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.

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