Often it appears I’m critical of everything going on in the church community. But I’m just as eager to highlight ways churches and religious organizations support local communities throughout Alaska. Here are some examples of ways churches support community organizations to show their love for God and others.
Baxter Road Bible Church Christmas Giving Program
For the past four years, Baxter Road Bible Church has actively promoted a Christmas giving program that is not self-directed. Its theme is simply “It’s not your birthday. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and our gift to him is to help the poor.” All the money that members give to the church in December is used for this program. It funds community programs nominated by church members. The base of recipients is stable but some are added each year. Bob Mather, the church’s senior pastor, said “The more generously BRBC members give, the better shape our church finances are. There are no monetary problems due to our December giving initiative.” Last December, more than $60,000 was donated, and overall, more than $200,000 has been donated the past four years as the program has grown.
Catholic Social Services Brother Francis Shelter
One of the Catholic Church’s local initiatives through CSS is the Brother Francis Shelter. The shelter provides nighttime sleeping accommodations and a meal for those without a place to call home. It provides active assistance to their clients to help them redirect their lives and become gainfully employed in the community. If they choose not to do so, they are limited to 30 days at Brother Francis Shelter and then must be gone for 30 days until they are eligible to return. These services are provided at tremendous cost to area Catholics, aided by other community organizations as well. After being in Anchorage for 15 years, I perceive the services are taken for granted. The shelter deserves strong community support. One need not be Catholic to support their mission.
Bean’s Cafe, like Brother Francis Shelter, has become a local fixture, which I also believe is taken for granted. However, many churches wholeheartedly throw their support behind the Bean’s mission of feeding the hungry, and housing them during cold nights when Brother Francis is full. My very first experience with Bean’s Cafe was in responding to a request by Amazing Grace Lutheran Church for volunteers to serve meals at Bean’s on a Saturday. I enjoyed my fellowship with other volunteers becoming a regular volunteer for a while. Volunteers from St. Benedict Parish impressed me one Saturday, motivating me to visit their church. On some Saturdays, I found my help was needed in prepping food for future meals in the kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed every minute I’ve spent volunteering at Bean’s. Many churches support its mission.
TrueNorth Church Supports School Teachers
In August, I was a substitute teacher at Campbell Elementary School for several weeks. Walking into the staff lounge I was amazed to see a number of ‘thank you’ boxes of pastries and donuts from a local bakery. I contacted Rev. Brent Williams about this growing church to find out more. Williams told me they’d delivered 44 boxes to 30 schools that day and that TrueNorth regularly delivers these gifts to schools, nonprofits, and local businesses. Shedding further light, Williams said “It is a normal part of our staff time each week. It’s one thing to sit in a room and strategize about how to reach our community. It’s completely different to actually create a missional environment. It starts with those called to shepherd the body of Christ if it is ever going to be “normal” for our church.” Who wouldn’t be attracted to a body of believers who not only talk the talk, but also walk the talk? Thanks for doing this, TrueNorth.
Beer and Hymns Was Not a Beer Bust
My Sept. 12 column highlighted the “Beer and Hymns” fundraiser of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, which was held Sept. 21. The purpose of this fundraiser was to financially support the work of Lutheran Social Services of Alaska, as outlined in my column. The evening at Mo’s O’Brady’s was a joyous time of food, Christian fellowship, and some of the best hymn singing I’ve ever heard in Anchorage. It was well attended with people arriving 45 minutes before the 6 p.m. start time.
Last Sunday, I attended a local church to observe their services, be treated as a guest, hoping to learn from them and to share the results of my visit with the local community. Unfortunately, during the sermon, the pastor outrageously characterized this fundraiser as a beer bust. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over $7,000 was raised for LSSA, fellowship among Christians was high, and a strong sense of Christian community and hospitality was evident. If a church, in a couple hours of fellowship and singing can raise this kind of money, uphold the standard of “being the church in the world,” as Rev. Dan Bollerud terms it, maybe there is hope for churches to represent themselves rightly to the world.
These churches and religious organizations deserve our thanks, respect, and support for their significant contributions within our local community. Because of them Anchorage is a better place. They are in the vanguard of leading Christian witness by demonstrating who their neighbor is.