Church Visits

Visiting Churches: Chris Thompson (stainedglass) is an amateur Alaskan biblical scholar and student of religion, especially as it relates to popular culture. He regularly attends national and regional American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature events to interact with and learn from worldwide religion scholars. Through unannounced mystery visits to churches in Anchorage and South-Central Alaska, he observes how guests (visitors) are treated during this initial church visit. Research indicates guests first visit perceptions affects further spiritual growth and religious attitudes as they search for a church home. Chris' church visits focus primarily on Christian churches. This blog contains accounts of those visits, and related posts about religion in culture. Chris looks for the following in his visits:

•Genuine welcome, true Christian hospitality

•Friendliness and warmth

•Effective, well-delivered, Bible-based, main teaching

•Music deepening the worship, not just entertainment

Google map of churches Chris Thompson has visited.

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Significant 2013 Church Visits Posts

Top Ten Issues Local Churches Must Address in 2013

Ten Things Churches Did That Blew Me Away In 2012

Guest Post: Why Theology Matters to Musicians

Church Visits: What's it like visiting a church with a guest-friendly service? - 7/5/2014 2:08 pm

Church Visits: 10 excuses people give for not attending church - 6/28/2014 11:21 am

Church Visits: Religious pluralism in Alaska here to stay - 6/21/2014 8:28 am

Church Visits: Welcoming churches can reverse attendance slump - 6/14/2014 9:21 am

Crosspoint Community Church Revisit – May 11, 2014 - 6/13/2014 1:44 pm

Church Visits: 5 easy ways to increase your biblical literacy - 6/7/2014 5:23 pm

Church Visits: Cardinal Dolan discusses the pastoral challenges facing Pope Francis - 5/31/2014 1:07 pm

Beast Feast: Great Food and Conversation - 5/30/2014 10:10 pm

Enjoyable St. Benedict's Visit

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I've visited many of Anchorage's Catholic churches, but don't visit as often as I should. This is due, in part, to the fact my religious orientation is not Catholic, and there are actually relatively few Catholic churches in our area. This is because those churches are intensively used by various age and ethnic groups.

The result is that there doesn't seem to be as much reason for me to return to experience the various flavors of services offered, and that I can't fully experience the services in all their differing linguistic forms. So far I've visited all but one major Catholic church in the area.

During one of my Bean's volunteer stints recently, I served lunch with a volunteer group from St. Benedict's and had an agreeable conversation with them about their church which sparked my interest in visiting.

October 7 found me trudging through the rain from their large parking lot to the sound of a chiming carillon. Entering the church I was not greeted by anyone nor received a bulletin. The church was quite full already with a wide range of ages represented. I proceeded to the front pew, in front of the pulpit and altar. The church has a contemporary feel with beautiful wood accents. It could have been any modern church in Anchorage except for the statuary and stations of the cross around the sanctuary. The altar is beautifully carved with Alaskan scenes tastefully represented. St Benedict's Altar, Podium, & Stained GlassSt Benedict's Altar, Podium, & Stained Glass

St. Benedict's pastor is Fr. Leo Walsh. Dressed in green, the color for this period in the church calendar, he gave a friendly greeting to all visitors, even mentioning one by name. It's amazing how often churches forget to give even such a greeting, a true disservice to their religion, whatever it is.

The theme for the day was Marriage which was preceded by a reading from Genesis regarding Adam and Eve. The homily was delivered by Deacon Green, one of St. Benedict's two Deacons. He talked about marriage and divorce in Jesus day. His remarks were clear and well-spoken, on a topic few churches these days are brave enough to deal with.

Green threw out several thought questions. First, "How do we value our spouses?" Secondly, "What are we doing in this parish to support marriage?" Deacon Green's remarks were clear and well-spoken. He also mentioned that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, was convening a conference on October 11 (50th Anniversary of Vatican II) with regard to Catholics sharing their faith. He challenged those present to be able answer the question, "Why are you Catholic?". Deacon Green's homily can be heard by clicking HERE.

The music at St. Benedict's is augmented by organ, piano, and choir, all positioned in mid-sanctuary, a most pleasing effect. The choir special was beautiful, accompanied by piano and a vocal solo.

The Eucharist took approximately one-half of the service time with its various readings and rituals. During Fr. Leo's celebration of the Eucharist, his singing parts and chants were rendered in a clear mellifluous voice, a real treat compared to other Catholic services I've attended locally. During the actual serving of the Eucharist many in the congregation waited to be served by Fr. Leo instead of the lay servers. The service was quiet and respectful except for a number of crying children present who might have been more comfortable in the cry room. For whatever reason their parents chose not to use it resulting in a quite noisy sanctuary at times.

At the end of the service I almost fainted when Fr. Leo gave another warm welcome to all guests adding his hope that we had been blessed by attending. This is such a rare occurrence by clergy in their churches. I'm overjoyed just to note it. It sure felt good!

If you are of the Catholic persuasion and looking for a church, treat yourself to a visit to St. Benedict's. Something wonderful is working here and is worth seeing first-hand. I hope to feature Fr. Leo Walsh in an interview in the not-too-distant future. Finally, their website is fully functional and a treat to look at. It offers those critical items prospective guests or members need and is developed and maintained by a member.

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