Wait…Easter is Not Over!!! Orthodox Pascha Season is Here!!! (UPDATED)

We’ve just celebrated the Western tradition Easter but the Eastern Orthodox tradition is in the middle of their Holy Week. For most Eastern Orthodox, Easter, or more properly Pascha, is their most important focus of the year.

The Orthodox Christian website defines Pascha as,

“The English word “Easter” is not a biblical word. It is thought to be a translation of the name of the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess, “Eostre”. In any case, it is an English word which is used today to translate the Greek term ‘Pascha‘, which translates the Hebrew term for ‘Passover‘. The Christian Church transformed the Jewish Passover, which commemorated the freeing of the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage into a feast which commemorated the death and resurrection of Christ which freed humanity from the bondage of death, sin and evil.

For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival …” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

“Thus the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection became the first Christian Feast – the Christian Pascha.”

http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/Pascha_word.html

Sheltering-in-place is proving to be a challenge for some Alaska Orthodox churches. Orthodox services are very dependent on a sung, chanted, and spoken liturgy. It’s difficult for many of these churches to provide remote viewing and the expected liturgy due to their extreme rural locations or their lack of technology.

In the Anchorage area, several Orthodox churches are proactively meeting their parishioners needs by a combination of strategies.

St. John Orthodox Cathedral’s leader, Fr. Marc Dunaway shares that they are using these key strategies to adapt.

  1. Live Streaming from the Cathedral
    Most major services will be livestreamed from the cathedral with a small group of clergy and chanters. (click here for schedule)
  2. “Home Church”
    There are some services that do not need to be led by the clergy or served in the Cathedral. They are reader services that can be done in homes. (click here for resources for doing so)
  3. Individual Readings
    Each person, as he/she is able, can read other Scriptures and spiritual reflections for each day of Holy Week. (Some suggestions are in the attached “Special Holy Week Schedule 2020.”)

Pascha blessings to the St. John Community for making the best of an unusual situation. I appreciate your courage and friendship.

St. Tikhon Orthodox Church has a variety of information posted on their informative Facebook pages to guide parishioners and potential visitors. (see attached Facebook link) This beautiful church appears to not be offering online services at this time.

St. Innocent Cathedral is providing live video of their services starting today via their Facebook pages. (click for Facebook link) Their website lists the following schedule.

Holy Week Services
Bridegroom Matins Monday, Wednesday & Thursday nights at 6:00 pm.
Thursday 9:00 am Liturgy
Friday 2:00 pm Lamentations Vespers
Saturday 9:00 am Vesperal Divine Liturg
y

All services will be aired on Vimeo and Facebook, if possible.

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church has services on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions and difficulties getting high-speed telecom service as their site is quite a distance from the road on O’Malley. Fr Vasili Hillhouse is working with his Bishop to gain approval for remote services. I’ll update when I have confirmation of this.

UPDATE – 5:00 p.m. Friday:
Fr Vasili Hillhouse has advised me that their services will now be available on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GreekOrthodoxChurchOfAlaska/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAofSG7tbSXc2_xb46-RN0Q/
Service times are listed on both of these sites.

I appreciate the hard efforts our Orthodox community is putting forth to connect with their parisioners and provide the liturgy which is lifegiving for so many. I’m sorry I was unable to mention every local Orthodox church but these are a good cross-sample. I suggest searching for the website of any other Orthodox church you would like to explore during Holy Week.

Blessed Pascha to my many Orthodox friends!

ct

He is risen! He is risen indeed!


image courtesy – Caeleigh Cortez

Easter time is a joyous time of year for most Christians. During this time, we take special attempts to meaningfully relate to Christ’s last week, and His death, burial, and resurrection. Many Christians attempt to establish a better understanding of the Christian life, and practice meaningful acts to bolster their faith as Easter approaches through Lent. Lent starts this holy season which culminates with Holy Week, Good Friday, Vigil, and Easter. Conversely, many faiths are proud of pointing out that they do not recognize Easter for various reasons. However, I discovered a special affinity for Easter; it has positively influenced my spiritual walk.

I’m overjoyed that so many local pastors and church communities have worked overtime to accomodate their parishioners by having online meetings, or even meetings in cars. Those churches who do so, in many cases, are reaching larger audiences than they did with their normal congregation. Easter will be an especially difficult time for so many people normally accustomed to flocking to churches to hear the Good News of a risen Savior. There is something so attractive about the resurrection story that draws people to those who proclaim the Good News of salvation! Conversely, I’m saddened by hearing of churches who insist on having services that ignore the public lockdown advice of the health authorities. Maybe this will be the new battle front in the church/state battle.

However, I’m positive much good will come out of churches adjusting to safe and sane ways of reaching their parishioners: it’s a teachable moment. We should be careful to continue to support our churches by giving, as their expenses do not cease due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many have converted to online giving portals which make giving so easy.I wish each of you a Happy Easter and a wonderful Easter Week.

At Easter time, I love to perennially share the beautiful N.T. Wright quote from his book “Surprised by Hope” for it inspires a true re-examination of the way we celebrate Easter.

Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday,” Wright says, “It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?

Finally, I choose to close my Easter posts with a poem by theologian Walter Brueggemann. This is taken from his Abingdon Press book of poetry, “Prayers for a Privileged People”. It is especially fitting as it brings to mind the life and death horrors of our pandemic.

Easter in the Very Belly of Nothingness

Death will be all right for when it comes.
But dying is another matter–
so slow,
so painful,
so humiliating.

Death will be a quick turn,
the winking of an eye
but dying turns and twists and waits and teases.

We have not died,
but we know about dying:
We watch the inching pain of cancer,
the oozing ache of alienation,
the tears of stored-up hurt.

We can smell the dying
of bombs and shells
of direct hit and collateral damage
of napalm spread thin and even of cities turned craters
of Agent Orange that waits years to show,
and lives turned to empty stare.

We watch close or distant;
we brace and stiffen
and grow cynical or uncaring.

And death wins–
we, robbed of vitality, brought low by failed hope,
lost innocence,
emptied childhood,
and stillness.

We keep going, but barely;
we gather at the grave,
watching the sting and
the victory of dread.

But you stir late Saturday;
we gather early Sunday with balm and embalming,
close to the body,
waiting for the smell but not;
dreading the withered site…but not;
cringing before love lost…but not here.

Not here…but risen,
gone,
awakened,
alive!

The new creation stirs beyone the weeping women;
O death…no sting!
O grave…no victory!
O silence…new song!
O dread…new dance!
O tribulation…now overcome!

O Friday God—Easter the failed city,
Sunday the killing fields.
And we, we shall dance and sing,
thank and praise,
into the night that holds no more darkness.

Happy Easter dear readers!

ct

Good Friday 2020 already? It really seems strange, But Easter is almost here.

It’s been sometime since I last posted, but I’m going to be posting articles regularly now. The last month has been a blur. Trip to England and Africa was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. Clearly Holy Week is going to be radically different this year.

With “hunker-down” and “social distancing” in place, most Christians will have a radically different experience with Easter this year. Please feel free to share your experience in your comments to this post.

I’ve been experiencing a house church for some time. It is one of several affiliated with Great Land Christian Church. Their model is to worship in house churches every Sunday except one. The exception is when the entire church meets as a congregation at the Boys & Girls Club facility. The congregate meetings, of course, have been discontinued during the pandemic. However, I’ve attended congregate GLCC meetings and find them to be a joy. My longtime friend Pastor Ray Nadon has filled me in on why they switched to this model. I’ll be doing an indepth post on them shortly. I’ve enjoyed worshipping with the Paredes house church for a number of Sundays. They are now meeting via Zoom. The majority of their time is spent discussing the assigned scripture readings. After my return from Africa, they focused on Matthew 23-24, and the following week Matthew 25-26. It is a very personable way to study, pray, and assemble as Christians together. If you would like to join their Easter service, click on this link to obtain a Zoom meeting invitation. (https://www.glccalaska.org/)

Many churches have transitioned to having their services via some type of social media or internet meeting sites such as Zoom or Skype. I’ve talked with several local pastors this week and they shared the following information about their services this weekend. This list is not exhaustive but representative. I suggest looking at church websites for specifics for onlne worship.

Anchorage First Presbyterian Church – Pastor Matt Schulz (http://firstpresanchorage.org/)
Pastor Matt shared “I have been live streaming on my facebook page and the church facebook page since this began. I will do so this week as well for Good Friday. Sunday will be Easter of course, but livestream only, probably from my home.” Livestream link: https://www.facebook.com/First-Presbyterian-Church-of-Anchorage-Alaska-152768168262144/

All Saints Episcopal CHurch – Rev. David Terwilliger
(allsaintsalaska.org)
Rev David shares, “As far as our Holy Week/Easter schedule, we have reduced many of our usual worship activities but certainly not all.  As things stand, I have been posting videos of our services on our church website – linked from a church YouTube account. (http://allsaintsalaska.org/youtube-services)

“Fortunately, I have my household to assist me with the services – usually my wife as Lector and my daughters will Acolyte for us Easter morning.  It certainly seems strange to us to conduct a service to be viewed by our church family online – many I know are able to watch and listen.  Sadly, some, I am sure, cannot.  Nevertheless, I have had folks tell me that they find great comfort in knowing that the Eucharist is still being celebrated within our church sanctuary even if they cannot be here physically to participate.  We are relying on a teaching of the church that “spiritual communion” is available to those whose desired intention is to participate in the Eucharist but for reasons – not their fault – cannot be physically present.  In this, the sacramental benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are apprehended by faith.  This teaching has been around for a long time and is even provided for in the 1662 BCP rubrics as well.  So we are relying of Christ’s presence and our Church’s tradition to guide us during these days.  Additionally, the old Armed Forces Prayer Book offers guidance for Spiritual Communion and a wonderful prayer found here: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1928/AFPB_Spir_Communion.htm

St Mary’s Episcopal Church – Rev. Michael Burke
(http://godsview.org)
Rev. Michael says they will be using Zoom for the Easter service at 10:00 a.m. with Twitch and Facebook mirroring the service. The Zoom link is (https://zoom.us/j/362945215) or go to the church webpage noted above for a link. The bulletin is also availabe there. Pastor Michael also shares, “People are joining us online from around the world and throughout the lower 48.Much joy despite the crushing busyness.”

St. Patrick’s Parish – Fr. Leo Walsh
(https://www.facebook.com/stpatsak/)
“We are pretty much shut down” say St. Patricks Pastor Fr. Leo Walsh.”I have been live streaming mass is at noon daily, and on the weekends on our Facebook page. Due to the governors mandate, it is impossible to celebrate the Triduum liturgies if there is only one person who lives in the household, such as myself. The Triduum liturgies for the Archdiocese will be celebrated and streamed from Holy Family Cathedral (English) and Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral (bi-lingual in English and Spanish).Mass of the Lord’s Supper, 7 PM on Holy Thursday; Good Friday Liturgy at 7 PM, Easter Vigil on Saturday at 8 PM.  Details are on the archdiocesan website.” (https://www.archdioceseofanchorage.org/)
Fr Leo says he “will be streaming Easter Sunday Mass from Saint Patrick’s at 10 AM Easter Sunday morning.” See Facebook link above.

St. John UMC – Pastor Andy Bartel
(https://www.stjohneagle.com/)
They will be streaming Good Friday services at 7 p.m. today. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC157rFbLUFLjOH9XvQTjCIQ)

Easter Sunday services will also be livestreamed at 9:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. as well.
(https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC157rFbLUFLjOH9XvQTjCIQ)

This is a friendly church with a top-notch pastoral staff.

Wherever you worship this Easter weekend, may God’s richest blessing be with you as you celebrate His richest gift to a needy world.

Wieland World Hunger Print – 2019 – Now Available

For 40 years, local artist Marianne Wieland, with the help of volunteers, has been producing an italiago print based on a religious theme. These beautiful prints are signed and numbered, and are a collectable item to treasure. She started this project as a personal response to her pastor’s challenge to address world hunger. Now, 40 years later, they have generated over $300,000 to help with world hunger. The link below will take you to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church’s website to order one of these prints. Better hurry, as this year’s edition is only 100 prints. Marianne advises me that she will be at Central Lutheran Church this coming Sunday, December 8, with her prints. She will also have prints of past years available for sale. They make the perfect Christmas gift.

Thank you Marianne, for the hard work you and your volunteers do to personally address the challenge of world hunger.

CT

Mitzvah Mall Offers Unique Giving Opportunities – Sunday, November 17

What is Mitzvah Mall?
It is a holiday gift from Congregation Beth Sholom to the Anchorage community. Think about a non-denominational bizarre bazaar that is an alternative gift fair. In a room filled with decorative and informative tables, there will be 30 non-profit organizations with representatives to share their stories of the assistance they give to those in need.  The non-profits range from those supporting the arts to animal welfare agencies, from health and food assistance to safe places for troubled youth, several international aid groups, and many more. Although most of the organizational representatives are human, we will have birds, both rehabilitated wild and pets, and therapy dogs to help shoppers learn about three of the organizations.

What could be better than the gift of helping those agencies who help others?  And isn’t that better than another candle or pot holder? It is a fun event. Performers play acoustical music during the event.

“Gifts” are in various price ranges beginning at $5. Donors can receive a lovely card, filled out by a calligrapher, to send to the person honored by the gift.

Don’t Forget Hymn Sing Tomorrow, October 20 @ 6:00 p.m.

Do you miss singing the good old hymns of yesterday? Does your church primarily use “Top 40” contemporary Christian music in it’s services? Does your church use “7-11 songs”, i.e. where a congregation is enticed to sing the same seven words repetively, for what seems like eleven times in a row? Many churches in Anchorage use all of these forms of music in worship, wearing out the worshiper. It’s no wonder so many churches have praise bands, as these are the only ones seemingly able to keep up these musical worship forms. Look around during a service, and you’ll see what I mean.

Tomorrow, you have an opportunity to sing those good old hymns, at a great tempo, and associate with good Christian folks. It’s called Beer and Hymns and the action starts at 6:00 p.m. at Mo’s O’Brady’s Restaurant in the Huffman Business Plaza next to Carr’s. I’d get there early as tables go fast, and people tend to save seats for those who’ve not yet arrives. There is no admission, but you’ll have an opportunity to give to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska to be used for their many great community services, including a Food Pantry.

Enjoy!

Next Popular Beer & Hymns Sing – October 20, 2019

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It’s Beer & Hymns time again. Pastor Dan Bollerud is preparing for a record crowd at Mo’s O’Brady’s in the Huffman Business Park, Sunday, October 20. I urge you to arrive early or you may not find a seat at the table. The singing starts at 6 p.m. Pastor Dan leads, while Ms. Jamie plays the hymns at the keyboard, and everyone sings using the provided songsheets.

The last hymn sing in April raised over $11,000 in two-hours, bringing the total raised in the past four-years to more than $100,000. Attendees traditionally are most generous in supporting these wonderful events with their attendance and funds. Pastor Dan also shares that “it’s a great deal of fun, and brings Christ to the world.” A call for the faiths represented always reflects a wide cross-section from Anchorage’s faith community who support this event.

The funds raised go to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska whose work is known statewide for it services to Alaskans in need. Read more about their services at:

https://www.lssalaska.org/

O’Brady’s food is always tasty, service rendered with a smile, the beer and other beverages are cold. As always, this is not a rowdy drinking crowd but merely a group of friends who enjoy food, fellowship, and singing great hymns.

Last word, arrive early or you might not have a place to sit. The love of hymn singing and genuine Christian fellowship is a great draw.

Alaska Greek Festival Time at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church – August 16-18

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church – August 2018

If you haven’t experienced the Alaska Greek Festival at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church on O’Malley, you’ve been shortchanged. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed a number of their festivals, and have come to appreciate the purpose of them. This faithful congregation has used these occasions to raise funds for their beautiful church. Thousands of house go into the planning, preparation, setup, and presenting of the food and entertainment.

Entertainers – August 2018

This event with a purpose deserves the support of the local community it receives. Admission is free and parking is plentiful, the food is tasty, and the Greek dancing is wonderful. So, get into that car and head up today, tomorrow, or Sunday.

Fr. Vasilli Hillhouse also offers tours and talks about their beautiful sanctuary. Hours are posted at the entrance to the church.

2019 Festival Hours

Friday, August 16th, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 17th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 18th, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church
2800 O’Malley Road in Anchorage

Strange Time for Some Protestant Churches

For years, stories of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church have provided fodder for the media. The general perception has been that Protestants were above this type of behavior. Recently, stories have begun to emerge that Protestants, too, have similar issues to deal with. The heartwrenching stories of many abuse victims are now beginning to be seen in the national media.

The Southern Baptists, at their recent convention, came to grips with the reality of the inroads abuse has made within their denomination. In a story this week, NPR stated “Earlier this year, The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News reported that nearly 400 male Southern Baptist leaders or volunteers had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, involving more than 700 victims.” The Washington Post, in article this past week, detailed efforts the Southern Baptists are taking to address this issue, but many question whether it’s too little, too late.

In it’s June 3 issue, The Washington Post Magazine highlighted the work bloggers are doing to expose abuse in Protestant churches. (see full article) Their efforts are in response to decades-long actions by a wide variety of Protestant churches to bury or minimize this abuse.

During my many church visits over the years, I’ve heard some Protestant pastors express anti-Catholic sentiments. I sincerely hope the events I’ve described should help non-Catholic churches to refrain from such language and address their own issues. As is said, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Latest Beer & Hymns Event Pushes Giving Over $100,000!!!

Who would have thought that singing hymns provides more than food for the soul? A dedicated group of hymnsingers gave over $11,000 during the April 7 Beer & Hymns event at Mo’s O’Brady’s. This pushes the four-year total of these events over the $100,000 mark!

I find it interesting that Christian contemporary music has not seen the same type of acceptance for raising funds for charitable work in local communities. Oh yes, some Christian artists pass through town and do concerts, mainly for personal gain.

My sincere congratulations to retired Pastor Dan Bollerud and his team of musicians who continue to provide these popular hymn singing events, and friendly fellowship opportunities. The funds collected are used by Lutheran Social Services of Alaska to support their food pantry and other charitable outreach programs. For further information, see www.lssalaska.org.