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Church Visits: Great hymn singing is not dead in Anchorage

Chris Thompson

Many readers have written asking for names of churches offering music formats not harsh, overly loud, consistent with Scripture and based on spiritually uplifting hymn format singing.

Many evangelical churches used to offer hymn singing formats where a 10- to 15-minute period of congregational singing, called "song service," commenced the worship service. This style is dying out for lack of gifted song leaders and musicians who can perform this music in a spirited, uplifting and inspired fashion. When done well, a song service can be the most member-active portion of a church service.

Liturgical churches Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist and similar congregations may offer some of this style of music interspersed throughout their services, but it is often performed in a doleful, draggy funereal manner. I recently received an email from a new Anchorage resident, transplanted from another Alaska city, looking for a good song service music format.

Who has the Best Song Service?

"I have so enjoyed your running commentary on local churches. I'm new to Anchorage, and looking for the church with the best song service. Any "flavor" will do. I'm looking for a mighty Spirit here. Being a missionary kid, I've learned to keep my spirituality my own business. I can attend almost anywhere, realizing the kingdom of heaven is within. I do love traditional hymn singing, such as "Like a River Glorious," "He Hideth My Soul," "A Mighty Fortress," etc. I grew up in an Alaskan church in another city. The only thing I miss is their hymns and Scripture songs. My former church plays their hymns at double speed now due to a new pianist since I grew up there. It would be nice if a search of "best church singing" would yield a result. God bless you for your continued service to Anchorage!"

Not many Anchorage churches offer what you are looking for. Many churches have dumped people-friendly song services for entertainment-format praise bands and choirs. I personally know several Anchorage churches that offer what this reader is looking for, and do it well.

A great song-service and a well-delivered sermon are what many people seek in a church service. Instead of offering a search of "best church singing" send an email request to ChurchVisits@gmail. com to obtain a list of churches offering great song services. One of those churches is Great Land Christian Church, which offers one of the best song services in town. It is led by a group of young singers who present an a capella group of hymns and songs that are theologically strong, not Bible camp-style music and so well done that virtually every person in the congregation can be heard following their lead and singing.

The two "Beer and Hymn" sings offered by Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in 2013 offered some of the best hymn singing I've heard in many years. More than a hundred people sang great hymns of the church for several hours with unrestrained joy in a restaurant setting while raising close to $10,000 to support the Lutheran Social Services food bank.

Only a piano delivered the musical accompaniment, while the singing was led by a talented pastor who knew how to sing and lead the music. Occasions like these are infrequent but indicate many seek participative music, not theologically weak "music as entertainment" delivered at eardrum blasting levels. Seek and you will find!

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith on his blog, Church Visits, at adn.com/churchvisits. Email him at churchvisits@gmail.com

 

Church Visits blog
By CHRIS THOMPSON
Special to the Daily News