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Chris Thompson

As the Christmas holiday season is ending, I’m sharing several impressions of Christmases past...

Chris Thompson

In my last column , I mentioned the outrageous sums people spend to celebrate Christmas by extravagant giving to one another, especially children, as well as alternative fundraising efforts by our faith community. Today’s column features fresh updates and reader comments about giving, plus some brief Advent music thoughts...

Chris Thompson

It’s an amazing time of year, one in which various members of the faith community collect money to support various local charitable causes. These actions form the basis of what I term “living faith” or faith that “practices what it preaches.” Yet not all faith communities support local needs during this time of year. Some are preoccupied with staging elaborate productions of pageants created to support perceptions of what people need to see during this season. Others are collecting money for causes in other areas of the world, while Alaska itself remains one of the greatest mission field opportunities in the world. I’m puzzled that Alaska faith communities often show more concern with far-flung world areas than the neighbor in need in their own backyard...

Chris Thompson

I’ve blogged about Advent in Anchorage for many years. Many pastors have shared their reflections about Advent on my blog, for which I am truly grateful. Last year’s theme was “Does celebrating Advent really make a difference?"

For example, recently retired Pastor Martin Dasler of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church offered, “If you long for a better world, a better government, a better self, Advent speaks to you. Advent is filled with redemptive desires and hopes. In a world filled with too much disillusionment and disappointment, Advent speaks to the profound desires of young idealists as well as to the lost hopes of crusty cynics.”...

Chris Thompson

This year will see a growing rush by retailers to advance the sales and eventual profits of Black Friday by what is termed “Black Friday creep,” opening stores on Thanksgiving Day itself. A list of retailers opening on Thanksgiving was published this week by Huffington Post . It included Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Macy's, Best Buy, Kohl's, J.C. Penney, Target, Staples, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Toys R Us, Office Max/Office Depot and Radio Shack. This comes on top of retailers featuring online and in-store pre-Black Friday sales in order to get consumers to buy yet earlier this year.

The Huffington Post article also listed retailers that will honor family and Thanksgiving by not opening on Thanksgiving, headed up by Costco and Sam’s...

Chris Thompson

Last week’s column featured 10 ways churches may drive away first-time guests based on a Twitter poll church researcher Tom Rainer performed with those who indicated they would not return to that church. The number one issue keeping first-time guests away was the "meet 'n' greet" or as Rainer describes, "stand and greet time." In a later post, Rainer expressed continued surprise this was such a contentious topic, and the source of much discontent by guests, even members. In fact, it’s gone viral in the church community...

Chris Thompson

After visiting Alaska churches constantly over the past 10 years, I’ve come to the conclusion many of them just don’t understand how to retain those guests, visitors, church shoppers, or however churches call them. Takeaway: They should always be called guests.

Last weekend, noted church consultant and author Thom Rainer shared the results of a Twitter poll he conducted of first-time church guests who did not return to a particular church. He summarized the 10 ways churches drive away first-time guests as self-reported by them. Trust me; I’ve seen them all here in Anchorage and across Alaska...

Chris Thompson

The Presbyterian denomination traces its roots to the Protestant reformation in the 16th century. Reformers like John Calvin of France and Switzerland, and John Knox helped frame the theological framework of a movement which reached America’s shores in the early 1700s . Key principles included strict interpretations of scripture, a doctrine of predestination and austerity in the lives of the godly. It’s often said that what Martin Luther started, Calvin refined. These beginnings birthed the religious underpinnings of the Presbyterian, Reformed, and Congregational denominational movements...

Chris Thompson

What would you do if invited to participate in the unrolling of a 100-foot Torah scroll and an Israeli-style dinner at a synagogue? Don’t know about you, but I eagerly accepted the invitation from Rabbi Michael Oblath from Congregation Beth Shalom in East Anchorage. In the past, I’ve participated in several Seder celebrations here, finding this community to be warm and welcoming. Relatively small in number, their friendliness, generosity, and willingness to talk always take me by surprise. Many Anchorage congregations I visit are not outgoing, even downright unfriendly, and fail to welcome strangers. Not true at Temple Beth Shalom...

Chris Thompson

Last Sunday I witnessed a full-immersion water baptism when attending Chugach Covenant Church’s service at Begich Middle School. CCC is a relatively new church using convenient but inexpensive meeting places. Although this article won’t describe their service, I will comment on the baptism. Early in the service, a CCC pastor announced the baptism -- a “dunking” as he termed it. Two younger men had each indicated a desire to be baptized. A stock tank filled with water awaited in front of the audience. Coming out, one by one, the men were baptized by a pastor. One man, it was explained, was wearing an ankle monitor needing to be kept out of the water, an unusual juxtaposition for any pastor. The congregation was encouraged to whoop and holler after each of these men were baptized....

Chris Thompson

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