Monthly Archives: March 2012

Another Flavor of Mailed Easter Service Invitation

On my previous post I discussed and illustrated the mailed Easter services invitation received from Faith Christian Community. I felt Faith’s invitational message appropriately targeted people seeking a connection with the “I AM”.

This week, I received another mailed invitation, this time from Anchorage Baptist Temple. I was sorely disappointed in the messages portrayed. Like ABT’s website, it was a hodgepodge of color and dense wording. On one card ABT announces:

Side 1
1. Palm Sunday service
2. Pitch for ABT LIVE
3. Appeal to vote on April 3 “…dangers of Prop. 5…”
[img_assist|nid=160583|title=Anchorage Baptist Temple Mailing – Side 1|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=189]

Side 2
4. Easter Celebration – 2 Easter Services – 2 Easter Egg hunts
5. Easter Pageant – 3 performances
[img_assist|nid=160582|title=Anchorage Baptist Temple Mailing – Side 2|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=188]

Most church growth experts cite that 70-95% of new church attendees come visit a church because they were invited by a friend. However, surveys of non-church attenders indicate they’ve never been invited to attend church by that friend. I’ve been in the Anchorage community since 1999 yet have never been invited by an ABT member to anything. Where is the soul of a religion that depends on shotgun mass marketing to achieve exposure to services and programs it offers?

Unfortunately, too many churches, especially the mega-churches, have slipped into the mass marketing mode where mass mailings and marketing to thousands of people, hoping for response rates in the single digits, substitutes for person-to-person contact. True faith just doesn’t work that way.

Faith Christian Community is in my neighborhood. Anchorage Baptist Temple is many miles away. It’s appropriate for Faith to be contacting me because they are a nearby church. It’s a stretch to think that ABT is interested in my neighborhood.

Anchorage Palm Sunday 2012

Tomorrow, Holy Week observances around the world begin. Palm Sunday is the first observance of Holy Week. Based on Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, it begins a cycle of daily commemorations of that awful time. Palm fronds from last year’s Palm Sunday observances have already been burned, creating ashes for Ash Wednesday in February. New palm fronds are used in many churches in recognition of the greenery thrown on the roadway as Jesus rode into Jerusalem.

Many Anchorage churches will not observe Palm Sunday tomorrow, but strangely, will celebrate Easter, although both occasions are strongly based on the gospels.

Anchorage always has its share of Palm Sunday observances, but the Anchorage Daily News Matters of Faith listings today contained only three church notices of Palm Sunday Services tomorrow. ADN does a great job of putting in all listings that are submitted on a timely basis. It’s too bad more churches do not use this great free service. The churches listed were:

St. John United Methodist Church
St. Mary’s Episcopal
First Baptist Church

A Google search using the search terms “palm sunday anchorage 2012” revealed the following churches offering Palm Sunday services in the first three Google results pages. Usually people doing searches don’t go beyond the first or second page. Hyperlinks to these churches’ webpages have been included as a service to readers of this blog. They are listed in the order that Google presented them.

All Saints Episcopal Church
St. Mary’s Episcopal
St. John United Methodist
First Congregational
Faith Presbyterian
St. Benedicts
Trinity Presbyterian
Archdiocese of Anchorage
Anchorage Lutheran
First Baptist Church
Christ Our Savior Lutheran

Palm Sunday is a joyous time that ultimately culminates with Good Friday’s somber realities. I’ll be visiting one of these churches on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is a wonderful time to connect with faith communities and strengthen your personal walk.

Received Your Mail Invitation to Easter Services?

Easter is one of the best times of the year to invite friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to your church’s services. Some Anchorage churches know how important this date is and are mailing out invitations. I received one such invitation in the mail this week.

The 5″ x 9″ card invitation I received (below) is most inviting and makes a stunning visual impression with the “I AM” motif which also describes the face of Jesus Christ with tiny “I AM’s”. Faith Christian Community blankets it’s community with invitations at appropriate times of the year: Christmas, Easter, etc. If you’ve received an invitation from your church, please scan and send it to or mail to Church Visits, PO Box 90174, Anchorage, AK 99509. I’d love to show other examples of Easter invitations as we move into Holy Week.[img_assist|nid=160523|title=Faith Christian Community Easter Invitation – 2012|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=192]

The addressing side has a great invitational message to visit. This is the right stuff!

Card Message
“Jesus … the great I AM. Have you ever thought about the implications of His name? It’s not “I Was” or “I will be.” It’s “I AM.” He IS all you need Him to be in the present day. If you’re thinking about trying church out again, join us for the I AM series, where we’ll remind one another that we are not living life alone. We have the “I AM.” Whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is right here among us.”
[img_assist|nid=160525|title=Faith Christian Community Easter Invitation – 2012 (address & message)|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=191]

Most importantly, don’t forget a personal invitation from you will go much further than a mailing. Documented research indicates the majority of non-believers or non-attenders have NEVER been invited to church. Incredible! I know this is true from personal experience of many years.

All Saints: Stirring Lenten Service

On Sunday, March 11, I visited All Saints Episcopal Church in downtown Anchorage. I’m not sure why I’d not visited this little gem of a church sooner, but now I’m sorry I hadn’t.

I was warmly greeted by a smiling woman who also handed me a bulletin. What brought me to All Saints on this day was a notice in the Anchorage Daily News’ Faith Matters section that Maestro Robert Ashens, Anchorage Opera’s Interim Artistic Director, was providing special music this day. As an aficionado of the arts I always enjoy something different. I was not disappointed this day.[img_assist|nid=160488|title=All Saints Episcopal Church – Sanctuary|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

The service was Morning Prayer, which offered everything a normal Episcopal liturgy contains but without the celebration of Holy Communion. 40-50 members and guests were assembled this morning until we were joined late in the service by the Pt. Hope women’s basketball team, and their retinue, which easily doubled those already present.

The presiding pastor was the Rev. James A. Basinger, a warm and welcoming minister, who delivered a wonderful Third Sunday of Lent sermon on the Israelite tabernacle in the wilderness (click here to listen or download) , a part of Basinger’s Journey Through the Bible series started with the new year. He’s an excellent speaker with great thoughts and good presentation skills.

The liturgy was standard Episcopalian, but flowed nicely. The music, with Maestro Ashens at either the organ or piano, was wonderful! I was particularly taken with his theme and variations style offertory based on that wonderful hymn Be Thou My Vision. After the service, in checking with Maestro Ashens, I confirmed he’d spontaneously created the variations on that hymn which made it all the more compelling.

Even The Passing of the Peace, a service time I don’t normally like, was delightful. I witnessed so many members going out of their way to ensure all were greeted. It was a warm time and I enjoyed this positive change in an otherwise dreadful experience.

The interior of the church is beautiful polished wood, accented by stained glass on most sides. The Apostles Windows on the north side are especially colorful, a delight to see.

All Saints is a very active church with many ongoing activities in our local community. I was intrigued with their “Macaroni March” collection of donated boxes of mac n’ cheese to stock New Hope On The Last Frontier’s food pantry.

This church is a “must see” even if you’re not of the Episcopalian persuasion. Ted Stevens considered it his church when he was in Anchorage and is fondly remembered there. I was pleased to meet and have a pleasant conversation with The Venerable Norman H.V. Elliott, Archdeacon of Southcentral Alaska – Episcopal Diocese of Alaska. He filled me in on church history and direction. I intend to interview him for a future blog post.

Maestro Ashens is also participating at All Saints’ Good Friday service which is going to be based on the seven last words of Christ. I’m hoping to be in attendance as this important day in the church calendar helps to bring Holy Week to a conclusion leading to Easter.

Creative Pastor Develops Great Devotional Media

Local Lutheran pastor Dan Bollerud, Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, has developed a devotional resource for people on-the-go, shut-in’s, and that endangered 18-29 yr. old group I’ve been blogging about recently. To my knowledge, no other churches in Anchorage have developed or are utilizing this type of innovation.

It’s really quite simple. Pastor Dan creates a 10-minute mini-worship service that begins and ends with a contemporary religious-themed song. These recordings are posted on blog sites 10Worship, and COSLCGRACE, and are for each Sunday in the month. Two recordings are created for each week. They are different services, but maintaining the same worship format. The key difference is that one uses the Revised Common Lectionary while the other uses the Narrative Lectionary.

10W Worship Service Format
Song Beginning
Prayer of the Day
Gospel Reading
Statement of Faith
Prayers & Personal Prayers
Lord’s Prayer
Song Completion

When I visited Christ Our Savior Lutheran on Super Bowl Sunday, Pastor Dan gave me a CD of February’s 10W services. After I actually listened to them, I was blown away! I posed some questions to him and now have a better idea how this works.

CV=Church Visits
PD=Pastor Dan

CV: How long have you been doing this?
PD: I started in Jan. of 2011. I found it took me a while to work through the logistic process of how to put the recordings together and work on sound quality etc. I think I have most of the recording logistics dealt with now and the sound quality is pretty good. In December I started adding the Narrative lectionary in addition to the Revised Common Lectionary. My latest addition is to put in a link for purchase of the CD’s for the music to encourage listeners to expand out their Christian music library. When possible the links take the listener to the artist’s web site for purchase.

CV: What feedback do you get from listeners?
PD: There have been a few in the congregation who have made it a regular part of their day which was the intent. For some of the 20’s (CV: 20 yr. old group), it is their church for the most part. They still might show up half a dozen times a year, but for regular worship, this is it. They listen on the way to the slopes or work etc. I did hear from one USN person stationed on an island in the middle of the Atlantic that this was his church. For those in the congregation who are shut-ins, it is also a way to keep connected to the word and worship. I have also heard from some former members who have moved away (again 20 something’s) that for the most part this is their worship experience.

CV: Does it make a difference in the spiritual life of your members?
PD: For a few it is very important, comments like “I don’t know how I would make it through the day without it”, but for the most part I don’t hear much regarding it.

CV: Why do you distribute discs, when it’s online?
PD: Convenience for the most part. Most people have a CD player in their car and if they can pick up the CDs they will do it. For most people over 40, if they have to go on line and look something up, it ends up being a barrier they won’t get around to. CD’s are also an easy thing to give to visitors such as yourself. (CV: As previously noted Pastor Dan gave me a CD as we spoke after the Super Bowl service.)

They are more likely to listen in their car and then perhaps feel motivated to check it out on-line. I distribute it on line on the 10W blog where they are put up a month at a time. I also put them on my Grace Notes blog where they are put up a week at a time along with the daily meditations, opening litanies and Gospel poems. I also send them out via Constant Contact where they are delivered to computer email or Smartphone. But the CD’s work best for a few in the congregation, like those without computers (yes there are some). And as introductory gifts to visitors.

CV: Any idea of how many listen.
PD: Through constant contact I average 40-45 opens for each 10W sent out. It goes out to 173 at this point. I started by putting members and former members and other ELCA Lutheran churches on the mailing list and then I have had about 20 add themselves to the mailing list through Constant Contact. The statcounter on the 10W blog indicates about 200 hits a week and it is hard to determine through the Grace Notes blog but the statcounter average has gone from about 350 a week to about 500 a week after I started putting the 10W’s on Grace Notes also.

The 10W blog is listed with Textweek, and I also send out an automatic link to each 10w sent out via Constant Contact that goes to Facebook and Twitter. With all that said, I would say there are about 300-400 per week on-line or email and maybe a dozen CD’s.
I have also included a link for support of the ministry through on-line offering on our web site. So far there have only been 4 gifts totaling less than $100.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this valuable tool Pastor Dan. It’s innovation and creativity such as this, that set significant religious communities apart from the professional, slick, “entertainment as church” crowd. You’ve come a long way, and I’m sure your idea and outreach will spread quickly. I urge readers to listen to what Pastor Dan has made available to the community at large. Just click the hyperlinks in the 2nd paragraph above.

Beast Feast at Baxter Road Bible A Worthwhile Event

Two weeks ago the Faith Matters page of the Anchorage Daily News announced (see below) a Beast Feast to be held later that day at Baxter Road Bible Church.

Beast Feast: 5 p.m. Saturday, Baxter Road Bible Church, 3600 Baxter Rd. Men, bring your favorite wild game dish. The event is free, Dave Bruss, an Alaska premier outdoorsman will be showing a hunting & fishing slide show. And Dave Lamaire will give his witness about how he survived the murder of his 11 year old daughter. For more information contact pastor John at

I attended and was treated to a variety of game dishes, including moose stew, and many types of smoked salmon. The meal was hearty, the male companionship great, and the speakers were interesting.

After our bountiful meal, Dave Bruss, a rugged outdoorsman, trapper, and fishing charter operator gave an excellent presentation of his life in interior Alaska. Illustrated by excellent photos it gave me an exposure to a side of Alaska I had only heard about, but never seen.[img_assist|nid=160238|title=Dave Bruss: Trapper, Outdoorsman, & Fishing Charterer|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

He was followed by Dave Lamaire, also from the Glenallen area, whose 11 year-old daughter had been kidnapped and murdered. Dave gave a stirring account of this tragedy and how his faith in God sustained and directed him. Beginning with “I called this my worst day, the day my humanity collided with my faith”, he articulated key imperatives about a man’s Christian life.
1. God has a plan for your life.
2. Stand up and be counted.
3. Rise above mediocrity.

He closed with a challenge to “Walk out of here changed because of our faith in Jesus Christ.” Dave now operates church-directed fishing float trips on the Gulkana and other rivers.[img_assist|nid=160239|title=Dave Lamaire Telling His Tragic Story|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=232]

I don’t often attend church social events but this event impressed me with it’s “men only” approach using themes calculated to appeal to men. I’m sure other churches must host these types of events, but this was my first.

Baxter Road Bible Church is a consistent and solidly growing church. Associate Pastor John Carpenter put much work into organizing this event. I’m glad I attended. More churches should do “men only” programs like this to counter the aversion many men have about going into churches.[img_assist|nid=160240|title=John Carpenter Seeking Advice From Dave Bruss|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=263]

Check Out ChangePoint’s New Lenten Blog

ChangePoint has created a new blog for the duration of Lent called A Journey Through Lent . I’m quite impressed with this heartfelt creative writing offering, penned by the hand of ChangePoint’s Communications Director Adam Legg.

Not steeped in the Lenten tradition, Adam clearly and passionately explains the journey he and his wife are taking to incorporate the significance of Lent in their personal lives, along with a strong focus for others.

I’m particularly impressed with their concentration on their physical health and diet, plus a passion for the world. In his second post he explained this more fully:

My wife and I observe Lent by “laying something down and taking something up.” So we not only fast from something, but we add something as well. This year we will be fasting from meat and going vegetarian for the 40 days of Lent and we will be taking up praying for the world. We have a map of the world and a world prayer guide that will lead us through praying for each country during this season. We have greatly enjoyed celebrating Lent in this way.

Although Lent is not part of ChangePoint’s tradition, Adam has been invited to express this very personal journey through ChangePoint’s Pastor’s Blog. I’m enjoying reading his posts and am sure you will too. God bless you Adam as you share your journey with us this Lent!

Review: The Gospel According to John Mark

A Play With a Purpose: The Gospel According to John Mark was presented on February 11 at the Wendy Williamson Theater at UAA. I was concerned few would attend as, from personal observation, Anchorage churches do not tend to support entertainment coming from outside a specific church or denomination. The Anchorage church community often demonstrates a ‘not invented here’ mentality, failing to support some great opportunities for Christian learning.

Entering the theater, I was warmly greeted by blue-shirted HOPE:worldwide – Alaska chapter supporters throughout the theater. I had a pleasant conversation with one of them. The theater was quite full. For this performance, the venue was divided in half by a horizontal curtain. [img_assist|nid=160005|title=John Mark – Portrayed by Steve Johnson|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=334|height=490]

The format was a single-act monologue, portraying real Biblical character John Mark’s first-person accounts of the events of Jesus life, and also of his connections with Paul’s. The actor, Steve Johnson of Portland, OR, dressed in incredibly ragged prophet’s garb, gave a masterful account of his journeys with Jesus and Paul. There were many stories told, but one of my favorites was that of the woman caught in adultery who was taken to Jesus. Clearly this was a fascinating look into the story of Jesus, explained in first-century life and customs terminology. I found every moment to be most enjoyable, breathing new life into the Biblical accounts.

After the play Steve Johnson came back out to explain why he did these plays. He told us his wife Lisa developed a rare form of cancer. One of the only treatment options available was not covered by their health insurance. So, he developed the idea of doing this play to earn money to pay for her treatment. So far, he’s presented it on every continent except Antarctica. I hope the frozen wastes of Alaska will suffice as it was certainly a worthwhile experience for those of us here. Steve also commented upon the quietness of the many children that were present. I noticed it too, and I’m certain it was due to the excellence of the presentation and their familiarity with the Gospel Story.

I asked several attendees to offer their perspectives on the play.

Overall I thought it was an excellent and educational presentation. From my readings of the Gospels over the years I could tell it was factual. I could also tell there was a good deal of research done to accurately portray many of the other characters and historical events in Jesus’ time. This caused the story to flow smoothly and accurately. The amount of effort in memorizing this one man presentation had to be substantial, and the amount of time in rehearsal must have been great as well. I think it was probably made somewhat easier by the fact that he is a believer. He could literally put himself into the character and “live the story”. The audience could tell he put his heart into his presentation. The only drawback I felt was his occasional tendency to get overly dramatic. However, I believe he did that to keep the audience stimulated and also to keep the numerous kids attention. Overall, I would highly recommend seeing this play. It brings to life just who Jesus is (not was) and how much love he has for us fallen souls. In this day and age when the God of Abraham has been pushed out of public life by selfish materialism and secular values, it is important to remember just what Jesus did for us, and the fact that He will be coming back for His church soon.
Dave Fox, Commercial Pilot – Anchorage

In the one-person play, John Mark, I really enjoyed this portrayal of an important Biblical witness. It was such an inspiring play. My daughter invited me to the play. It was so beautifully done. I would highly recommend it to anyone. What a blessing performance.
Penny Seliger, Elementary Teacher – Anchorage