Saturday, December 18, 2010
twenty-ninth visit: Dec 19th 2010 United Methodist
South Avenue United Methodist Church
733 South Ave, Wilkinsburg PA 15221
I'm breaking the rules a little, as Wilkinsburg is actually not a part of Pittsburgh proper. (Some Pittsburghians might not know this.) But it's exactly the the kind of community I'm most strongly drawn to for this project. Wilkinsburg was annexed to Pittsburgh once, then fought for and obtained de-annexation, and has remained that way since. Borough is the preferred term; nothing about it is suburban.
During my visit I meet Bob, a leading member of the Wilkinsburg Historical Society, and I learn that Wilkinsburg is known as the "City of Churches." So how could I leave it out? In fact I'll be back. ...a church literally on every corner here, but no counter-balance of bars. This, in fact, is a dry borough. Always has been, with no sign of changing. (Bob kindly lends me the book he helped write on the History of Wilkinsburg, to browse though during the concert which occurs directly after the holiday meal... which in turn occurs directly after today's service.)
I am one of an estimated four attendees under 60 years of age in today's small congregation. The sermon: dreams as messages and all the different ways a story can be told—specifically the different tellings of the Christmas story, as recorded in the Bible. This sermon holds my attention; the metamorphosis of a tale as a result of its retelling is something I talked about often in my narrative painting class.
After the service I spend more-or-less the rest of the afternoon in the church with Anne. In the basement: Holiday Dinner with Rev. Keller at our table. Naomi and her husband, who just recovered from open heart surgery 6 weeks ago. Anne's husband, Ed. We talk a lot about art. We eat a lot of good food.
Anne gives me a tour of the church—three large floors. The second and the third are used as a school for developmentally handicapped and autistic children. Anne moved her membership from the Presbyterian Church across the street to this one in 1957 because there were more members her age, and she finds the Methodist Church oriented more strongly toward social causes. (She is a social worker, and has a counseling center on the second floor of this church.)
Anne shows me the tiny secret chapel on the second floor. This is the reason that Mary, at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, has suggested that I visit this church. (26th visit, 4th paragraph) Well worth. Anne seems to be in no hurry to leave the little chapel, even if it is much colder here than in the adjoining hallway, which makes it seem even more secret. "Many very good things have happened in this room," she says. I want to ask, but feel I would be interrupting the intimacy of her nostalgia. And sometimes I like mysteries to remain mysteries.
Adding to the tally:
1 worshipers in a Steelers turtleneck, a Steelers jersey, a Steelers jacket and a Steelers cap. Does he really only count as one? Running Total for the project: 16 (to date)