Chris Thompson

In August, I was privileged to attend the annual Eagle River Institute at St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle. I was fascinated to hear a series of lectures on “Christianity in the Arab World” by the Rev. George H. Shaloub, pastor of The Basilica of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Livonia, Michigan. Shaloub was raised in Syria, and trained at a monastery in Lebanon. Before returning to Livonia, Shaloub graciously fielded some questions on religious diversity, eschatology, monasticism and marriage. Early in our conversation, I mentioned a Pew Research global religious diversity study from last year that, based on 2010 data, found that 31.5 percent of the world’s population identified as Christian, compared to 23 percent as Muslim and predicted Muslims will exceed Christians by 2050...Chris Thompson
Entering Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral last Sunday afternoon, I was greeted by the glorious strains of “Lift High the Cross” being practiced by an accomplished musical group. This was a foretaste of a wonderful experience to come centered around a centuries-old tradition harking back to the crusades in the late 11th and early 12th centuries. This celebration capped three days of ceremonial meetings of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Northwestern Lieutenancy of the United States composed of Northern California and the states of Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Alaska. With 13 council cities in the Lieutenancy, Anchorage hosts meetings approximately every 10 years. A Vigil at Arms had previously been held on Friday at Holy Family Cathedral,...Chris Thompson
As I begin this column, I’m sitting in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. After spending 11 days in France and Germany, I’ve experienced some very filling meals. I’ve also seen incredible levels of homelessness and begging on the streets, especially in Paris. While the immigrant crisis is in full bloom in Europe, we have our own crises in America and Alaska. Many sources are tracking the problem of food insecurity and data indicate it is a serious problem; World Hunger Education Service says hunger affects one in seven U.S. households . Alan Budahl, executive director of Lutheran Social Services of Alaska says Alaska has similar levels of food insecurity and hunger as national data shows. “There is a growing demand for food distribution services," he said. "It’s the easiest opportunity...Chris Thompson
Once upon a time, there was a contemplative monk named Thomas Merton. Born in France, he converted to Catholicism during his studies at Columbia University. In 1941 he joined a community of Trappist monks in Kentucky who belonged to an ascetic and contemplative order. Merton spent 27 years there developing spiritually, and gaining a keen understanding of politics, becoming a peace activist, something that displeased many Roman Catholics. A prolific writer, Merton wrote his life’s story in a best-selling autobiography titled “The Seven Storey Mountain.” In all he penned more than 60 books on a variety of topics: poetry, social justice, spirituality, and political activism. Ordained in 1949, he was given the name of Father Louis. “The Seven Storey Mountain” had a tremendous impact after...Chris Thompson
Last Saturday I attended an interfaith prayer vigil and Medicaid expansion celebration held at St. Anthony Catholic Church. It was a service with much prayer, music, scriptural readings, and a sermonette. It felt like a church service, but with a distinct purpose. I was invited by a friend, a member of a congregation belonging to AFACT , or Anchorage Faith and Action -- Congregations Together. AFACT is composed of 14 Christian congregations representing a diverse array of backgrounds working to address quality of life issues in Alaska’s largest city. AFACT’s statement about Medicaid expansion is here . It’s very straightforward. Based on biblical and Alaska constitutional grounds, it’s an issue of equality and fairness. When Gov. Bill Walker asked the Legislature to address Medicaid...Chris Thompson
Many opportunities exist in our community where churches and their individual members could have a more significant impact in improving our community. I detail six ways that can happen. A few churches have a track record in some of these areas, but many do not. My list of helping ways is not exhaustive, but illustrative of how much more good might be done. Clean community efforts Anchorage is a hot spot for tourism in Alaska. Thousands of tourists come every day to visit our town, and see what we offer. Many of our streets and highways are eyesores due to the trash seen on them. It often remains for weeks and months. Few churches or faith-based organizations have their names on roadside signs saying they are responsible for keeping that section of road clean. Even the roadways around many...Chris Thompson
If you’ve never attended the Alaska Greek Festival , this might be a great weekend to do so. This well-known festival is hosted by and held at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church . An annual Anchorage tradition, this year’s festival will be the 21st celebration. Holy Transfiguration is located immediately on O’Malley Road, near its intersection with Lake Otis Parkway. Parking is available on the church grounds, or at Hanshew Middle School, a couple blocks north. My columns explore faith and faith traditions. Like other Orthodox faith traditions, the Greek Orthodox Church traces its beginnings back to the Apostles after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel quickly spread from Jerusalem to Syria, Turkey and Greece. Holy Transfiguration’s new church, a work of many years,...Chris Thompson
Last week I had the privilege of attending an Orthodox conference in Eagle River. One track dealt with theology, and the other track presented the development, history, and status of the Christian faith in the Middle East from the time of Christ forward. The Middle East presenter, the Rev. George Shaloub, pastor of The Antiochian Orthodox Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, Michigan , talked about the courage exhibited by Christians in Syria despite some of the most desperate conditions in the world. St. John Orthodox Cathedral , where this conference was held, is connected with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America which is an Archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Two Syrian archbishops, Metropolitan Paul Yazigi and Archbishop Youhanna Ibrahim...Chris Thompson
All right, you’re new to our community -- a visitor, or a new part-time or full-time resident. It happens you also are looking for a faith community where you can develop, sustain, and practice your spirituality. You may be confused with the many communities of faith from which to choose. It’s no longer a given that the faith of your youth -- or previous place of residence -- will sustain you. The religious environment in our country is undergoing some of the most radical change in over a century. Take nothing for granted. Be thorough in checking out your new church home. How do you proceed? Here are some general suggestions, and five specific questions to ask any church you visit, culled from my 15 years of visiting local churches, and seven years of writing about those visits. Obviously...Chris Thompson
Over the course of the past year, I’ve written about the slipping status quo of biblical and religious literacy (see Alaska’s remoteness, compared to the Lower 48 where opportunities abound to access Bible and religious education, contributes to this problem, especially for those past high school age. Two major religious communities in Alaska have aggressively been addressing these deficiencies with in-state training opportunities. This column highlights two upcoming programs. Illiteracy update In a recent post at “The Exchange” (see, church researcher Ed Stetzer writes, “Christians claim to believe the Bible is God's Word. We claim it's God's divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren't reading it. A recent LifeWay...Chris Thompson