Visiting: As a student of religion, I've seen how various factors in a church visit affect spiritual growth and religious attitudes as one searches for a church home. I visit churches to observe, firsthand, how they present themselves to visitors. My visits, with a few exceptions, focus on Christian churches. This blog contains accounts of those visits, and related posts. I look for the following in my visits:
• Friendliness and warmth
• Genuine welcome, true Christian hospitality
• Effective, well-delivered bible-based main teaching
• Music deepening the worship, not just entertainment
Visiting Anchorage - Looking for a Friendly Service? - 5/19/2013 11:16 am
Guest Post: Why Theology Matters to Musicians - 5/4/2013 4:09 pm
Easter Without the Trimmings at Cornerstone Church - 4/18/2013 10:06 pm
Central Christian Finally Updates Website Worship Times - 4/10/2013 10:15 pm
Beer & Hymns: Great Fun & Successful Fundraiser - 4/9/2013 10:19 pm
REMINDER: Beer & Hymns tonight! - 4/7/2013 11:38 am
UPDATE: Central Christian's Posted Worship Time on Website Still Wrong! - 4/7/2013 11:24 am
Central Christian Disappoints -- BIG TIME! - 4/2/2013 3:03 pm
Posted: January 28, 2010 - 10:23 pm
Churches are often seen as stodgy, sterile and unfriendly places, frequented by parishioners afraid to even ask their neighbors in to share a cup of coffee. During the recent Advent season, I visited a church not fitting that mold. Trinity Presbyterian, a church I've commented upon several times previously, featured an unusual concert on December 13 departing from standard Advent musical fare. One out of ten neighbor-friendly concerts Trinity held in 2009, they offered an evening of light jazz enhanced by a club-like setting in their lobby. An amazing variety of desserts and complimentary coffee drinks from Trinity's espresso bar were available for concert goers. The only catch for Trinity members was you needed to invite a non-churched friend to attend. The large crowd was evidence Trinity loves inviting their neighbors to share their joy.
Posted: January 15, 2010 - 10:01 pm
Last year I posted my Ten New Year’s Wishes for Area Churches. Although they were widely read, I was disappointed only a Mormon-centric blog felt compelled to respond with a self-congratulating post stating all my concerns would likely be met in one of their churches. After visiting many area churches since that 2009 post, I submit an updated New Year list of 10 with specific comments and suggestions.
Posted: January 9, 2010 - 4:50 pm
Fourth Advent Sunday, December 20, I visited First United Methodist Church in downtown Anchorage on the Parkstrip. I was intrigued because they advertised a service of A Celebration of Lessons & Carols for Christmas. Despite my weak welcome, the service morphed into a treat of word and song unlike anything else I've experienced in Anchorage. It was an amazing display of talent for a smaller congregation. Churches many times their size are unable to muster the numbers of people needed to make this type of presentation. I was disappointed more of Anchorage was not there to enjoy this wonderful service.
Posted: December 30, 2009 - 10:49 pm
My Christmas Eve post expressed both my joy and concern about churches use/non-use of their webpages to inform the community about their Christmas Eve services. Many did so effectively but an alarming number either ignored doing so or did so ineffectively.
For a Christmas Eve service I settled on Cornerstone Church in South Anchorage because they've consistently met my visit criteria of welcome, hospitality, music going beyond entertaining, and effective Bible-based teaching (see visit criteria - top right). And too, I was attracted by their Christmas website presentation. Their main webpage had an attractive Christmas banner at the top with service times prominently displayed, and then again, partway down the page, both in the line of sight. Simple, graphically correct, and effective.
Posted: December 24, 2009 - 5:23 pm
The following Anchorage churches gave prominent attention to their Christmas Eve services on their websites. Times were easily seen on the first screen, often in striking ways. Thanks to these churches for this great community service! It is obvious they understand how the Internet is reshaping the way churches communicate with the public.
Posted: December 22, 2009 - 6:52 pm
Though I’m not of Catholic background, leaning, or persuasion, during my December 13, 3rd Advent Sunday visit to Holy Cross Parish , I discovered a service rich with meaning, a congregation close to its pastor, meaningful music, and worshipful reverence. For the first time in my Catholic Church visits, I was actually welcomed and greeted by a number of warm and friendly people when entering the church.
Posted: December 20, 2009 - 12:41 am
Today the three previously lit Advent candles are relighted, and joined in lighting by the fourth candle, whose theme is Peace. The following prayer, located on the noted website, is an excellent example of an Advent candle lighting prayer for 4th Advent Sunday.
Posted: December 14, 2009 - 10:38 pm
Sunday, December 6, I revisited St. Mary's Episcopal Church for the 11:30 a.m. service for 2nd Advent Sunday. My initial visit last year revealed both positives and negatives (click here to read previous visit review). During this visit I saw improvement in some of the areas I commented, most notably the greeting. When churches fail to warmly welcome each visitor and member, they tragically miss an important opportunity in their mission to share the "Good News".
Posted: December 13, 2009 - 8:55 am
Many churches in Anchorage are celebrating the Third Sunday of Advent today. The first and second Advent candles will be relighted, and joined in lighting by the third Advent candle representing Joy. This meaningful ceremony does much to offset the pervasive commercial flavor Christmas has come to represent. In the simple act of candle lighting, Christians honor and look forward to the coming of the King, memorialized on Christmas Eve.
Posted: December 5, 2009 - 11:01 pm
Today, December 6, 2009, is the second Sunday of Advent. On this day the first and second of the four Advent candles are lighted. The first Advent candle, lit last week and relighted today, is often themed as representing HOPE. It will be joined in lighting by the second Advent candle which is often designated as representing LOVE. The candles are generally purple, representing royalty, i.e. the season of the coming of the King.
While not all churches observe Advent's co
Posted: November 29, 2009 - 1:08 am
For many churches, today, November 29, 2009 is celebrated as the first Sunday of Advent. Examples of such churches are Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Anglican (Episcopal). Beginning on the Sunday closest to November 30 (St. Andrews Day), this day marks the beginning season of Advent, i.e. the birth of Christ, and ends on Christmas Eve. The First Sunday of Advent also signifies the start of the liturgical or ecclesiastical year for many Christian religions. Many churches in the Anchorage area will mark this day with special services. Additionally, you will notice an increasing number of celebrations during this season leading up to the Advent.
Posted: November 22, 2009 - 5:36 pm
My first visit to Anchorage Grace Church in April was ill-timed due to our ongoing volcanic events. (click here to read previous visit review) In that review, I expressed concerns about the lack of greeting, lengthy service, and certain aspects of the music. Recently invited to revisit by a member, I tried again last Sunday, November 15. Incredibly, nothing had changed! I received no welcome, and was not even handed a bulletin. Once again there was a substitute pastor, prompting last weeks post on why churches do not announce on their websites who's preaching. The musical program was highly programmed and lengthy. I was basically disregarded during my entire visit, an antithesis of what Christians are to be. The substitute pastor spent the first 15-20 minutes of his 55 minute discourse explaining and justifying the how's, why's and where's of his preaching on the 3 verses he'd chosen from Hebrews, the focus of his remarks. A test read of Hebrews revealed that the entire book could have been read to the congregation in 35-40 minutes. I was not encouraged by this visit. Surely the intervening seven months under new leadership would have provoked some noticeable changes.
Posted: November 21, 2009 - 6:45 pm
If you notice comments to any blog post are missing, please don't think I take down comments because I don't agree with you. Usually, when a blog post shows a certain number of comments, but there are none available to view when you look, it means that a commercial spammer or poster of a vulgar comment has had their comments blocked. If this type of poster has been blocked previously and attempts to post another comment, they will be automatically be blocked. Sorry, but it's the name of the game. It's out of my control. I think the ADN controls on spam are appropriate and do not interfere with true reader sentiment.
Posted: November 15, 2009 - 6:47 pm
Today I made a 2nd visit to a church I'd blogged earlier this year with a less than positive account. I recently received an invitation from a member to revisit suggesting I'd see a difference this time. I'll blog this visit experience soon, but was unsettled by being subjected to yet another "pinch hitter" speaker whose 1-hour sermon was ok, but painfully long. It included a 20 minute justification of why and how he was preaching this sermon. The church website made no mention of the guest speaker or the subject of the talk. No mention. either, of why the regular pastor was missing. This is a disservice to any church visitor virtually guaranteeing they will not return.
Posted: November 3, 2009 - 10:10 am
My recent chilly, early morning visit to Central Lutheran, a near downtown church, was delightful. They offer warm greetings, solid music, a meaningful liturgy, and brief but meaningful homilies. Serving a diverse ethnic and socioeconomic congregation, they have established and maintain a significant Christian presence in their neighborhood. I intend to revisit to sample the atmosphere of their other congregations at their two other Sunday morning services.
Posted: October 28, 2009 - 11:11 am
Driving by Anchorage Bible Fellowship last week, I was pleased to see they were now prominently posting their Sunday worship time on the sign. This small change is greatly appreciated, doubtless a sentiment that will be echoed by many. I also noticed the service time of 10:30 a.m. is now on their website's first page, but suggest it clearly be identified as Sunday Worship. I applaud ABF in making these small but significant changes.
Posted: October 11, 2009 - 9:59 am
Many of the churches I've visited in the past 1 1/2 years are quite noisy in their sanctuary before the service. Occasionally I've commented on this. Recently I stopped by Trinity Presbyterian to check out their service. Finding the sanctuary doors closed, and a dark interior with few people seated, I queried Associate Pastor Tammy Letts about what might be happening. She explained they were experimenting with creating a more worshipful environment and attitude. The way they're doing this is by keeping the doors closed until the 10:30 a.m. service start time. Before that time, worshipers are free to go inside if they choose to do so. But it is into what is clearly a reverent environment. At 10:30 the doors are thrown open. The congregation enters to the joyful sound of music and the service commences.
Posted: October 4, 2009 - 5:03 pm
At this point, this wll be the last of a series of blog posts about Anchorage Protestant church offerings of evening services, Saturday or Sunday, with the same message format of normal Sunday services. Some worshipers find it necessary to attend at these times but still desire to be spiritually fed the same as other worshipers, only at a later hour.
To date, I've written of three other churches offering this format: Faith Christian Community, Trinity Presbyterian, and ChangePoint. Last week I attended St. John United Methodist's Sunday evening service and am pleased to add it to this list of options. St. John's 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening service complements their 8:15, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. services. Lightly attended, it nevertheless offers a wonderful opportunity to worship, but in a more casual form.
Posted: September 26, 2009 - 10:24 pm
This morning I "did church". It wasn't a normal service as I typically do. My presence was in response to an invitation extended by a friend and service club colleague to attend a men's group of which he is a member. This group meets every other Saturday. Their format is simple. Meeting in a church, they first have a formal service led by a clergyman of this church. After the service, they spend a friendly half-hour in coffee and conversation.
Next they break into several smaller groups to discuss a common book all are reading. Numbering about 20, the group chooses a different book several times a year. They all read and study an assigned chapter over the two weeks between meetings. They are currently reading Philip Yancey's popular book, "The Jesus I Never Knew".