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

Lenten Reflections: A Methodist Perspective

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During Advent, I asked a number of Anchorage pastors to share an Advent reflection on "Advent as an Antidote to Consumerism".

As we are now in the Season of Lent, I felt it appropriate to again ask a cross-section of local pastors to share some thoughts and reflections on Lent. Our next contributor is Pastor Peter Perry of St John UMC. Pastor Peter Perry, St. John UMCPastor Peter Perry, St. John UMC

A Conversation With God in the Middle of Lent

A geography teacher gave an assignment near the end of the semester. The students were asked to list what they considered the seven wonders of the world. The top picks as we might guess, included Egypt's Great Pyramid, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, Saint Peter's Basilica, and China's Great Wall.

While tallying the votes, the teacher noticed that one girl had not turned in a paper. She approached the student and asked if she was having a problem with her list. The girl responded, "Yes, a little. I couldn't make up my mind because there were so many." The teacher replied, "Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help." Reluctantly, the girl stood up and began to read her paper. "I think the seven wonders of the world are to touch and to taste, to see and to hear, and then to run and to laugh and to love." (from the book Sermon in Stone by Mel Ellis.)

When I came across that story in my file the other day, I realized that God was speaking to me through it. You see, I’ve been struggling with Lent this year. Lent caught me by surprise, beginning far too soon, with too much haste, amidst too much chaos. In the midst of the craziness of my life, God wants me to prepare my spirit by observing the holy days of Lent? Yeah, right.

I’m one of those people who finds it easy to be busy and hard to be quiet. Lent beckons, and I find myself needing a quiet place, a prayerful place, a place of retreat, a place of contemplation. So I pause and I try to listen… I end up having a conversation with God that goes something like this:

“Shhh…”, says God. “Rest. Be quiet. Be still. I’m here. And yes, Peter, the wonders of my world really are to touch and to taste, to see and to hear, and then to run and to laugh and to love.”

“God, thanks for including the running part.”

“You’re welcome, Peter. But please, don’t run too fast. I might not be able to keep up…”

“Thanks, God. Will I see you in church this week?”

“I haven’t missed a Sunday yet, have I?”

“I guess not, but I’ve got to admit that sometimes I get so busy I don’t notice you there.”

“So you are beginning to see the problem, eh? You don’t notice me a lot, Peter. I’m here. Always. Everywhere. During the commute. By the hospital bed. When you are walking the dog, playing the piano, writing the sermon, running the meeting, watching TV, making the bed, shoveling the snow, and answering email. I’m there.”

“Sorry, God, but the phone is ringing. I need to answer it.”

“I know…I’ll still be here when you get back…”

“Thanks, God. Good to talk to you. We should do it more often.”

“Yes, we should.”

Thank you for your thoughts Pastor Peter.

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