Monthly Archives: October 2013

Great Land Christian – Awesome Revisit!

My History With GLCC
More than ten years ago, long before I began blogging Church Visits for ADN, I was witnessed to by a college age member of Great Land Christian Church while on a Seattle-Anchorage flight. She was most enthusiastic about so many aspects of GLCC, that I decided to take up her offer to attend a Sunday service.

I attended but was put off by the former pastor bragging about being out duck hunting that morning before coming to church. While I enjoyed many aspects of that early experience with GLCC, listening to killing ducks before church was not one of them. Years later I finally revisited GLCC (click HERE and HERE for blog posts of my previous visits). What I discovered was the same younger crowd, a capellasinging, bible-based teaching, and friendly people. After outgrowing their Korean SDA Church meeting place of many years, GLCC has begun meeting at ASD’s Central Middle School.

I attended GLCC’s services last Sunday, October 27, as one of my local church revisit updates. To me, things have gotten even better at GLCC. They’re friendlier, the music is still great, the preaching is inspired, and there are many more members.

Now these people don’t know me, but I was approached by many members who greeted me, extending true Christian hospitality, without smothering me. This experience was truly rare among all the Anchorage church visits I make. In many churches I’m left with the feeling I’m a leper not to be touched, and certainly avoided. I effortlessly slip in and out without a nod or touch in many churches. If you’re a regular reader you already know this.

Music the Way it Should be
The music was truly a delight; Just congregational singing led by a group of five singers on the platform. No 105+ decibel instrumental music to blast the eardrums as is so common in most Anchorage contemporary worship churches. At GLCC, it seemed as though everyone was singing, and…you could hear the words. The loud music at so many churches drowns out most individual’s singing. Those who choose to sing the complicated rhythms and harmonies seem to be in “entertainment mode”, carried along by the 30-45 minute standing concert. For the first time in years, it was enjoyable to sing in church, singing lyrics that made spiritual and theological sense without vain repetition of meaningless verses.

The songs sung were:

Run to the Fight
Jesus Will Fix It
Holy, Holy, Holy
Encourage My Soul
I Tried and I Tried
What a Fellowship
Whose Side Are You Fighting On?

Bulletins Anyone?
GLCC’s bulletin (sheetlet) covered the basics of the service, including an Order of Service, announcements, and prayer requests. Many contemporary churches have pages and pages of fodder, but absolutely no information about what is going to occur at the service despite survey results showing members want more. Even though it was brief, I like what I got and what they are doing. It contained many of the basics those surveys indicate members want (click HERE for my recent post on bulletins). (This hyperlink not currently working.)

Inspiring, Well-Delivered Sermon
Pastor Ray Nadon had a wonderful, encouraging sermon based on Luke 14. His observations about the tower in v.28 were excellent coupled with Christian admonition about counting the cost. He’s a very good speaker with excellent stage presence, preaches extemporaneously, and makes the application clear. Too many of today’s Christian preachers tiptoe around the information their position dictates they should bedelivering to worshipers. Current research on church guests indicates they come to visit your church for mainly one thing; They want to know what you believe, i.e., your doctrine. No pussyfooting around at GLCC. It’s too bad they don’t record their sermons, and make them available to the public for replay. During Ray’s sermon, people were busy taking notes and consulting their bibles, a sure fire indication of how much GLCC members immerse themselves in the word, a marked contrast to most other Anchorage churches. I’ve commented before on the sound of bible pages being flipped while Ray preaches. Last of all, I love to hear members shouting out words of encouragement to Ray or other participants during the service such as “Come on!”, “Say it!”, etc. It shows me these worshipers are hungry for participation and really enjoy their church-going experience.

If I had any suggestions for GLCC, they would embrace putting true greeters at the front door instead of bulletin passers. There were no directional signs posted showing the way to the service, so I had to find my way. The entry is also an excellent place for a staffed guest table, but none was seen. The offering call did not offer guests a pass on the collection plate, a very guest-friendly gesture. With so much criticism about money in churches, this is an easy fix.

Communion was served very early in the service without comment. The early church considered communion to be a special ordinance reserved for those who clearly knew about the significance of the rite. Basically, nothing was said about communion, but that’s the way it’s always been when I’ve visited GLCC. It’s in their DNA. There was a joyful baptism that day, a introduced by younger members who said nice things about the young man being baptized. Nothing was really said, however, about the rite of baptism, how it happens, and its significance in the Christian life. There were several references to concerns the young man might back out before the baptism which raised a red flag in my mind. Full immersion open water baptism has full credence according to scripture. I really didn’t understand what happened Sunday at that baptism.

The website, being redone, is painfully short on the critical information GLCC needs to augment its community mission. It needs to be fixed immediately. The main things the public wants from a church website is (1) where do you meet, and (2) when? Neither of these were apparent on the initial splash screen.

Lots of Good Things at GLCC
On the whole, I can happily say this church is full of amazing people, doing amazing things, and practicing their faith in awesome ways. It tends to be a younger church, but there were grey hairs in evidence too. I give this church a hearty two thumbs up and highly recommend it to potential guests. As we’re now in the church season of compelling members to pony up hefty dollars or pledges for the year to come, it must be reassuring for GLCC members to know a small weekly rental fee for the use of Central Middle School is going for a great cause, instead of payments for hefty mortgages, bricks and mortar, and upkeep for a really nice, underutilized facility.

If you want to know what happened to the 18-29 year-old “lost generation” we keep hearing about, go to GLCC. They’re worshiping there. Keep up the good Christian work you do GLCC!

Bach’s St. John Passion – Almost Church

The Anchorage Concert Chorus is performing J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion this Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Atwood Concert Hall in Anchorage’s Performing Arts Center (PAC).

This glorious work is being performed by a talented group of instrumentalists, vocalists, select chorale, and the 150 voice Anchorage Concert Chorus. It tells the passion story from the perspective of the Gospel of John. This moving story is expressively brought to life with singer/actors onstage at the Atwood.

Come and hear scriptural singing as you never have before.

UMC Chugiak – A Worthwhile Drive

Sunday, October 6 saw me wending my way north on the Old Glenn Highway in Chugiak. It was a beautiful day for a drive from my Turnagain neighborhood to the north. The object of my visit was The United Methodist Church of Chugiak . Unassuming from the highway, this church offers an attractive sanctuary with outstanding views of Mt. McKinley (weather permitting). The church is built on multiple levels with the sanctuary being on the top level. The lower levels offer a gym and multipurpose rooms.

I was cheerfully greeted by a middle-aged man as I walked in from the parking lot, something out of the ordinary on my church visits. There was no one greeting on the lower entry level as I entered, but I was given a smile and a bulletin as I entered the sanctuary on the upper level. Other than that, no one greeted me in this church prior to the “Passing of the Peace” at the end of the service.

The service was a bit late getting started but was finally kicked off by a cheerful woman who artfully gave 10 minutes of announcements. One item of interest was the announcement that the church was moving toward allowing the neighborhood children, in the adjoining trailer park, to use the church gym for afterschool recreational activities.

The service, like most UMC churches, follows a set liturgical pattern. For newcomers the service was easy to follow. The various components of the liturgy were interspersed by a variety of hymns. The choir appeared out of the audience and beautifully rendered an anthem called “One at the Feast”.

A children’s story was given by Pastor Carlos Rapanut. The children seemed to enjoy it and participated throughout. This church offers a table in the back of the sanctuary for young ones to work on quiet activities during the sermon, shepherded by several church women. A first for me, it seemed like a good solution for restless children during the service.

Pastor Carlos is an excellent speaker, and gave an excellent sermon this morning, “Eat”, the 4th in a series he titles “Rhythms”. You can listen to this sermon by clicking here. Less than half of Anchorage area churches make their sermons available by audio recordings of them. What a wonderful practice this is!

When Pastor Carlos transitioned into the communion portion of the service, he explained we would be following the communion readings in the hymnal. He noted he would be reciting the pastoral portion of the reading in a Philippine dialect, while the congregation would be reciting their portion in English. I found this to be very interesting as we did have the English reading in front of us. The communion service proceeded as normal but it seemed infused with something extra. Maybe it was the fact that it was World Communion Sunday, but it was there.

At the end of the service they have a Passing of the Peace when folks greet each other. Although I was not deluged by greetings, several people did more than just greet me, wondering where I was from, how long I’d been in Alaska, etc. It was a warm time. A kind woman sought me out and recognized my visit with a small cake in a cloth sack. This cake turned out to be a tasty gift, and cemented a pleasant memory of my visit to Chugiak UMC. In all my Anchorage area church visits, I believe I’ve only received 3 or 4 food treats, and a couple of books. To be effective, a church must use members who can identify and approach guests. It’s a wonderful practice.

Pastor Carlos was greeting people after the service on the lower level. Initially he did not recognize me from a chance meeting several years ago but soon did. I’ve asked him to contribute Advent and Lenten reflections previously on this blog, and they have been wonderful.

This congregation is fortunate in having a congenial and articulate pastor. Overall I was left with a strong feeling of community in this church, something many larger churches have a difficult time in achieving. If you are looking for a church, I highly recommend you give Chugiak UMC a visit.

Prevo Love Offering This Sunday

My mailbox recently disgorged a “Love Offering” appeal for funds (see below) for Dr. Jerry Prevo and his wife, Carol. Ostensibly, it was sent out by the deacons and assistant pastors of Anchorage Baptist Temple. Special emphasis was placed upon his 42 years of ministry here in Anchorage.

I understand the concept of gathering a love offering, especially for underpaid, and less recognized pastors. What I do not understand is taking a “Love Offering” year after year for a pastor who undoubtedly is not underpaid. Pastoring one of Alaska’s few megachurches, Dr. Prevo must collect an adequate salary, although I could not verify that amount. Christ said to sell everything you had and give it to the poor. Is this the model?

Paul labored in the New Testament epoch, primarily sustained in his ministry by tentmaking. The Southern Baptist Convention is encouraging more of it’s pastors to be gainfully employed while pastoring their churches.

The “Love Offering” practice in cases like this sustain church critics or the unchurched who consistently note that “…it’s all about the money.” As you will note in the attached copy of the letter or the download, payments are asked to be paid directly to the Prevo’s. The love offering is to be submitted by October 6, 2013, this coming Sunday.

I believe Church Visits readers would love to understand more about this practice. Please share your thoughts if you have information to share.