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

Amazing Grace - Always Amazin' Me

Strongly Recommended
One of Anchorage's consistent churches is Amazing Grace Lutheran at Elmore & O'Malley. They're consistently friendly, always have a great sermon, and provide a close personal experience with communion. I recommend them often and there is a reason. This is a tight-knit congregation that is willing to open up and let a guest in to be a recipient of their fellowship.

During my revisit of them on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, September 1, I had another opportunity to experience their fellowship in a warm and welcome way. Pastor Martin Dasler has switched to half-time and they now have a new full-time pastor, Adam Barnhart. Obviously the congregation knew what they were looking for, choosing a pastor who replicates the same easy thoughtful and impactual manner of leadership they are accustomed to.

Late But Always Welcome
I came in a few minutes late but slipped right into the rhythm of the service. This was one of the last of the 2 per Sunday summer services. They have returned to 3 per Sunday now.

From the Gathering Song to the Confession & Forgiveness, to the Sharing of the Peace, I felt once again I was one of them. Keying in on the Gospel reading in Luke 14:1, 7-14, Jesus' parable of the wedding banquet, Pastor Adam had an unusual treat. His wife had cooked vegetarian pozole and it was available to the congregation during the remainder of the service. There was a deeper lesson in this sharing but I found it emblematic of the wonderful events that bind this church together.

Easy to Follow - No Mumbo Jumbo
Lutheran services usually follow a set liturgy, but it has a purpose and is extremely meaningful. The church is simple inside, not fancy, but everything has real significance.

I love the rough hewn altar of 6 x 6 lumber simply laid in a square. Communion is served in a circle around this altar, and concludes with prayer while congregants hold hands in the circle. It may take two or three servings of the Eucharist to serve the entire congregation, depending on attendance, but it is one of the most meaningful communions in the Anchorage Bowl. I also like the way they invite members up who have a birthday or anniversary and the pastor has a special prayer for their special day. I always feel blessed to worship here and know their congregation does too.Baptism at Amazing Grace on 9-1-13Baptism at Amazing Grace on 9-1-13

Baptism Close & Personal
There was a baptism of three individuals this day; an infant, a young boy, and a woman. This was a special moment in these people's lives and signifies a changed relationship within the church. I enjoyed witnessing this ceremony.

Amazing Grace's website is up-to-date and colorful. My only suggestion would be they put worship times on the very first page instead of forcing potential guests to hunt for it, as that is the #1 reason people access a church website. Regardless, I recommend this church highly among the many churches I visit and urge if you're looking for a special church, give them a try.

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