Saturday, November 20, 2010
twenty-first visit: Nov 21st 2010 Primitive (meaning "original") Methodist
Door of Hope
5227 Holmes St, Pittsburgh PA 15201
My 19th visit was on the 19th of Nov, my 20th on the 20th and my 21st on the 21st. I did not plan this, but it must mean something and I hope it's good.
So, my 21st visit: I arrive 45 min early; my best guess at the service's start time is a little off. (Times are not posted outside church, no website and no one answering phones.) But I don't mind hanging out in the sanctuary's cozy second floor balcony, one bit. The building is as grandly designed as a huge cavernous cathedral might be, but is much more intimate in scale. Best of both. Graceful, dark wood everywhere. The opposing walls of the building, each sporting a tremendous, classic Pittsburgh Gothic rose-style stained glass window, are close enough together for me to feel that, from my seat in the balcony, I'm catching the ends of glowing rays from both. Next to me, curiously, is an old movie-theater-style red popcorn-popper cart, with its huge ridiculous, functionless wheels, the plexi-windows still yellow-oil-coated from its last use, probably years ago. Pittsburgh moments such as these come too few and far between, for me.
I relish my gift of 45 minutes of drawing, photo and thinking-time (almost snoozing with my eyes open), between sips of my decaf that I was kindly offered on the way up. Eventually I come to realize that the balconies are not used for seating during services these days. Since I'm here to mingle, at 11:00 I descend the stairs and settle into a first-floor pew. An animated congregation-member takes the pulpit to casually call for news and chatting... to hold our attention... to kill time, until Reverend Brian is able to arrive, he wryly admits.
"I dunno," he says toward the end of his monologue, "I just LIKE Sundays."
"It's the Steelers," someone from the congregation says. My day for moments, I guess.
Reverend Brian arrives to reclaim the pulpit. A band kicks in: four energetic middle-aged men, occupying 90% of the alter—electric guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. PowerPoint projections of lyrics. Jeanette, whom I'll meet later in the basement, knits in her pew. So today I'm not the only one multitasking worship and the arts.
The sermon: "We are encouraged to be thankful in all situations," Brian reminds us. "That is: IN all situations, not FOR all situations." This reasonable interpretation is appreciated. Vocal solo performance.
Door of Hope Church:
• Primitive Methodist in denomination. "Primitive" taking the English meaning of "original."• How many churches this sweet size have two rose-style stained glass windows and an ascension dove stained glass sky light?
• The small alcoves behind the balcony once held Sunday School classes, open to the main sanctuary. Paulette can point out the ones that she sat in, as a child.
• The church's construction was overseen by a pastor who at the time was feuding with his brother, also a pastor... to see who could build the better church. This one in Pgh, the other in New Castle, PA. Story is, they ended up looking remarkably similar. (And the moral... ? -wink) These two were referred to as sister-churches until the one in New Castle "closed up" and was sold to the city.
• You'd never guess that years ago the furnace in this one exploded, blew the pipes off the walls and black dust everywhere. Jeanette heard the event from inside her home, blocks away. Oh, the stories, the voices, the grumblings of these old buildings.
I learn most of the above from Paulette who introduces herself after the service. Paulette, with her sister Linda, is part of the middle generation of a three-generation family that attends Door of Hope together every week... and she's been going since she was born. I met another family as such: dear Jeanette, her husband, her mother and her children, as well. This is pretty remarkable as there are probably not more than 30 worshipers (maybe less) attending today.
I'm invited to join their Thanksgiving potluck in the basement. More conversations than can be typed... Jeanette... Greg and Lin... Bob (the keyboardist) and I talk about the peaceful, grounded feeling that comes after spending time in our studios, working on our different arts.
Door of Hope is a sincere, warmly welcoming, incredibly generous congregation, without an ounce of pretension.
Oh, and check this out:2 worshipers in Steelers jerseys.
1 worshiper in a Steelers sweatshirt.
1 worshiper in a Steelers knit winter hat.
I really do wish that I had kept careful count from the beginning. Now that I'm paying attention, the count has doubled in just one visit.Running Total: 8 (to date)