Tuesday, November 16, 2010

sixteenth visit: Nov 14th 2010 Unitarian Universalism

10:30am sunday
Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church
1110 Resaca Place, Pittsburgh PA 15212

central northside

This visit is especially memorable for many reasons:

1) The building: There's a lot of mention of how architecture in Pgh passes for Victorian but is really rather American Arts and Crafts in style. I agree, but also see things mostly as a subtle mix of the two under a single roof. I'm no architectural studies major; however, in my opinion this sweet little structure is one-hundred-percent undeniably the truest example of pure arts and craft that I've seen in Pgh yet. Immediately upon entering, there's a huge fireplace (with roaring fire) in a space that has been furnished as a sitting room—yet is open to the post and beam sanctuary via huge doorways, with the possibility of enclosure by way of handsome hinged wooden accordion-folding doors. (Yes, those are little heart cut-outs above, in the banister lining stairs that lead to a tower.) And, I learn, an architect-member of the congregation has taken on the duty of maintaining, furnishing, even overseeing construction of coat racks, name-tag holders, etc. all in keeping with the style. Art.

2) The service: A blind response to my questions about the ability to perform physical worship duties with injury and/or tired aching joints (see 8th visit): "Please rise in body OR spirit." Nice. (Or is this spoken often and I have never noticed?)

Every time I come across an idea (mine, a newspaper writer's or someone's spoken words) that seems to say something about what it is I am exploring through gatherings, I add it to my list. Here's my latest, gathered from this service:
• "To worship: to create that which is valued."
The ritual of attending service; the ritual of making art.
• "It behooves us what we are worshiping because we become what it is we are worshiping. We come here to choose what it is we will become." Unitarian voice. To the sanctuary; to the studio, painter.
• The possibility that this can be answered: "I'm an atheist, so what am I worshiping?"
Here "I" is meant figuratively, not literally, of course. ...In my mind, raising the question: Is there really truly such thing as an atheist?

To discover, ruminate, explore, meditate, question, to become, to create that which is valued.

3) After the service: Before I could leave my pew, Bethany comes up to me and introduces herself. She is actually a member of the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh (see 15th visit). She missed meeting me there, saw a mention of gatherings on a blog and decided to make a visit to this Unitarian congregation so that she can say hi. Means so much to me! She has studied world-religion at the graduate level and does work with children in the field. And she's a fan of art. Pretty fantastic, huh? I am so happy to meet her, but so sad that I'll be out of town for the solstice observance this year that she mentions. Sigh. She asks me about the type of art that I am most interested in... curious about the role that art plays in this project, perhaps? I wish I had said more about the role of performance in my art practice that really began in my very first paintings. Performance art. My interest in moving toward blurring the lines between one's practice and one's life like Joseph Beuys did. Like followers of religions do. Like the followers of Joseph Beuys and his philosophy of social sculpture do. I think this will come up again...

4) Rev. David McFarland actually calls me that afternoon to ask about my visit-experience and whether there is anything he can do to help re: this project. Wow.

Tis late. I will have to remember to edit this post later; I'm sure I've left a sprinkling of typos. For now, please forgive me.


  1. The invitation to "please rise in body or spirit" is commonly used in UU congregations, but I don't think it's a UU-only phrasing. I'm not sure of its origins. -Bethany