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Chris Thompson

Since 2009, Stephen Smith of OpenBible.info has been tracking what Twitter users say they are giving up for Lent. It makes for interesting reading but also suggests that Lent "give-ups" are somewhat superficial...

Chris Thompson

During the past year, I’ve attended church services of five church plants here that hold services in public schools. I like the concept of church organizations renting school facilities for after-hours use. The Anchorage School District allows renting elementary, middle and high schools in a businesslike manner. Use charges offset costs of our public school facilities when not in use...

Chris Thompson

Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent, has traditionally been observed by mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. Other churches have now begun to observe this ancient practice. Many scholars and biblical historians trace Ash Wednesday and Lent to the 10th century. While it is not biblically designated, neither are Easter and Christmas, though most Christian traditions observe those holidays...

Chris Thompson

One of the key reasons people attend church is to receive pastoral words of biblical wisdom or instruction. In visiting area churches, I notice huge variations in sermon lengths. As I note sermon lengths from time to time, commenters on my observations sometimes take me to task for even mentioning the topic. However, I feel those who attend any church should understand what to expect in sermon lengths as well as in the length of the entire service. Often there are practical considerations driving these expectations; child care, social engagements, or work commitments...

Chris Thompson

National data indicate the average tenure of a pastor is between three and four years. Many pastors retire in their 60s and 70s. One local pastor clearly beats these norms. The Rev. Norman Elliott, who is still going strong, turns 96 on Monday...

Chris Thompson

Alaska’s Methodists, through Alaska United Methodist Conference, and United Methodist Women of Alaska (separate organizations), are tackling two major issues many area churches either fail to address or address inadequately.

Religion and spirituality in today’s world will be the topic of an upcoming conference as seen through the eyes of prominent theologian Diana Butler Bass. I’ve repeatedly addressed the growing "spiritual but not religious" attitude by many professing Christians...

Chris Thompson

Last Sunday I attended St. Benedict’s Catholic Church’s services. I did so with no intention of writing about their services, but afterward decided to write a few words about my experience there. The reverence displayed by congregants was a real contrast with what I often experience in attending so many other churches services. Often, a din and buzz of conversation makes it almost impossible to adjust one’s mind for the commencement of actual worship, confession, prayer and communion to be received, regardless of faith. There was a reverential quiet as I entered their church sanctuary, which was most refreshing...

Chris Thompson

Some of the most remarkable experiences I’ve had writing about religion in Alaska have been in connection with the Orthodox Christian faith. Last summer I addressed three flavors of Orthodox Christianity in Alaska in this column . In preparing for that column, I met many Orthodox Christians who are truly blessed by their beliefs. But I had never attended a Russian Orthodox Christmas service. Jan. 7, the traditional Russian Orthodox Christmas, I attended a wonderful service at Anchorage’s St. Innocent Russian Orthodox Cathedral....

Chris Thompson

When you read this column it will already be 2015. New Year's resolutions are traditional in many cultures. They started in ancient times as Babylonians, and later Romans, adopted the new year as a time for making resolutions. Later on, Christians began adopting the practice with emphasis on desired Christian traits and practices. This is an appropriate time for Christians to make resolutions regarding their spiritual lives as well. Here are five great ways to incorporate them into your life...

Chris Thompson

Around the New Year for the past five years, I’ve presented my top 10 list of non-theological issues I feel lessen the effectiveness of our faith community. Surprisingly, little changes from year to year, which may contribute to the malaise affecting churches and members; there seems to be little interest in self-examination. A few readers report signs of change. One reader recently noted her large-church pastor announced “meet n’ greets” and “self-identification” will be replaced with pre- and post-service hospitality -- a step in the right direction. With best intentions for our faith community, I forge ahead and present my top ten list for 2015, in no particular order...

Chris Thompson

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