a pancake breakfast at 9 a.m. followed by a worship service at 10 a.m. Rector Michael Burke says “The St. Mary’s community gathers in the morning for breakfast and worship afterwards in recognition that the day is a national day of Thanksgiving. We do this to give God, from whom all things flow, the credit for our received blessings. A lay person will be delivering the homily.”

There may be other churches offering services tonight and tomorrow, but I couldn’t find them on Google. The internet is our new communications medium. If your church is unsuccessful in getting it’s offerings onto page one or two of a Google search, you’re missing the boat. Comment to this blog if I’ve missed you.

America Used to Do Thanksgiving Differently
In the early days of this country, Thanksgiving occasions in the colonies were marked by fasting and prayer. George Washington was the first of our presidents who declared Thanksgiving as a holiday to God.

The following quote is from The Huffington Post article on Thanksgiving last year.

‘The American tradition of celebrating a day of thanksgiving began early in the first term of President George Washington when, at the request of Congress, he issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation on October 14, 1789. Washington eloquently declared that Thanksgiving Day was dedicated to “the service of the great and Glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be”:’

“NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; — for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; — and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.”
Source: Huffingtonpost: Dr. Peter Breggin Article

Thanksgiving was not founded as a day of self-indulgence. On this Thanksgiving, 2010, I wish my fellow church people in Anchorage to consider the real reason for Thanksgiving and resolve there is more to life than football games, overindulgence, Black Friday and shop ‘til you drop.


Inviting Church Guests Home to Dinner: Gone for Good?

One, Make That Two, Invitations in Ten Years
In ten years of living in Anchorage, and visiting so many churches, I’ve been invited home to dinner only once after services. Unfortunately it was only due to a scholastic connection established by my aged mother who was visiting a church with me. Occasionally, churches will have potlucks or a fellowship dinners after the service, and only sometimes will invite visitors to join them, but often even this is a common oversight.

But That Second Invitation in Fairbanks Was Great!
This summer during a visit to a small independent Baptist church in Fairbanks, I, along with a friend, was invited to Sunday dinner by a thirty-something gentleman.

Unfortunately, a precommitment that afternoon forced me to decline the invitation. But, I’ve never forgotten that warm invitation and encounter. I obtained the name of the couple extending the invitation and intend to dine with them and learn more about their strong Christian faith that impels them to invite strangers into their home. In that dinner invitation I was changed forever.[img_assist|nid=154451|title=Abraham and Three Strangers|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=278]

Just Check Your Bible
The Bible is full of examples and strong encouragement to extend hospitality to strangers, beginning with the story of Abraham’s extravagant hospitality to strangers as recounted in Genesis 18. His response was one of personal service and caring to those whom he did not know. True hospitality is attended by a power that draws people, most likely because it is such short supply in our culture today. What good is it to spend hundreds of dollars to attract a single seeker of truth to our centers of faith, if we cannot treat them hospitably?

Hospitality is not only about offering a stranger a meal, but sharing meals with strangers is supported by multiple Biblical admonitions and significant blessings.

Sadly, it’s the rare pastor who even delivers remarks about true Christian hospitality from the pulpit. Linked to the Abramic story is Jesus’ observations about hospitality, the judgement, and His return.*

Share Your Thoughts
In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I invite readers to share positive and less-than-positive stories of their impressions of church hospitality and being invited home to a meal by commenting here. If you would like a free listing of Biblical references to hospitality, send a note to me at

* Matthew 25:31-48 NASB
31“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Church Visits Map Site Goes Over 6,000 Visitors!!

The Church Visits map site has just achieved a new plateau with over 6,000 visits in the past two years. Pastors are reporting that you, the reader, are visiting the churches I comment upon. I’m currently working on improving the functionality of the map site. If you have any requests or suggestions as I do so, please feel free to comment here, of send an email to

The map site is listed at the right in the information about this site or by clicking here.

Gloria Dei Lutheran – Bright Spot in Jewel Lake Area

In my October 24 post on confusing and misleading church websites, I described my tale of woe connecting with a church in the Jewel Lake area. The bright spot in this misadventure was locating Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Their website was clean and up-to-date, providing accurate information about worship times and location on the first page in plain sight.

Accordingly, on October 24, I proceeded to Gloria Dei arriving just in time for their 2nd service at 11 a.m. I was warmly greeted by a Rotarian friend Michael Ferris. He was curious as to why I was there, but I only mentioned I was visiting. Mike is a friendly person, just the right greeter you would like at your church door. Any visitor would have received a warm welcome from him. Gloria Dei has a small, but beautifully appointed sanctuary, contemporary in furnishing displaying gracious spiritual banners and quilts with religious motifs located on their walls. I particularly loved the stained glass piece in the front (see below). In sharp contrast to many churches, the sanctuary was quiet and reverent prior to the service. I counted sixty in attendance this day.[img_assist|nid=154334|title=Gloria Dei’s Beautiful Stained Glass|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=298|height=490]

There were introductions of guests, all personal. I’m ok with members/friends introducing guests, but do not appreciate churches singling guests out to have them identify themselves, as if they were total strangers needing appropriate vetting before being allowed to continue to worship. Too many area churches follow this guest-unfriendly practice. But not this day. I’ve made no secret I’m not a big fan of “meet n’ greets” but this one was much more tolerable. The main difference is that Lutherans “pass the peace”, a much warmer way of greeting one another.

The liturgy was traditional Lutheran led by Pastor Scott Fuller and Intern Stephanie Vos. The music was great, a mixture of hymns and contemporary pieces led from the organ by Organist Rick Bender. The Pastor is a genial person clearly in touch with his congregation. The sermon he delivered was given with notes, but was easy to hear and understand. His sermon “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” is located here and by clicking on sermons. Whether or not you are of the Lutheran persuasion, I’m sure you would discover a visit to Gloria Dei to be spiritually rewarding in every respect.