Sunday, November 7, 2010

fifteenth visit: Nov 7th 2010 Unitarian Universalism

11:00am sunday
First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh

605 Morewood Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15213


Today I am basking in the luxury of devoting the bulk of the day to gatherings. The morning: this service. The rest of the day: writing, sewing, drawing and documenting via photography. Usually I just have to make do with minutes between obligations—even when full uninterrupted hours are really what my work needs. I imagine it's not a different feeling... this piecemeal practice... for those who attempt to regularly find time for observing the spiritual side of life. Besides looking forward to sewing today, I'm especially looking forward to the time to think. About what? About this: 1) the varieties of my worship experiences these past two months and 2) creating contemporary art and practicing religion—How do these separate experiences come together, and what do they look like when expressed visually? Where is the overlap and how do I make it visible?

The first page of First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh's bulletin welcomes guests and contains these words:
"We acknowledge that artistic expression can be a powerful way of communicating religious insight...We are seeking to weave social justice into all aspects of our church life... join us in affirming and promoting justice and human rights as we build stronger connections with the larger community and work to make our world a better place. ...we welcome the presence and participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in all areas of church life."

Honestly, I never thought I'd find a church's stance on such issues spelled out so clearly, even though here a different approach is taken toward the connection between arts and belief, compared to that of gatherings. These are not just words. The basement of the church houses a gallery exhibition of seemingly Joseph-Cornell-influenced assemblages and paintings by Kirsti and Erika Adkins and Jane Crumay Lobingier.

Here renewing the church's covenant includes:
"Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."
Through this project I'm looking for moments during which belief unites instead of separates humanity. World events (and local, too) tell us we are a long way off. This church seems to have the same concern: a group called the Unitarian Universalists for justice in the Middle East, and an Anti-racism Working group, both perform specific actions to keep things moving in a certain direction.

Today's sermon: "The Upside of Transience." Away with the old, on to the new—though nostalgia causes us to hesitate, the only way we can achieve a better state is through change.

How can the ritual of going to weekly worship and the ritual of making art, thrive purposefully, enriching and responding to the life today, if the focus remains solely on the repetition of a tradition?

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