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

2nd Advent 2013 – First United Methodist

A Little Background For This Visit
Last year my 2nd Advent Visit was to First United Methodist Church in Downtown Anchorage. My post of that visit is HERE. Tragically, Pastor Myers was involved in a head-on collision on the Seward Highway the next day. 11 people ended up in the hospital.

I was pleased to see him preaching this morning, although his recovery from this accident has been painfully slow.Pastor Ron Myers Lighting Advent CandlesPastor Ron Myers Lighting Advent Candles

Unusual Service Start – Candle Lighting
I was greeted by Reverend Myers and a congregation member as I entered this morning for the 11 a.m. service. Pastor Myers gave a warm Christian greeting at the service start, inviting first-time visitors to raise their hands to receive a freshly-baked loaf of bread as a token of their visit to First UMC. Another Anchorage Church Visits first was then experienced as Myers, and a choir member, led the congregation in the Gathering Song, “Prepare the Way of the Lord”, but done in the style of rounds. I loved it. Nice choice! 2nd Advent Candles - First UMC2nd Advent Candles - First UMC

A 2nd Advent responsive reading preceded the lighting of last week’s Hope candle, and today’s Peace candle. Churches that do not punctuate their services with an Advent candle lose an opportunity for a powerful lesson, on these Advent Sundays, to be shown.

Reflective Sermon
Myers sermon titled “What Street Do You Live On?” was filled with Biblical sharing based on the Gospel Lesson text Matthew 3:1-12 regarding John the Baptist, reflections on members, Mandela, and his own life. Mandela was quoted as saying he wasn’t perfect, not a saint, but if you could count sinning but growing toward God, maybe. Myers exhorted his congregants to “lean into God’s dream” by repentance, noting that repentance was also John the Baptist’s ministry theme. In the end “Love triumphs!” He finished by urging members to invite people into our neighborhood, preaching hope and joy instead of judgment, certainly a theme of Mandela’s later life. Myers noted that Advent is time to prepare for the new life. I considered this time a wonderful time of bringing his congregation together, functioning as a true pastor. In my opinion, First UMC is a gem of a church in Downtown Anchorage. I’m surprised many more do not take advantage of its closeness and adherence to preaching the gospel.Janet Carr-Campbell Extraordinary MusicianJanet Carr-Campbell Extraordinary Musician

Musical Glue
I love visiting this church because my visits are always enhanced by the musical talents of Janet Carr-Campbell. A true artist, both on piano and organ, she excels in bringing a sense of ministry to this church. Services at First UMC are seamlessly tied together through Janet’s efforts. This morning the choir director was sick, and she also directed from the piano. I cannot conceive of this church’s services being as effective without her artistry. There is no grandstanding or showboating here as I see in other local churches. I thoroughly enjoy my visits here.

Bread for Me
A nice lady came up to me after the service and offered me a loaf of bread, after Pastor Myers extended the loaf invitation to 1st time visitors and guests. I was touched by this gesture, a rare one among Anchorage churches. There is no hesitation on my part to recommend this fine church for a visit. You’ll not be sorry you've done so.

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