Anchorage Moravian Church: Joyous & Sincere

Tonight I attended a wonderful church service in East Anchorage which left me tingly and warm. Anchorage Moravian Church is located in a warren of streets not far from the Muldoon curve. Arriving just before the 6:30 p.m. service, I found a parking lot mostly devoid of cars.

Apprehensively, I entered the church and found the crowd pretty thin. But, as the evening progressed it filled up and was quite full by the end of the service. Considering our weekend weather, it was a brave act for folks to come out. [img_assist|nid=159283|title=Moravian Choir – Anchorage Moravian Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=102]

The service started with a song led by Sr. Pastor William Nicholson without musicians as they were finishing their dinner downstairs. It seemed like everyone joined in singing. Nicholson then started the meeting with prayer. This was one of the most sincere and touching prayers I’ve heard in years, and deeply moved me. After the prayer, he invited the Moravian Choir up to sing. Mostly women and a few men, they sang most beautifully in Yupik and English. Singing several times during the evening, it was always a pleasure to listen to their music. The musicians, several guitarists and a bassist finally joined in. In many churches the singers are unsmiling. Not here! They showed they were happy in their music.

After the choir sang, a period of special music and individual testimonies began. Members, singly or in groups would come up to sing, primarily, or give a testimony and possibly also sing. This was heart talk about changed lives, love of God, faith in Jesus Christ, living the daily life, and an outpouring of thanks. What was happening here was a return to the church of apostolic times when people came together to share and learn more. This is so uncommon in the Anchorage church community. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve witnessed this participative type of worship. It was truly wonderful.

Anchorage Moravian is mainly an Alaska Native church. I was one of only a couple non-natives in the audience. However, I cannot fathom any Christian not being comfortable here. I was greeted by several at my seat, and a woman came running after me in the parking lot to ask my name. She also invited me to return. There was such a warm spirit of hospitality in this church I can’t begin to recount it. So many churches in our community are reserved, members are isolated from each other, and folks are there to observe church as it unfolds, almost like entertainment. Not this church. Very few in attendance did not get up and make a contribution.

There was an extended prayer time by the pastor for special needs, and he shared some very touching cases before praying. He said he was leaving for the hospital after the service to baptize an infant from a village who was in hospital in grave circumstances. Prayer for a member who had just lost a husband. And for a senior member unable to come to service. And on it went. I was deeply touched again by the sincerity of his petition to God on behalf of these requests and more.

He then called for the offering, and in an unusual verbal gesture, he told those from other churches to save their money to give at their home churches. This is so generous to guests. Most pastors refuse to except guests when asking for an offering. I can recall, on one hand, the number of pastors in four years of my church visits where this has happened. The pastor also recognized at this time there were pastors there from various native congregations. In some respects, this was a community gathering, but they do this every Sunday evening!

The evening continued with more music and testimonies and concluded with very brief remarks from Pastor Nicholson tied to the evening scripture of Mark 1:4-11, which he’d also used in the morning service. He was refreshing to listen to, talking straight from the heart without reading a prepared text.

The Moravian Choir was invited to come back up for the closing song “Brighten the Corner Where You Are”. Once again, it was a joyous outpouring by the choir, and the remaining audience. One of the members, a hospital chaplain, was invited to offer the benediction. I was quite moved by his prayer which concluded with the Mizpah. The choir then led us in the closing prayer song.

“Bless us and keep us Lord, we pray as to our homes we go.
Help us to serve thee everyday, and more like thee to grow. Amen”

It was a intensely spiritual evening for me, one that I will long remember. I highly recommend this church as a stop for refreshing on your spiritual journey. It will give you a new appreciation of our wonderful, and very talented native Christian brethren in our community.

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