Tag Archives: ELCA

Catholics and Lutherans Commemorate 500th Year of the Reformation This Sunday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral

Too often, denominations fiercely defend their theological differences rather than celebrate their agreement regarding items of faith.  This coming Sunday, October 29, Archbishop Etienne of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, and Bishop Shelley Wickstrom of the Alaska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) will come together to preach at a service commemorating the 500th anniversary of the reformation.  They will be using a liturgy first used under the leadership of Pope Francis and Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Martin Junge in Sweden last October. In so doing, they will be join others around the world in sharing in this commemoration.

This special service will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe co-cathedral on Wisconsin Street, Sunday, October 29 at 2 p.m.

Last year the Vatican released a statement regarding these special worldwide commemoration services. “In 2017, Lutheran and Catholic Christians will commemorate together the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Lutherans and Catholics today enjoy a growth in mutual understanding, cooperation, and respect. They have come to acknowledge that more unites than divides them: above all, common faith in the Triune God and the revelation in Jesus Christ, as well as recognition of the basic truths of the doctrine of justification.” Source — http://www.vatican.va/

In commenting about the Lutheran perspective on this service, Bishop Shelley Wickstrom said, “Our shared commemoration reflects a deepening conviction that because of Christ, what unites us is stronger than what divides us.  The liturgy we use in this commemoration is one being used around the world by Roman Catholics and Lutherans and first used by Pope Francis and members of the Lutheran World Federation in Oslo. It includes statements of how we have not been charitable to each other.  There are Lutherans who grew up hearing they should not date Catholics (or Norwegians, Swedes,…) The same is true for Catholics in regard to Protestants.”  (I’m sure many of us can recall hearing similar statements as this. Growing up Protestant, I heard them in my home.)
“This shared commemoration”, continued Bishop Shelley, “also acknowledges the differences that remain between our two traditions. My prayer is that our common prayer and confession will open hearts and minds to what God would have us do in Christ’s name for the sake of the future God prefers for us all.”
Following the service, a reception will be held in the adjoining Lunney Center.
I wonder, if there were more commemorations like this, whether some of the divisiveness so prevalent in our current society might be ameliorated. I look forward to attending this special service.
Chris Thompson

2017 Wieland Hunger Print Now Available!

“Lord of the Dance” 2017 Hunger Print

There are a number of exciting projects individual churches or their members sponsor. Last year, I was excited to discover the Hunger prints by Marianne Wieland, local Alaskan artist. Now in its 38th year, it has provided approximately $300,000 to help combat world hunger.

My ADN column on this project is at https://www.churchvisits.com/2016/09/for-nearly-40-years-an-anchorage-artist-with-the-help-of-her-church-has-used-her-work-to-fight-world-hunger/. Each year Marianne donates art materials, her studio’s equipment, while her volunteers, working under her direction, donate their time to help her produce copies of this limited edition print.

Marianne shared her inspiration for this years’ print. “Pastor Mark began the inspiration with the comment that in the village, there was nothing more enjoyed than to have song and dance in the worship service,” she said. “Development of the image began with the soapstone carving of a native dancer presented to me by Bishop Shelly at the Wasilla Council meeting last year,” she continued, noting “The title came when Jan Whitefield sang Lord of the Dance at our Christmas service.” Wieland gave appropriate production credit to her team by identifying them as “dedicated and talented volunteers: Margie Paulson, Linda Bender, Marilyn Martinson, JoAnne Mueller and Karen Voris.”

“The print, Lord Of the Dance, is offered with the hope,” artist Wieland concludes, “that it will bring to the viewer the joyful spirit of the village Christians.”

Inspiration for 2017 Hunger Print

Bishop Shelley Wickstrom of the Alaska Synod of the ELCA, offering additional background on the soapstone carving that provided Marianne’s inspiration of this years’ print, said “The synod gives a soapstone carving by Eric Tepton III to our honorees and keynote presenters.  In delightful serendipity, this soapstone dancer has the pose that Marianne used in a print “Women of Joy” that she made for the Alaska Synodical Women’s Organization in the 90’s.”


The 2017 hunger print is limited to approximately 250 individually signed and numbered prints. Each print comes shrink-wrapped on mat board and makes an ideal gift. You may order your print directly from Gloria Dei Lutheran using the attached order form.  The beauty of this project is that 100% of the price of the print goes directly to address world hunger. 2017 Hunger Print Order Form

Thank you for your vision and hard work Marianne!  It’s an inspiration to me and many others.

10-minute Church! Is that possible?

10W on Soundcloud

Anchorage pastors sometimes surprise me with insights of connecting to people spiritually. Pastor Dan Bollerud, retired Lutheran (ELCA) pastor, came up with one such idea over six-years ago.

When he was pastor at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church (COSLC), he was approached by a couple in search of worship materials to take and use on a summer trip for their private devotions.  This linked an observation he had that “20-somethings” missed church, but didn’t come often.  Through dialog involving the question, “What would church look like if you started from scratch?”, he developed a mini-church service to be recorded and distributed to members via CD. When deciding upon a name for this new program, wife Jan suggested calling it a 10-minute worship, the time it took her to drive to work.  So, the name 10W was born for the 10-minute worship service. Initially, it was copied onto CDs and placed in the church narthex for anyone to take. In fact, at my first visit to COSLC, Pastor Dan gave me such a set of those CDs. At that time, each CD contained services for all of the weeks of the month.

Lectionaries are used by many churches to cover the scriptural flow of the church year, including major events and celebrations. Last Sunday, for example, was Pentecost and has specific scriptural references to follow. This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday.  Initially Pastor Dan started using the Revised Common Lectionary for the 10W but about four-years ago, added the Narrative Lectionary. Both versions are still used.

Liturgical Format
Each 10W service follows the liturgical format of a Lutheran Service. Pastor Dan begins each 10W with a song which fades out partway through.  A variety of spiritual music is used, but only with the permission of the musicians presented. He released the Revised Common Lectionary version of June 11’s service yesterday. You may listen to it via this link.


Titled “How Do I Love Thee”, the introductory music by Dakota Road is “Dance with Me.”  After a brief introductory statement, he offers prayer before commencing the gospel reading.  After the gospel, he presents a brief homily distilling each Sunday’s theme.  This particular homily dealt with Trinity Sunday. Following the homily, a statement of faith (apostles creed or other) is recited.  Personal prayers come next, in true liturgical fashion, thanking God, praying for the world and nation, the community, the faith community, friends and family, and for help in specific ways.  The Lord’s Prayer immediately follows, along with a concluding blessing. The service ends after the second part of the introductory song is completed.

To receive the 10W, sign-up via the following link. (www.10worship.blogspot.com) You will then receive it by an email twice a week, Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary.  When you received the emailed service click on the link provided and you’ll be taken to Soundcloud to hear the 10W. By using the search tool on Soundcloud, you can type “Bollerud” and find all of the 10W’s posted with them.  I just open the Soundcloud app on my mobile phone and listen directly.

Other Pastors Contribute
Several other area Lutheran pastors support Pastor Dan by doing occasional 10W service recordings. Pastor Julia Seymour, Lutheran Church of Hope and Pastor Martin Eldred, Joy Lutheran-Eagle River lend their talents to this wonderful spiritual vehicle from time to time.

10W’s have been a blessing to me and I highly recommend them to you as well. It’s not often we experience true innovation like this in Alaska.

Pastor Dan continues to explore new vehicles to encourage spiritual development in our media-driven culture. I wish him well, and to the other ELCA pastors who support this wonderful spiritual tool. If you are aware of unique spiritual practices and tools to share with a wider audience, please write me at churchvisits@gmail.com.



For nearly 40 years, an Anchorage artist — with the help of her church — has used her work to fight world hunger

Marianne Wieland, a well-known Anchorage artist, has been quietly using her art to produce unique, limited-edition prints each year for the past 38 years. The prints are sold through her church, Gloria Dei Lutheran, and 100 percent of the sale price is donated to addressing world hunger.

So far, not including this year’s new print, more than $275,000 has been raised for this project. Proceeds go locally to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska, Brother Francis Shelter, Bean’s Cafe and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America world hunger initiatives.

A Gloria Dei member since 1976, Wieland got the idea during an adult Bible class led by the former Rev. Rick Halvorson. In 1979, Halvorson posed a question to the class about which subject to tackle next; a nurse suggested world hunger. Halvorson noted it would be a tough one to tackle due to difficulty of one person making a difference with such a huge and worldwide issue. But Marianne had an idea.

Volunteers are crucial for the success of this project. “When I started this project, I used volunteers to help me produce the prints to keep the production costs down,” Wieland explained. “The volunteers all came from Lutheran Churches and we have become a family of friends. Jo Ann Mueller, from Zion Lutheran, has helped me produce prints since 1982. When a volunteer first comes, they start by soaking and blotting the papers and cranking the plate through the printing press. As they get familiar with the process, they work up into more difficult tasks, the most difficult being the rolling of ink onto the printing plate. The production of the prints is a time consuming process as each print is inked individually and run through the etching press.”

Each print is related to a biblical theme.

“The images and wording usually don’t come together,” Wieland said. “For example, next year’s print image will be the result of an inspiration I received from a small soapstone figurine that Bishop Shelley Wickstrom presented to me last year at the Synod Assembly in Wasilla.

“The theme to go with it came from an inspiration from our pastor Mark Orf, when he shared that, during his Shishmaref village time, the congregation loved the song and dance as part of their religious experience. The print will expand the soapstone figure into three singer/dancers with the addition of much color. The wording was inspired by a song that Jan Whitefield (Gloria Dei member) sang one service: ‘I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.’ So this print will come from a combination of three sources.”

Each year Marianne Wieland creates a print to fight world hunger. This year’s is titled “Mother and Child.”
Each year Marianne Wieland creates a print to fight world hunger. This year’s is titled “Mother and Child.”

Each year’s print has varied in size. The initial 1979 print, titled “The Christmas Story,” measured 15 by 22 inches, while this year’s print, “Mother and Child,” measures 7.5 by 7.5 inches. Colors are blended to create a harmonious effect in a process that combines relief printing, embossing and intaglio.

This year’s edition is limited to 300 signed and numbered prints. Prints may be purchased after 9:30 a.m. service on Nov. 20 at Gloria Dei at 8427 Jewel Lake Road. The service concludes at about 10:30 a.m. A full-color book displaying all the prints by year was also created this year. The prints and books are $30 each while available.

I purchased a print and companion book of this year’s print last Sunday at Gloria Dei’s 50th anniversary celebration, Wieland will be available after services to personally autograph books. (An order form is available here.)

Gloria Dei celebrates 50th anniversary

Last Sunday I was warmly greeted at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church as I arrived to join with the congregation in celebrating their 50th anniversary. During my past visits I’ve found that ELCA Lutheran churches are friendly and do a much better job of welcoming visitors than most other churches. Their members are never shy and will introduce themselves to newcomers as they would with their regular church friends. The church was packed with many former pastors and friends joining them to celebrate this important anniversary, and to rededicate themselves and their church to the years that lie ahead.

The platform participants included Bishop Shelley Wickstrom of the ELCA Alaska Synod, current pastor Mark Orf and Gloria Dei’s first pastor, Rod Kastelle. A special liturgy had been created for this auspicious day. As the service progressed, I noticed a mix of all ages in the sanctuary. Entire families were present and were quiet and respectful.

Lutheran liturgies, essentially an order of worship, usually incorporate the elements of confession, sharing of the peace, prayers, hymns, choral presentations, a first reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a second reading from the New Testament, a Gospel reading, Communion, blessing, Benediction and a sending hymn.

Beginning his sermon by rereading the second reading, the Rev. Kastelle had much emotion in his voice as the words flowed. The reading, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, has Paul briefly recounting his life before Christ, and afterward when God’s grace was poured out on him abundantly. Kastelle’s remarks were basically confined to the events leading to the placement of Gloria Dei at this site, and its subsequent growth. He also recognized a number of individuals who were instrumental in this process.

A number of former Gloria Dei clergy were recognized by the Rev. Mark Orf, including his immediate predecessor, the Rev. Scott Fuller, interim pastor Al Solmonson and intern Jeff Wile. Kastelle was Gloria Dei’s first pastor and presided from 1965 to 1979. Before Communion, Orf and Wickstrom led the congregation through a rededication liturgy.

Gloria Dei provides a sanctuary designed to enhance worship. From the 1889 stained-glass window in the front of the church featuring Jesus, the good shepherd, to the contemporary wood beams and wooden pews, this church implies reverence.

The music, the warmth and the spirit of Christian hospitality permeated Gloria Dei’s sanctuary this day. I’m glad I was able to be a part of their celebration. I congratulate them on their Christian charity, especially their art project addressing world hunger. Each week approximately 50 churches close across the U.S. This church will certainly not be one of them.

Three Flavors of Lutheranism in Alaska – 9/27/14

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther objected to issues promoted by the Roman Catholic Church. One was the sale of indulgences, freeing the holder from purgatory, and his belief the merits of the saints were without gospel foundation. From this bold beginning sprang the Protestant Reformation. Following Luther, John Calvin, a French theologian added his thoughts and ideas strengthening the Reformation. Lutheranism and Calvinism sprang from them.

Earlier reformers in the 15th Century had pressed for reform in the Roman Catholic Church, but didn’t have the success of Luther and Calvin. Luther attempted to reform the church from within but was ultimately unsuccessful, being excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1521. At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor presided to hear Luther’s case. Luther was ordered to appear. The result of the trial was Charles V declared Luther an outlaw, his literature banned, and arrest ordered.

Before Luther’s death in 1546 there were additional diets, wars, and agitation. Luther translated the Bible from Greek to German. Lutheranism became distinct after the Diet of Augsburg and the Augsburg Confession.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. In the intervening years, and after doctrinal, disputes three major distinct groupings of Lutherans emerged, each with a presence in Alaska.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

According to the ELCA, it had a U.S. membership of 3.9 million in 2013, making it the fifth-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.

ELCA’s Alaska Synod is headed up by Bishop Shelly Wickstrom. Comprised of 30 congregations and two new worshipping communities, the synod classifies ELCA churches in five clusters. The Anchorage area is part of the Southcentral Cluster including Anchorage, Soldotna, Dillingham, and Seward. I’ve worshiped in most of the churches in this cluster and have blogged generally favorable comments about my experiences with them. I’ve enjoyed Amazing Grace’s friendly services, sense of community, and meaningful communion. Christ Our Savior Lutheran offers innovative worships, extemporaneous messages, and an involved congregation. Their recent Beer and Hymns fundraiser added over $6,000 to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska’s coffers. Pastors of Christ Our Savior Lutheran, Lutheran Church of Hope, and Joy Lutheran collaborate on a weekly, innovative 10-minute downloadable worship called 10W. Offering a brief liturgical service with beginning and ending music, 10W provides a unique and viable way to stay connected with worship. Anyone can listen to 10W and be rewarded by the experience.

ELCA churches are the only Lutheran churches with women pastors. They also share full communion with various groups including, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church, and the United Methodist Church. Each full communion relationship has some differences. Most include pulpit exchanges; all include sharing communion.

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

U.S. membership is 2.2 million members making them the eighth-largest Protestant denomination.

In Alaska, there are 14 LCMS churches with 10 of them in the Southcentral area. I’ve visited several of LCMS congregations but have blogged only one visit, Anchorage Lutheran. They’ve transitioned to a more contemporary, praise music format with their 11 a.m. service. Recently, I revisited them, observing the transition is going better. This visit will appear separately on my blog and Alaska Dispatch News mirror site, churchvisits.com. Anchorage Lutheran always gives me extremely warm greetings during visits. Their new music format seems uneven. I feel the projection screen disrupts the sightlines in this beautiful sanctuary. During my recent visit, the assistant pastor delivered a wonderful sermon dealing with a series on the gospel, “The Story” Using selections from the NIV version of the Bible, this guided study marches through the Bible offering scriptural insights.

Many congregations aspire to solving worship attendance problems by adjusting formats. More electronics, lighting systems, different music, screens, for example, attempt to replace the substance of worship. A future column will address this thorny issue in the worship wars. While Anchorage Lutheran still offers a traditional service at 8:30 a.m., worshipers may not want to attend this early.

LCMS churches in Alaska fall under their Northwest District office in Portland Oregon. This district oversees LCMS churches in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Most recent data available places overall WELS membership nationally at 380,000.

Eight WELS churches are in Alaska though with 10 congregations, since Faith Lutheran in Anchorage has Hispanic, and Hmong congregations. Recently I visited Faith Lutheran for the 11 a.m. service. My greeting consisted of being handed a bulletin at the sanctuary door. The service, very traditional, worked for me. The homily was given by the assistant pastor in a refreshing manner. When communion time arrived, he stressed it was only for confirmed WELS members. For the very first time in all my many church visits, a man came up to me during the service and whisperingly asked if I intended to partake. I told him no. Strange business! I would never partake of communion I was not qualified to receive. This visit will also be blogged.

I tend to think of the ELCA as progressive, LCMS as conservative, and WELS as ultra-conservative. Despite the razzing Lutherans get on “A Prairie Home Companion,” I enjoy Lutheran fellowship. Visits to Lutheran churches can be rewarding experiences, a real tie to church history. Lutheran contributions to religious faith are substantial.

Installation of New Lutheran Bishop – 9/1/12 – 3 p.m.

There will be an installation of Lutheran ELCA Alaska Synod’s Bishop designee, Shelley Wickstrom, on Saturday September 1 at Central Lutheran Church in Anchorage. Convening at 3 p.m. this ceremony signals the start of her leadership ministry in Alaska.

I had the privilege of talking with Ms. Wickstrom recently after attending a Sunday service at Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage. She has a good grasp of contemporary issues, challenges, and is ready to engage them on behalf of her synod. But she was quick to point out that her first duty would be to listen. I’m sure she’ll be a great listener as she was a most active listener with me.

This will be a meaningful ceremony and urge you to attend, even if you’re of another faith, to understand the importance passing the reins to new leadership represents to this church and many others. I’ll be there and look forward to sharing impressions of this service.

For further information on Bishop-to-be Wickstrom, click HERE.

Interesting Super Bowl Service: Christ Our Savior Lutheran

The day before Super Bowl, I noticed a posting on the Faith Matters page in the Anchorage Daily News. It said that Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church was having a Super Bowl inspired/formatted service. I couldn’t resist seeing this so I went. This church, located in my previous neighborhood of Oceanview, is easy to locate on Old Seward Highway close to where it rejoins the Seward Highway.

Super Bowl Sunday is problematic for many pastors as many of their flock prefer to worship their televisions and pre-game coverage, over their God and King. In fact, I Googled Anchorage churches for Super Bowl-inspired services and found only this one listed.

Arriving before the posted 10:30 a.m. service start I received neither a greeting or a bulletin, despite the six or so people gabbing in the church lobby. Finding a seat in the fifth-row of this beautiful, almost empty church, I was offered a noisemaker after a few minutes by a cheerful woman who passed by. Ultimately I counted no more than 35 who attended this service. The A-frame style church is quite lovely, graced by a huge stylistic stained glass cross on the wall behind the altar.[img_assist|nid=159821|title=Stained Glass Cross at Christ Our Savior Lutheran|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=467]

The service commenced on time with the ‘opening rally song’ led by athletically-attired youth waving pom-poms. In each “quarter” of the service there was a period of a ‘Word from Our Sponsors’, which were announcements of coming activities. Had I received a bulletin, it would have been significantly easier for me to follow the service. However, no guest should have to do the work of the church members, finding bulletins, seeking greetings, and locating restrooms. These first impressions add up to the decision guests make about making a return visit. Those decisions are made 5-8 minutes after arriving.

The service being broken into “quarters” worked for me, with each quarter having a lesson and music of some sort. The pastoral message was quite good and inspired by the biblical reading of John the Baptist and Herod. My “take away” from the sermon was the pastor’s assertion “The calling of a Christian is that whatever happens, God is with you. If this is the only place you come to worship God, you’re missing it.”[img_assist|nid=159822|title=Game Poster #1|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=196]

I definitely liked the youth being involved. The church choir, composed of many of those present, was quite good with their upbeat musical selection. My eyebrow was definitely raised with the rendering of Bobby Bare’s old chestnut, “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life”. The prayers of the people also represented the many missing snow machiners, those out and about, the tragically missing Ms. Koenig, plus individual petitions, etc. I’m always deeply impressed with prayers which link with individual members, as it should be. The taking of the offering did not give guests a break, a visitor-friendly gesture.

The 4th quarter was a sending out into the world accompanied by an upbeat sending hymn. All were invited to the after-church potluck. I counted no more than 6 youth/young adults. In tune with my recent posts with why youth and young adults are leaving the church, I’m more aware of their presence/absence. Congregants blew their noisemakers at the close of the service.[img_assist|nid=159823|title=Game Poster #2|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=180]

I applaud Christ Our Savior’s attempt to reshape Super Bowl Sunday into something members might come out for. With all the build-up, I do not think they achieved their goal, but I’m glad they tried. I talked with Pastor Bollerud after the service, something I rarely do with any pastor of churches I visit. Too many pastor’s get defensive and try to explain away every detail of what didn’t work. From that discussion, I understand he’s tried to cultivate guest-friendly skills and abilities with his flock, something many pastors do not even attempt.

Had I received a bulletin before the service, I would have found it very guest-friendly. There was even a wonderful note about cell phones! “Leave them on, just turn off the ringer…We are in the year of Mark, where everything happens Right Now. Feel free to text, tweet, facebook or blog during the service to let your friends know what is happening in worship and inviting them to join you next Sunday.” Their Communion practice and policy was described in the bulletin, leaving no doubt as to it’s openness. I applaud them for being so detailed and open. Pastor Bollerud is an articulate, enlightened pastor who knows what it takes. But like Moses, during the Israelites battle with the Amalekites, who needed his arms supported so the Israelites could prevail, good pastors also need their arms supported by their parishioners so they can similarly prevail.

Well-known and respected theologian Walter Brueggemann, penned a poem about Super Bowl Sunday in his book, Prayers for a Privileged People. Although it may offend some Christian football worshipers, I find it appropriate for this occasion.

Super Bowl Sunday
“The world of fast money,
And loud talk,
And much hype
Is upon us.
We praise huge men whose names will linger only briefly.

We will eat and drink,
And gamble and laugh,
And cheer and hiss,
And marvel and then yawn.

We show up, most of us, for such a circus,
And such an indulgence.
Loud clashing bodies,
Violence within rules,
And money and merchandise and music.

And you — today like every day –
You govern and watch and summon:
You are glad when there is joy in the earth,
But you notice our liturgies of disregard and
Our litanies of selves made too big,
Our fascination with machismo power,
And lust for bodies and for big bucks.

And around you gather today, as every day,
Elsewhere uninvited, but noticed acutely by you,
Those disabled and gone feeble,
Those alone and failed,
Those uninvited and shamed.
And you whose gift is more than “super,”
Overflowing, abundant, adequate, all sufficient.
The day of preoccupation with creature comforts writ large.
We pause to be mindful of our creatureliness,
Our commonality with all that is small and vulnerable exposed,
Your creatures called to obedience and praise.

Give us some distance from the noise,
Some reserve about the loud success of the day,
That we may remember that our life consists
Not in things we consume
But in neighbors we embrace.

Be our good neighbor that we may practice
Your neighborly generosity all through our needy neighborhood.”

Taken from by Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People.[img_assist|nid=159820|title=Prayers for a Privileged People|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=307|height=490]