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

Homer United Methodist Church – Pleasant Visit

Solstice Surprise Visit
In late June, I visited Homer United Methodist Church at the conclusion of a pleasant solstice weekend celebration with friends. There was a decided lack of parking, and I ended up parking on the grass. The visitor parking was full, having only a couple of parking spaces.

I was a bit confused about where to enter as there was no Main Entrance sign, but there were three entry points in the front of the church.

It was a beautiful June day but no one was greeting at the main outside door which remained closed. I waited for a preoccupied greeter inside who cheerfully greeted me with “Are you a first time visitor?” These words cause first time guests to cringe as it’s a phrase that singles out and separates. All a greeter needs to say is “Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.” I was asked to sign the guest book but I declined.Homer United Methodist Sanctuary & PastorHomer United Methodist Sanctuary & Pastor

Long Time, One Person
Inside the church the seating was very tight. Seats were located in the small balcony but the seating made it hard to see. A member led out a very long period of announcements culminating with the introduction of a North Carolina mission’s team. Unfortunately, no other welcome was extended to any other guests, of which there were many. After the announcements, the service followed the traditional form of Methodist liturgy. The church was beautiful inside, but a bit crowded for the 100 or so worshipers. This was a special Sunday for this church as it was Reverend Lisa Marie Talbott’s first Sunday with them as their new pastor. She was officially greeted by the church and a prayer was offered for her.

Music Most Pleasing
From the initial Introit music from their bell choir, to the four congregational hymns, to the choral special choral anthem, “Love Lifted Me” by Maynard and friends, I could tell this church is blessed with great musical talent and love for music.

Good Sermon
Pastor Lisa’s sermon was titled “That Small, Still Voice”, based on a poignant reminiscence of the emerging illness and ultimate death of a step-daughter. She’s a good speaker and it appears her sermons will be enjoyed by this congregation.

Unusual Serving of Communion
When it came time for the communion, Pastor Lisa and her husband Joe were the sole servers. It was a nice gesture, very personalizing, but significantly slowed the delivery of the communion to the congregation.

Although I was only spoken to by one other person, I could tell this was a warm and collegial congregation. Almost to a person, everyone went downstairs to the fellowship hall for refreshments and fellowship after the service. As I had a long drive ahead of me, I did not stay to partake.

A couple of men in safety vests could have done much to ease the parking congestion outside, and some minimal training on greeting guests might work some wonders. Most importantly, I would revisit this church on subsequent visits to Homer.

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