A recent story about Rabbit Creek Community Church in the Anchorage Daily News, Church expansion sends city to court, piqued my curiosity. Consequently I moved my visit to this church forward on my visit schedule. I'm very glad I did!
Wow! What a Welcome!
Without a doubt this is the friendliest church I've visited so far in Anchorage. During my visit on June 8, I was warmly and genuinely greeted four times before I reached my seat. Within minutes of being seated I was greeted again by a man who, making his way to his seat forward, was shaking hands in greeting as he moved forward. I really was impressed by the sincerity of each greeting.
Badges? We don't need no badges! Or do we?
Another first for me is that one of the greeters, seated at an elevated table just outside the sanctuary, asked for my name and neatly printed a badge, first name only. I must comment this was a first for me in my church visits. Many of the churches visited have preprinted badges for members who wear them with authority. I fear many visitors, like myself, are left with the thought, "I must be a nobody because I don't have a badge."
I can already hear some new member evangelists out there thinking, "But, we're told that visitors prefer to remain anonymous, so we don't bother with names." In a previous post, I observed that most salesmen around town do a better job of identifying themselves and getting names than does the average church. Must be a reason for this. Hmmmmm....
Music That Really Worked
Rabbit Creek Community Church has a nine person band that started promptly at 11 a.m. They led out with about 6 songs. At first, I started keeping count of familiar vs unfamiliar songs. Pretty quickly it became obvious that I recognized about half of the songs and was singing along. The music, unlike many churches, was only about 20 minutes of the service and really added to the worship experience.
I'm not a fan of "meet n' greet" segments of any church service. For some reason this morning it was almost tolerable. I suspect this was due to the overall friendliness of this church which had already established a climate of welcome. The pastor, Terry Hill, urged people to single out folks they'd not already greeted that morning. This was also a first among my church visits in Anchorage.
Offering Call a Surprising First
Another first was noted when Pastor Hill called for the offering. He explained visitors were not obligated to give; But it was something their members did. Pastors don't tend to mention this I feel there is a tension with a visitor when this is not mentioned. Personally I also like the practice of one previouslly mentioned church of having offering recepticles in the foyer of the church for the collection of their freewill offering and the tithes. In the future, I intend to cover practices, conceptions, misconceptions, and deceptions about giving in a post on this blog.
The sermon, Using Your Abilities, was Part 4 of a multi-part series "Using Your Unique S.H.A.P.E..", an acronymn for Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. Pastor Hill's remarks were bible-based, with a practical bent. Hill shared the sermon delivery time with their Transitional Pastor, Mark Goodman. Pastor Goodman will succeed Pastor Hill in August as he steps down from pastoring this church, moving to a mission role in August in Mexico. Although both pastors communicated well, I felt the transition was a bit uneven and disrupted the effectiveness of the delivery. My remaining concern was that the LCD projector did a poor job. A strong yellowish cast interferred with the readability of the material being projected on the screen.
The friendliness continued after the dismissal prayer, with multiple goodbyes being offered as I left. If you are interested in visiting a very active church, both here and abroad, loves their God as much as they care for each other, and treats visitors like treasured friends, this church is for you. I will long remember my visit here, and plan to come back to learn more about the fire that burns within their congregation.
Gentlemen Start Your Engines
Warning: This church is on Rabbit Creek Road, a downhill speedway. I followed a younger couple in a late model car out of the parking lot toward the Seward Highway. Unfortunately,they went 25 mph for a block or two even though traffic was bearing down on us. I was concerned about being mowed down. Both members and visitors need to quickly get up to the posted speed limits to avoid an automobile tragedy here.