June 2024

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,

Phew!  May was a busy month for me, ending a busy winter and spring.  I traveled more since Christmas than any other season in my life.  I had 3 trips for the World Race (Thailand, Guatemala and Georgia), the ECO National Gathering in Greenville, the ECO Presbytery leader meeting in Dallas, soccer trips to Ketchikan and Anchorage, a one-way flight to Tallahassee and a cross-country drive back to Oregon with our son Noah, and a final trip to Anchorage for the boys’ soccer state tournament. (We came in second). I was not really aware of how much I traveled until yesterday when Alaska Airlines emailed me with notice that I’ve achieved MVP Gold status.  Yippee!  May also included 2 funerals and 2 weddings, a year-end cookout for our high school ministry, and a few presbytery-team meetings.  These were all in addition to my “normal” life.  Phew!

A highlight of this month was the College of Elders and College of Deacons meeting.  We had 48 ordained leaders attend.  One of the fruit of our meeting was shaping leadership teams to move forward with important ministry opportunities.  In short, I think we will be able to provide weekly nursery during worship, expand our Children’s Worship, launch a stewardship ministry, and strengthen our growing Hostel Hospitality ministry.

Let me give you a picture of Hostel Hospitality.  This week we hosted 9 people from CRU who were in Juneau to wrap up their ministry base.  This included a family with children.  We provided a safe space, comfortable cots, linens, showers and a great kitchen.  This weekend a mission team from New California Presbyterian Church in Ohio will stay with stay with us for a few days on their way to Kake, where they will serve our sister church in Kake.  Then they’ll stay with us a few days on the back end as they stagger their return trip home with some fun tourist activities.  If they had to stay in hotels for those 5-6 days, it would make the trip financially out-of-reach.  This scenario will play out several times this summer.  Scout troops and mission teams from all over the country stay at Chapel as part of their journey.  By providing affordable and excellent accommodations, we support mission outreach in Southeast and provide hospitality for many others.

During the school year, we also host many school groups.  These include sports teams, music groups, scouting groups, and more.  Chapel provides much needed housing for children and students from all over Alaska.

Our Hostel Hospitality team is on the forefront of making sure Chapel is a clean and welcoming environment.  I’ve met some terrific people, and heard countless words of praise for the ministry we provide.  Offering excellent hospitality is a foundational Christian virtue.  Please reach out to Kourtney to ask how you might join this growing ministry team.

Let me close with a few promotional heads up:

  • Sundaes on Monday.   Ice cream and a discussion on the book Anatomy of a Revived Church.  It starts on Monday, June 3 at 7PM.  The easiest way to sing up is to follow this link to the church website: https://chapelbythelake.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/2325145
  • All-Church Picnic and Worship.  On June 30 at 11AM we will meet at Sandy Beach for a beach-side worship service and cook out.  We will not be hosting a worship service at Chapel that week, so mark your calendar.

I hope you find new and deeper joy and purpose in worshipping and serving the Lord this summer!

In Christ’s Joyful Service,



May 2024

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,

Happy Spring!  Now that I’ve lived on Alaska for 3 winters, here are what I see as the signs of Spring in Southeast Alaska:

  • Skunk cabbage:  first you see it, then you smell it.
  • The call of the Varied Thrush, which sounds like a soccer referee blowing his whistle; which coincides with the start our high schools’ soccer season.
  • The ice clears on Auke and Mendenhall lakes.
  • Th first bike tours show up in our Log Chapel parking lot, which means the cruise ships are back.
  • It’s beginning to be daylight when I wake up, and daylight when I go to bed.

First, I’d like to share an exciting new way of being church we are experimenting with in our leadership culture.  We’ve borrowed the terms College of Elders and College of Deacons.  We are trying to identify and engage our community of men and women who have been ordained and have served as ordained officers at Chapel by the Lake.  As Presbyterians, we affirm that ordination is for life.  At Chapel, we have approximately 60 people who have been ordained and have served as an ordained officer!

One of the change-realities for Chapel has been the decrease in staff.  This has created significant leadership vacuums for Chapel’s ministries.  One way to cultivate leadership is to identify people who have already been affirmed as leaders in Chapel and invite them to lead us into our next seasons of ministry.

The College of Elders and College of Deacons had our first meeting last month, and we re now identifying which ministries we are ready to move forward.  Thank you to those elders and deacons who have responded.  I’ll share an update on this initiative next month.

Second, we are entering another great season of hospitality.  We have many groups who use our facility every week, and the number will only grow as we move toward summer.  We need help with preparing our church to host groups.  Please reach out to Kourtney at admin@chapelbythelake.org and ask you might serve.

We are fortunate to have a few special events coming forward, including a guest preacher on Pentecost.  Please visit our calendar on our website to keep up to date on the many opportunities to be the church.  www.chapelbythelake.org.

In Christ’s Joyful Service,



April 2024

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,

Happy Eastertide!  I hope that the joy and peace that flows from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is working in you.  This is power that fulfills the promise of abundant life that Jesus promised!

Thank you to the many people who served during our Holy Week services.  They include:

  • Workers and sweepers who cleared our parking lot and took down Christmas lights
  • families who hosted Haggadah meals on Maundy Thursday
  • people who decorated the church for Good Friday and then for Easter
  • the team that served during our Good Friday service
  • those who decorated Smith Hall for Easter brunch
  • those who prepared food for Easter brunch
  • the set-up/break down team for the Sunrise service, and our pianist who played on very cold conditions!
  • all who served up front and behind the scenes for our main Easter worship gathering
  • Children’s worship and nursery volunteers on Easter
  • the clean-up team after brunch

All-in all, Holy week and Easter was a terrific week of worship and ministry!

April brings several things I’d like to bring to your attention.  First, Scout Sunday is April 14.  We are so thankful for our great partnership with the scouts and look forward to their leadership, including a special guest testimony!

Second, Sunday April 14th at 6PM is a very important meeting.  I am calling ALL ELDERS AND DEACONS to join for a vision and mission discussion and dessert.  We believe once you are ordained as and Elder or Deacon, you are always an Elder and Deacon.  We will meet from 6PM to 7:15.  To be honest and forthright, this may be one of the most important meetings in my time here at Chapel.  This is an important step in moving Chapel into the future God intends for us.

Finally, I would like to start two book discussions.  The first is on Metanoia by Alan Hirsch and Rob Kelly.  The second on Anatomy of a Revived Church by Thom Rainer.  Both are excellent books.  Metanoia is a more challenging read targeted towards those who are in church leadership.  Anatomy of a Revived Church is a bit easier to read and is meant for church members.  The Deacons already read Anatomy of a Revived Church!  Plus, Anatomy has very helpful processing/small group questions at the end of each chapter.

I ordered a bundle of each book and they will be here soon.  However, if you prefer, you can purchase E-books of either or both.  Simply enter the book name in a search engine (like google) and you will find links to download the E-book.  

Here is how you sign up for the book discussions:

  1. Email me at tharrison@chapelbythelake.org
  2. In the subject line, put “sign me up for (name of book)
  3. In your email, give me your name, email and mobile (or best) number.  Mobile is great so we can create a temporary text group.
  4. Once I get an idea of interest, I will email possible times to gather.
  5. If you are an E-book person, you can start right now!

I look forward to what God has in store for us!  Finally, I leave you with this blessing:

May you experience the love of Christ,

though it is too great to understand fully.

Then you will be made complete with all the fullness

of life and power that comes from God.

Ephesians 3:19

In Christ’s Joyful Service,



March 2024

Dear Chapel by the Lake,

As I’m writing this letter, Karen and I are making our way to Hawaii!  In typical Juneau style, it started snowing a wet, heavy snow as we left for the early morning flight to Seattle. We are so excited to get away, and I am especially excited as this will be the 50th state I’ve visited.

One of the fundamental values for Followers of Jesus is hospitality. I recently asked Kourtney to review how many people were blessed by Chapel’s hospitality since last summer. Here are some highlights:

Overnight Guests

  • 23 Overnight Stay Events
  • 81 nights
  • 324 people spent at least one night

Some Fun Facts about overnight groups

  • Mission teams, scouting troops, and school groups (sports and music)
  • 5 groups were from outside Alaska
  • 9 Southeast Alaska Communities
  • 6 Alaska Communities
  • 1 International group.  A sweet story about this group. They were a girl’s volleyball club from Germany who take a month-long trip every year. The coach has been leading the program for over 50 years.  She shared that they have never been welcomed and cared for so well as their time at Chapel!

Day Use

  • 6 groups regularly meet at Chapel. These include 2 music teachers (lessons and recitals), Cub and Boy Scouts, PEO, and 2 weekly Lakeside Enlightenment (AA) meetings
  • 2 Weddings
  • 8 Funerals/Memorials/Celebrations of Life, most with receptions
  • Birthday parties, wedding and baby showers
  • Occasional music events, including an upcoming Juneau Symphony program in March.

We are committed to providing SE Alaska schools a safe and comfortable place to stay, both when they visit Juneau and when they lay-over on longer trips. Students raise a lot of money to participate in school programs, and we know that by providing our church, it benefits our Juneau community and beyond. We typically charge $50 a night for the whole group to cover increases in water and heat. We have very nice cots and linens too!

Of course, our most impactful hospitality is extended to Auke Lake Daycare and Preschool. They provide care for 60 children, and daycare is a critical need for our families in Juneau. Finally, just this week we agreed to help a local Christian preschool and Elementary school who lost thier space.

I read the story about the vision that inspired the construction of the Log Chapel. The vision was to provide a space for the community, not just our church. I am happy that vision continues as genuine hospitality can be a powerful witness to the love and grace of Jesus. This is not our building, but the Lord’s, and we are stewarding it well to His glory!

In my message on February 18, we considered Jesus’ words to His disciples concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus (in typical fashion) was so clear in His message: the Kingdom prototype is a servant! The first will be last and the last will be first. Jesus also reminded His disciples (and us) that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” I said a simple metric on church health is measured by how many people regularly serve.

One important way to serve is to help us with our hospitality. There are important ways we can take it to the next level, but that requires more people to help. Our current hospitality is being born by a few people.  Will you help? We have a Facility Stewardship work day the first Saturday of the month.


February 2024

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,


Happy Winter!  I used to read words like “snowmaggedon” and “snowpocalypse” and think they were a funny and clever blend of words.  Not anymore.  Thank you to those who helped keep our facility safe and cleared.


A group of leaders and volunteers recently met to debrief our Christmas season worship ministry.  We are so thankful for a great season and the many people who helped with the set-up and breakdown of decorations, next-level hospitality, and leading our worship services.


The Christmas season also highlighted a rekindling of in-person worship music leadership.  This has been something we’ve been working toward for quite a while, and it went great!  Again, we are so thankful for the ministry of these friends.


Moving forward, our desire is to continue in-person worship music leadership.  However, this takes a significant investment of time and energy from our volunteers and staff.  Here is what goes into a typical week of preparing for and leading the music portion of worship:

Pre-planning collaboration meetings with pastors to discern themes, song choices and how they connect to the overall message of the day and season.

Monthly worship team meeting(s).

Recruiting and training team members.  This includes emails, phone-calls and one-on-one meetings.

Coordinating support ministry volunteers like sound, video, and projection.

Coordinating musician’s scheduling and availability.

Choosing music

Which version, verses and arrangement is appropriate for our context and our musician’s abilities?  This also includes adjusting music according to which team members and instrumentation are available on certain weeks.

Creating slides with lyrics and necessary documentation.

Distributing music to the worship team in a timely manner so they can practice at home.  Did you know it is expected that worship music leaders spend time at home practicing the songs before they come to rehearsal?

Rehearsal (Pre-Sunday)

Pre-rehearsal communication with musicians, sound and projection volunteers so they know what is needed for rehearsal and Sunday worship.

Set up equipment and instruments.

This requires our sound system volunteers to be at rehearsal.

Lead devotional and prayer.

Practice songs of the week and any new songs being introduced in the future.  It is rare that the music rehearsed is only the music of the week.  New songs often take several weeks of rehearsal before they are ready to come to the congregation.

Practice projection flow and accuracy.


This means our projection volunteer is often at rehearsal.

Break-down of equipment.

Rehearsals usually require 2 hours on-site.

Sunday morning leadership

Music, sound and projection team usually arrives 2 hours early.

Set-up sound and music equipment.

Practice music, projection and sound adjustments.  On a good week, everything flows like it did in rehearsal.  Sometimes day-of adjustments are required.


Break down instruments and equipment.

Sunday morning requires 3.5 hours.


A typical week requires 5-7 hours of time for the music leaders and sound/projection volunteers.  Every week!  Plus, so much extra during special seasons like Christmas, Lent and Easter!  For the ministry leader, it requires 12-15 hours, which is why Chapel historically has (at least) a part-time staff person to lead this important ministry.  Some have suggested something like “we just need to find someone to play the piano for worship.”  I hope this article gives all of us insight into what in-person worship leadership requires.  In addition, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, please give grace and patience during this time of rebuilding.


Our desire is to move forward and grow a vibrant, healthy and exciting ministry.  Please pray for this often!


In His Peace,



January 2024

Greetings in Christ Jesus!

We are very excited to offer our next leadership training class.  I am so pleased with the overwhelming response by many of our participants of previous classes.  We had great discussion and a lot of thoughtful and heartfelt processing.

The heart of this journey is defining and affirming Christian Leadership as shepherding.  Included in this is a call to peacemaking.  While this class is a requirement for anyone wishing to serve as an ordained officer, the principles are applicable for anyone in leadership or thinking about leadership opportunities in the future.  Some people are specifically being invited to participate as a way to nurture future leaders.

Over the years, previous participants have retaken the class as a way to be encouraged and refreshed.  The content is really excellent, and the discussions are even better!

We are ready to start a new group and inviting any interested people to join us.  Here are some details:

  • Time: 9-11AM

  • Dates:  Saturday mornings of January 6. 13, 20; February 3, 10, 17; March 2

  • This journey has several pieces that work together:

    • A devotional titled While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Tim Laniak.  The church will purchase copies for every participant because we are investing in leadership training.  The focus of the devotional is leadership and shepherding.  This devotional has been a huge hit!

    • A series of videos on RightNow media titled The Leadership Opportunity.  A direct link will be provided, but the material is currently found on RightNow’s library.  These videos are led by several people, including Tim Laniak.  The focus of the videos is Biblical leadership.

    • Discussions about the devotional.

    • Discussions about the videos.  The videos have specific break out points with discussion questions.

    • So, we will read the devotional together, watch the 1st few videos together, and then share our thoughts, experiences and journey.  After a few videos, everyone will watch the next videos on their own (or with a partner) and our group time together will be processing the readings and the videos.

While a few previous participants read the book and watch the videos on their own, hearing other people’s experiences significantly contributed to the impact.  Importantly, leadership is a relational ministry and this class is a great way to build and strengthen relationships.

Next steps?

  1. Pray about joining us.  If you know someone else you’d like to invite, please do!  Several couples have taken the class together.

  2. Sign up. The best way is to stop by the Connections desk after worship.  You may also go to the church calendar on our church website and click on the link on the event.

  3. Have a conversation with Tim if you have questions.

This material is the best I have found and used in my ministry journey.  It is very accessible, Biblical and practical.  It is by no means limited to church or ministry leadership.  It has practical implications for parents and leaders of all kinds.

If you have more questions, please reach out!




December 2023

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  Thank you to the many volunteers who helped decorate our campus, especially those brave souls who climbed up ladders and operated the lift to hang the Christmas lights.  Thank you to the team who facilitated another successful year with Operation Christmas Child.  Thank you to Matt Dobson for volunteering many(!) hours to rebuild the front porch on the manse.  Thank you to the team who set up and cooked for November’s New Horizons luncheon and our Thanks-gathering service.  Finally, thank you to the people who helped in the front office while Kourtney was away.

Advent is upon us.  For some, celebrating Advent is new, so let me offer a quick picture.  Advent literally means “coming.”  It is a time in the worship life of God’s people when they may focus on Jesus’ coming.  The first two weeks traditionally focus on Jesus’ Second Coming, and the last two weeks focus on Jesus’ First Coming at Christmas.  This year is a little unusual in that the fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve.

Advent provides opportunities for special spiritual practices for our journey of discipleship.  I recently heard a podcast by a pastor who read through the Gospel of Luke, one chapter a day, starting on December 1st.  Then, on Christmas Eve the gospel reading finishes so the reader has a complete picture of why Jesus came, what he did, and the promises he secured with His resurrection.  I’m going to try this myself.

For many of us, Christmas can be a bit sad, especially when your family is so far away.  For instance, thanks to a handy-dandy point-to-point distance map, I figured out:

  • Our son is exactly 3034.66 miles away.
  • Karen’s sister (our closest relative) is exactly 2300.88 miles away.

Karen’s birthday is December 26, and this year we are traveling to Bangkok to lead a retreat with our World Race Mission team.  On her birthday, Karen will be 9364.77 miles away from our son.  Can we say “thank you” to the clever people who invented FaceTime?

Over 2000 years ago people felt far away from God.  The prophets had been silent for hundreds of years.  The world looked grim.  Yet God performed the ultimate FaceTime connection by actually putting on, not just a face but a whole body!  As the Gospel of John puts it:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,

who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

We really enjoy FaceTiming, calling and texting our son, our relatives and our friends.  We even have weekly leadership meetings with our World Race leadership team, and we’re on different continents.  In fact, most days when we connect with our team in Cambodia, it’s already tomorrow there.  (I still get confused by the whole international dateline thing).

With all the technology and opportunities we have, it pales in comparison to a real, flesh-and blood-let-me-lay-my-eyes-on-you connection.  It just does.  It really does.

How encouraging it is to see that God knows this and became one of us so that real, flesh-and-blood people could get to see, hear and know God-in-the-flesh Jesus of Nazareth.  More importantly, Jesus promised that He will come again.  Here is the prophetic vision the Holy Spirit gave to John (yes, the same John):

God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.

They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning

or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Revelation 21:3-5a

Jesus came to us in the midst of our sin and sadness and proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  He will come again!

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas,



November 2023

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,

I hope this letter finds you full of Jesus’ grace and peace.  Our inheritance as sons and daughters of the Living God far surpasses any honor or privilege the world might offer.  The bond of fellowship we have in the Holy Spirit is a rich gift in a time when too many people struggle with loneliness.

November is my favorite month, mostly because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  The transition from fall to winter brings prospects of snow and adventure.  I also love unpacking our Christmas decorations and planning our Christmas celebration.  It also happens to be the month when college football gets very exciting!

This fall has been unusually busy with another favorite ministry for me: pre-marital counseling and weddings.  I will officiate five weddings between now and next summer.  In fact, as I write this letter Karen and I are in Wisconsin officiating at the wedding of a young woman who is like a daughter to us.  She refers to Karen as her second mom.  Needless to say I have done a good bit of thinking, studying and mediating in God’s Word on God’s gift of the covenant of Christian marriage.

One passage that is often mis-understood is 2 Corinthians 6:14.  The New Living Translation reads

“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.”  More traditional translations read “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”  This is often seen in a negative light, and to be honest that is valid.  However, there is a practical side to this warning.

The image of being yoked refers seeing cattle as work animals.  Often two animals are “yoked.”  This means that are bound to the same harness with the intent that they work together, pulling in the same direction with equal effort and commitment.  If they are “unequally yoked,” it means they pull in different directions, even in opposite directions.  Unequally yoked partners may end up working against one another instead of in partnership with one another.  

There is another dynamic of equal yoking. (I think I just made that term up!). In county fairs across the country there is a common contest where beasts of burden compete to pull the heaviest load.  Animals are harness to a sled, and they must pull the sled a certain distance.  If they are successful more weight is added to the sled until they cannot pull it the required distance.

At one such contest the winning animal pulled a sled weighing 1000 pounds.  The second place animal pulled a sled weighing 950 pounds.  Someone decided to experiment and yoke both animals and see how much they might pull together.  Simple math says they could pull 1950 pounds.  However, they pulled a sled that weighed 2500 pounds!  There is a unique dynamic at work when animals (and people) are equally yoked and pulling in the same direction.

I think this also speaks to our current sermon series on Belonging.  There are times when people think attending church is enough.  However, there is a HUGE difference between attending and belonging.  Belonging means that we covenant together to walk and work in the same direction toward the goal that Jesus sets before us.  And of this we can be sure: God can accomplish more that the simple sum of the commitment, gifts and skills we as individuals bring to the table.

My hope for you and for us is that we fully embrace our call to belong to one another, to “hitch” ourselves to one another and work together toward the goals set before us.  In doing so, we embark on a journey where God can accomplish more than we could even hope or imagine.

In Christ’s Joyful Service,



October 2023

Dear Chapel Family and Friends,

Grace and peace to each of you!  I pray God’s grace and mercy fills you every day.  I pray God’s remind you of His deep and everlasting love for you.

On October 1st we finished our journey through the book of Acts.  Fifty sermons in all. We took a few breaks for Advent, but we’ve been in the Book of Acts since May 2022.  Before Acts, we worked our way through Philippians.

The disciple of preaching through books of the Bible is called Lectio Continua.  It is my preferred practice when it comes to preaching.  Lectio Continua helps us see scripture passages  in context of the larger picture of book of the Bible.  It provides us opportunities to see bigger themes and see how ideas and values are developed and related to the rest of scripture.  It also means you can’t skip over challenging or controversial topics.  I really do like Lectio Continua.

However, there are times when the Holy Spirit places a theme on my heart and mind.  Over the years of my ministry I’ve preached through multiple series and themes.  In addition, this November I am coming to the conclusion of my third year as your Senior pastor.  I continue to learn more about our church and community.  The Holy Spirit has given me a message series that I think speaks to an area where Jesus wants us to grow in our love for one another.

So, on October 15 we are beginning a new sermon series titled Covenant Partnership: You Belong Here.  The series is inspired in part by Paul’s letter to the church in Rome: Romans 12:1-10.  

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,

so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Romans 12:4-5

So, we will be exploring questions like:

  • What does it mean to belong?
  • What do we believe about belonging to a church and our church in particular?
  • Why do ECO churches, including Chapel by the Lake, no longer have members but Covenant Partners?

I am really excited about this series.

Let me remind you about our Flourishing Fellowship potluck on October 15th.  This a great time to build inter-generational relationships, and we’ve got a special program of teaching and small group discussion.  We’ll watch a brief interview with Thom Rainer on the difference between a friendly church and a welcoming church.

I am excited to see where the Holy Spirit is leading us and sharing that journey with you!