Sunday, September 18, 2011

— about gatherings —

To learn more, go here.

To see images of the dress, go here.
... of drawings, go here.

I will have a solo show at Providence College, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Art & Art History Department/Galleries. The exact dates within academic year 2019-20, are yet to be determined.

I had a solo show, Feb 4-March 1, 2015 at Westmoreland Museum.

I had a solo show Nov 21, 2014 - Dec 31, 2014 at 707 Penn Gallery, Pittsburgh.

I was in a group show, May-June 2014 at the American Jewish Museum.

I had a solo show of the full body of work from this project in Berlin, Germany.
February 25 - March 16, 2012
artist talk on March 3 

I spoke at the Andy Warhol Museum
on Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 2pm
4th floor galleries
re: the Word of God: Jeffrey Vallance exhibition,
and this project, gatherings,
and the (complicated) relationship between the sacred and the secular, and the idea of purposeful collections
...with Carole Brueckner
head docent at St. Anthony's Chapel, Troy Hill
which houses the largest public collection of relics in the World (over 5000 relics)
(my 65th visit)

Also, I exhibited 5 drawings and 5 photographs from this project in
two group shows and a DC art fair, in 2012 and 2013.

More information here.

one hundredth visit: Oct 4th 2011 Presbyterian

12:25pm tuesday
First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh

320 Sixth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15222
downtown, central business district
Today's count of worshipers wearing Steelers garb while worshiping:

2 in jackets with Steelers logos

FINAL Total for this entire project: 43 (running totals here)
Several friends have asked me if gatherings' 100th visit will be a grand finale of sorts. Is the 100th of anything ever otherwise? First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh: In a project that vows not to play favorites, it makes sense to me that this 100th visit serves to ground (myself). As mentioned in my 90th visit, I was raised Presbyterian, and this last visit serves to bookend my 3-2-1 Presby countdown. To end where I once started, long, long ago. (And to note: except for this year, I have not regularly attended a place(s) of worship for 22 years.)

And to end at First Presby, in a city that is sometimes referred to as The Presbyterian City. Not to champion a particular belief... I'll let you research to find all the reasons why.

Along the way, someone had told me that this is also the oldest worship building within Pgh proper. (Beulah being slightly outside Pgh city limits.) This would add to the appropriateness of this 100th visit, but it's not the case.
Alas, this building (1905) is just 5 yrs older than our house. Does not make it any less grand though, with its 13 Tiffany windows, each one over two stories tall (26 ft). And the congregation does go back 224 years, and 5 days, exactly. Just 5 years younger than the reported oldest congregation in Pittsburgh (my 46th visit).

Downtown, FPCP stands right next door to Trinity Cathedral where the Blessing of the Artists took place last week (97th visit). It's a little difficult to tell where one building ends and the next begins. Especially when staring upward at the tangle of stone steeples. In fact, the stairs that lead to First Presby's front door are the same that are used to enter Trinity's admin offices.
So for a million reasons, out of Pgh's nearly 1500 possible places of worship, this seems right, for today. I am attending "Tuesday Boost," a thirty-minute, non-denominational Christian service. Here, downtown employees spend their lunch break at FPCP pondering contemporary issues of faith's place in the workplace.

The sermon:
We find ourselves in unexpected places—places sometimes we'd rather not be—in order to search for and point to the truth.

I've mentioned that I teach a painting class called Obsessions. I give readings. Last February, during a class discussion, a student, Jason, brought up this passage from one of the readings: "...for I have one desire in life, the truth, and one purpose, to make the most of truth." (Lennard J. Davis, Obsession: a History, p.108) "I read that," Jason said, "and realized that's what I'm doing through art. To me, that made sense." In the silence that followed, you could feel the energy of 19 creative minds mulling that over.

Just 3 days later I was home, going through a stack of old articles I had saved, but never read. In a book review by Jon Meacham I came across this sentence “The search for truth—about the visible and the invisible—is perhaps the most fundamental of human undertakings, ranking close behind the quests for warmth, food and a mate.” And because I am an obsessive teacher, of course I emailed the student.
I'd been waiting for the moment that this story would find it's place in gatherings. I had almost resigned to the fact that perhaps I would have to write a separate conclusion. Perhaps not. Thank you, Reverend Tom at visit number 100, who, from the pulpit, declares:

"We find ourselves in unexpected places—places sometimes we'd rather not be—in order to search for and point to the truth." An artist drawing in a pew.

Of course there are a handful of exceptions to what I'm about to say, but here goes:
The ritual of attending worship service, and the ritual of making art;
in the end, I see these as two very different ways of pursuing truth. Too different in today's world, I suspect, for most to simultaneously take both paths.
One comes with a preexisting structured philosophy; the other asks you to sort that out on your own, along with everything else. So, with exceptions, of course, artists often choose one way, and the pious another, in our pursuit of making sense of life and the world around us. And some day, with effort from both sides, maybe it will be possible for both groups to set aside judgment and consistently approach each other with the openness that those in these 100 establishments have generally approached me. Maybe.

ninety-ninth visit: Oct 2nd 2011 Sikhism

11:00am sunday
Pittsburgh Sikh Gurdwara

4407 McKenzie Dr, Monroeville PA 15146


On Pittsburgh Sikh Gurdwara's website:
"People of all religious backgrounds, including atheists and agnostics, are welcome at a Gurdwara [Sikh temple]."

Non-Sikh visitors are able to fully experience and take part in worship; their participation is seen as wholly valid.

A lot of people have commented to me that they know almost nothing about Sikhism. (Many Pittsburghers did not know that there was a temple in the area, either.) If you are interested, I've included a list of a few basic beliefs of Sikhism at the bottom of this post...

So, the best thing about Indian Standard Time is that you are never late to Temple. The worst thing about Indian Standard Time is that if your husband is Indian, you will always be waiting for him until you decide to join the movement. And if you don't join the movement and you arrive at the temple on time (on your own), you are gifted 45 minutes of drawing time. Win-win.

I add my shoes to the collection by the door. When entering a
Gurdwara, it is considered disrespectful if anyone, regardless of your belief, does not bow at the alter, and leave an offering of money, flowers or food. I leave a vase of flowers, 'mums from our yard. There are about ten other people in the room. Some are reading to themselves silently. I choose a spot where mothers are sitting with their children, playing with Play-Doh.

I draw.

 After 45 minutes, others are arriving. The mothers and children have left, and I realize I'm sitting on the males' side. I move to the opposite. My knees (especially my right one) are sore from sitting cross-legged on the floor. While sitting, I stretch my legs out to my left. Soon a man approaches me, asks how I am doing. Tells me very gently that I must have no way of knowing, but it is a sign of disrespect if I point my feet toward the alter, and also my body must at all times directly face the alter, where the Guru Granth Sahib (scriptures) are kept. I apologize and thank him for telling me. So much to learn, even after 98 visits.

The service consists primarily of singing, with an interlude of a sermon spoken in Gurmukhi. (Structure of this service is identical to the Krishna Consciousness (48th visit), and Hindu-Jain (79th visit) services I attended.) Two musicians are at work, to the right of the alter: a tabla player
and a harmonium-ist. One also happens to be the priest (or Gyaniji) . Hymns are sung in Gurmukhi; lyrics are projected in the form of 1) phonetic syllables, 2) Gurmukhi script and 3) English translation. One phrase that sticks with me: "You are me and I am you—what is the difference between us?"

I want to learn to play the harmonium.

At the end of the service, karah prasad is offered to each congregant. The concept is the same as prasad in a Hindu service (14th visit, 7th paragraph), but, as opposed to fruit or a rice dish, here prasad always is a warmed mixture of butter, sugar and flour. It reminds me of warmed, raw cookie dough. Which I like very much. It also reminds me of the candy that is passed to children at the end of Jewish services, so that children associate worship with sweetness.

Aside: Later, Yog (79th visit) reads this entry and emails me to say that most likely the doughy mixture offered here is known as "halva."

After service, two teens (adorably) ask if I would like to meet the priest. Introductions. I explain gatherings. He welcomes me warmly and offers me a place to sit for Langar.

What is Langar? Congregants sit in lines, side by side, shoulder to shoulder for a meal. Besides providing nourishment, this meal exists to break social boundaries. All of us eat seated on the floor at the same level, with no regard to caste, race, creed, and rank. Servers (who are also worshipers) walk up and down the lines, offering different dishes, laddling these from large pots into our individual metal thali-pans: lentils, cauliflower, rice, raita and nan. When my husband later hears about this, he is a bit jealous. With reason. Also, by definition there is never a charge for the meal, and it is always vegetarian.

I talk with the woman next to me. I feel badly, but I don't remember her name well enough to try to to spell it here. She asks how I heard of the temple. I tell her: it was featured in a video I borrowed from the Quaker Meeting House (23rd visit), called "Holy Pittsburgh." I tell her that what I remember from the video: the statement about the domes of this temple serving the same purpose as steeples on churches—to direct attention upward. "It was my husband who said that in the video," she tells me. "I'll introduce you to him."

She asks if I have ever been turned away from attending a service. (No.) She tells me about a friend of hers who happens to be Muslim. She once asked this friend if she would be able go with her to a Muslim prayer service. Her friend preferred not, giving the reason that she feared the discussion would be too intense and would make her feel uncomfortable. We talk a bit about this. And other things. Until it's time to go.
And because it's really good today, I'll end with my:

Count of worshipers wearing Steelers garb while worshiping:

1 in a Steeler jersey. Name across the back: GURU.
(Flavors of India and Steeler Country merrily co-exist.)
1 woman wearing a kameez (tunic), white with a pattern of Steeler logos

& along the edge of her duputa (scarf): more logos.

8 men cover their heads with black and yellow bandanas

(not turbans- these bandanas are worn by men who do
not have the
traditional long hair.)

3 children in bandanas, scarves, or black and yellow outfits.

13 Total
Running Total for the project: 41 (to date)

Very basic history and beliefs of Sikhism:

• originated in the Punjabi region of India in 1469, but today one finds followers in all regions of India and beyond.

• belief in one God.

• belief that all religions of the world share the same God. (As do Hindus.)
• 3 main principles: to work hard and honestly. to share with those in need. to always remember God throughout the day.
• belief in equality of all people.
• belief that all people have the right to follow their own belief without persecution or condemnation. Religious freedom is so important that Sikhs have responded in battles to defend non-Sikhs' right to the freedom of belief. They have fought on the behalf of Hindus, which has led to some confusion and the false claim that Sikhism is a division of Hinduism. It is not an off-shoot nor a branch of Hinduism. Though there are similarities, Sikhism exists as a separate religion from Hinduism.
Of course this just skims the top. I'll trust you to google further, if you are interested.

ninety-eighth visit: Sept 29th 2011 Reconstructionist Judaism, Rosh Hashanah

9:30am thursday
Congregation Dor Hadash
Rosh Hashanah services, day 1
5898 Wilkins Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15217
squirrel hill

Two points of significance to this visit:
1) It's the first day of Rosh Hashanah. For more about this the Jewish New Year, please see my 2nd visit. I have so many other things to write about, beyond the important meaning of this High Holiday...

2) the uniqueness of Congregation Dor Hadash (in structure and beyond):
a) Like Bet Tikvah (5th visit) and YPS (85th visit), here worship is not led by a Rabbi. I pulled this from their website, as there is no better way of explaining:
" Services
• are led by our members and our lay cantor, Cheryl Klein. [who is absolutely amazing, may I add].
• welcome participation by members and guests
• are gender egalitarian
• are open to all, including interfaith families
• integrate a deep respect for traditional Judaism with the insights and ideas of contemporary social, intellectual and spiritual life"

b) This is a Reconstructionist congregation, and if I'm not mistaken the only such in Pittsburgh proper. So, Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox make up the four movements of Judaism in North America. Reconstructionist is a modern movement that grew from Conservativism (1920-1940), and encompasses a range of philosophies based on the notion that it is not possible to follow many aspects of the traditional Jewish belief because of advances in knowledge and in daily modern life. This is a brash simplification, but for the sake of length, I'll trust you to research further if an interest exists.

I particularly look forward to this visit because of a coincidence I can't help but to share. A New York artist I met in Germany this summer told me to keep an eye out for her friend—Pittsburgh artist, Wendy Osher.

Less than two months later (ten days before this visit), I am randomly introduced to her by a mutual friend. Moments later, I learn she is a member of Dor Hadash, my sole remaining synagogue visit, which I had been saving for today, Rosh Hashanah.
I also learn that she is a member of a Jewish-Muslim conversation group, made up mostly of members from The Muslim Community Center in Monroeville (84th visit) and today's congregation, plus some. I'm dying to talk to her more about this.
And to add to the richness: Wendy is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister.

Today she invites me to sit with her and her husband, James, who is also an artist.

A huge benefit of congregations led by laypeople taking turns at the pulpit, I have come to realize, is the amount of energy and the amount of life-experiences each is able to store up and pour into each talk delivered. On the other hand, imagine the way this usually works: one person having to come up with new inspirational insights to present to a room of listeners every single week of his or her life.

Congregant Mike Zigmond speaks today. One can feel, without a doubt, that he stirs the room. Below is his eloquent talk reduced to a few stubby sentences, yet hopefully not stripped of the power of his ideas:
He speaks about his son practicing both Buddhism and Judaism. Passionately, fully. (Did you know that here is an actual term for such believers? Jew-Bu. I learn this a bit later.) Mike goes on to say that in daily conversation, you will hear the words "religion" and "faith" used interchangeably. Not in Judaism. Faith is only part of it. The rest is action. Deed. We have to join together in action: Jews with Muslims with Christians with Buddhists. We must get past our differences and work together.

I feel lucky and inspired that of these final ten visits, many so strongly hit on the concepts driving gatherings.

For not knowing any Hebrew (besides the first fourteen syllables of most prayers), I am able to follow and participate fairly easily during this service. Prayers, blessings and psalms are written phonetically on opposing pages of the prayer book. Scholars' comments and observations are included "below the line" on each page. And some sections are spoken in English, including a Mary Oliver poem.

Immediately after the service:
Those who wish to participate in a ritual called Tashlich (explained below) gather outside the synagogue. During our walk to Chatham University's pond, where Tashlich is to take place, we talk. One woman says I look like I am from a different time and place. I tell her about gatherings. When explaining this project, I usually don't use the word "art" until my final few sentences, because I have found that otherwise it confuses my listeners. But before I get to this point, she says: "You are an artist, correct? And this is your art project?" I totally want to hug her.

Tashlich: a tradition of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, with origins in the Middle Ages. My favorite part of today. Because I had never done this before. And because of what it is. This ritual requires either a body of moving water, or still water with fish. Each participant, standing at the edge of (in this case) a fishy pond, receives a very tiny ribbon-cinched nylon bag filled with breadcrumbs. We meditate on our misdeeds of the year. We toss the breadcrumbs on the pond's surface. To be carried away. By the fish—fish with eyes that never close, like those of the all-knowing. A symbolic casting away of misdeeds. But it is important to note that with this act, our misdeeds do not disappear as if they never existed; but instead they are acknowledged and transformed. A clean start to the New Year.

Wendy brings up the length of our time at the synagogue today. I feel that it's nice to be away from quotidian obligations. The long, quiet inward focus. She says she believes that that is part of the purpose. I enter normal life again, sometime just after 2:30pm. I leave normal life again at 4:00 to enter my studio. Although, defining when and where obligations end and belief or art begins can be a tricky thing sometimes. And that's not all bad.

ninety-seventh visit: Sept 28th 2011 Anglican and Epsicopal affiliated

5:00pm wednesday
Trinity Cathedral
Annual Blessing of the Artists

328 Sixth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15222
downtown, central business district

For ease in understanding, I'll copy a few phrases from Father Paul Johnston's email announcing this event, the Annual Blessing of the Artists: "For blessing, bring some tool of your trade—a reed, mouthpiece, paintbrush, whisk, mallet, bow, baton, mute, that script or piece of music with the scariest challenge..."

As you may know, part of the reason I am doing this project is that more often than not, there exists a tension between those who make art and those who practice religion. There are, of course, exceptions: Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, and yes! one still living: Anselm Kiefer. A list of my personal friends and acquaintances who do both in full, cashes in at four. And presumably (or to varying degrees) add to this, the seventeen or so in the sanctuary with me tonight. For once, perhaps the only time during this project, I don't feel like a complete outsider. Knowing that this is a service open to artists of all faiths, knowing there may be many of us who are not members.

Introductions around chapel: many musicians. visual artists. A writer, if I'm remembering correctly. Father Paul is a musician, music history scholar and professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Homily: The spirit as creator. And a delegator of this duty of creation. Father Paul talks about Picasso's Guernica for a bit. It is our job to create art that tells the truth, no matter how ugly it is. To make art that creates change.

Something I did not mention: I had entered during the first hymn. (The only hymn on the evening's agenda.) I thought I was in the wrong place on the wrong day. Literally. I thought I was walking in on a choir practice. An AMAZING choir practice, full of professional singers who had been making noise together for years. One of the artist-congregants asks if we could please sing one more hymn because the first sounded so amazing. So we do. I can't help but to say that I believe that any other congregation would have obediently followed the bulletin, without questioning, never proposing an instinctual change.

Time for the blessing.
The officiator, Reverend Cathy speaks the blessing's words while sprinkling holy water on violin cases, sheet music, a box of pastels, my inking pen.

Mentioned during the service: There were calls to the church from those who wished to come but could not because tonight is also the first night of Rosh Hashanah. (Explanation and apologies offered by the Priests.) Comments from a congregant that the ideas concerning creation in the homily are reflective of the Jewish New Year's
traditional meaning. ...Und das kommt morgen.

ninety-sixth visit: Sept 25th 2011 Presbyterian

11:00am and 3:00pm
Second United Presbyterian Church of Wilkinsburg
sunday service and the annual blessing of the animals
300 Hay St, Pittsburgh PA 15221

Please see 95th visit. My experience for this visit is included there.

ninety-fifth visit: Sept 25th 2011 Presbyterian, oldest church in continuous use

10:15am and 12:30pm
Beulah Presbyterian Church

2500 McCrady Road

Churchill, PA 15235


This post covers both my 95th and 96th visits.

I went to bed Saturday night, thinking I'd be done with today's visits in time to begin work in my studio shortly after noon. Think again.

10:15am attend service at Beulah.
Beulah's regular Sunday services here are held in a building built
in the 1960's. The reason I choose to include Beulah in gatherings is this: on this property, next to this newer church, stands the congregation's 1837-constructed church building, Beulah Presbyterian Chapel. Weddings and occasional summer and holiday services are still held here, making it the "oldest building in Allegheny County in continuous use as a church." However, worship on this site actually dates further back. Evidence of preaching was first documented in the area in 1758. Members first gathered in plein air, with logs serving as pews and the minister benefiting from the only shelter: a tiny gazebo-like tent. (information from a pamphlet provided by Pastor Cynthia)

In emails earlier this week, Pastor Cynthia hints that I may be able to get a quick tour of the older building if I stick around for the picnic after services and connect with one of the church archivists. However, unfortunately, I must bow out promptly, in order to attend Second Presby. As
I drive off, my sixth sense tells me it would be worth returning to Beulah today, immediately after my visit to Second Presby, in case the archivists have not yet left the picnic. Decided.

11:00am attend service at Second United Presbyterian of Wilkinsburg.
Obviously, this is number two of my 3-Presby-church-countdown (explained here, first two paragraphs). At the end of this service, a request is made: "Would those who are able, please carry a chair or two outside for our 'blessing of the animals' to occur today at 3pm?" Hhhmm. I can't justify missing this. If any dog deserves to be blessed, it's our dog Zoe. She's 11.75 yrs old and the best dog ever. This may be her only chance. (By the way, this is a gorgeous church in beautiful grassy, treed surroundings. She's a nature dog, and she'd love it.)

12:30pm I have returned to Beulah (picnic).
I'm greeted immediately by a sweet, sweet woman whose name I feel really bad for having forgotten. She says she had seen me talking to her husband on my way out this morning. I remember his name: Jan. I am quickly shuffled to the food tables because the packing up and clearing off has already begun. No worries: mac and cheese and potato salad, plenty. I am offered a seat with Jan's family. I learn that the picnic is to honor those who have been members at Beulah for over 50 years. There are 77 of these honorees. Indeed.

Pastor Cynthia approaches and offers to take me into the historic 1837 chapel herself. Jan comes too. The entire one-story building is one room. A dug out basement was completed in the 1920's despite its solid rock foundation. The chapel was period-restored in the 1980's. Electric chandeliers hang as careful matches for candled-originals. Paned-glass windows give ripply views of the cemetery outside. Which, I am told, is the resting place for soldiers from each and every war that this country has been involved in.

Cynthia, Jan and I spend some time in the room of archives.
Three doll-house-scaled dioramas of these worship grounds are encased in glass vitrines. The dioramas, constructed by a father-daughter team, depict the other worship-buildings or worship-spaces that once stood on this property and served this congregation: hewn logs as pews and pastor's gazebo-shelter; log cabin; and the 1837 chapel. A few more minutes of conversation about Beulah's time capsules before I thank Cynthia, bid Jan farewell, and return to the cemetery to draw. It's warm enough to take my shoes off.

2:25pm I pull up at my house. Hello to husband. Gather the dog, and immediately drive back to Second Presbyterian in Wilkinsburg for the blessing of the animals.
Not more than eight people and ten dogs sit attentively in a perfect semi-circle before Pastor Deb. All canine attention is completely focused on her. Dogs have a sixth sense, too. About why they are here, and over a sudden distraction: the fact that the pet carrier just now arriving contains a cat. A short homily. No denial: an embarrassingly horrible attempt by humans at singing two hymns. And then the important part. Spoken to each pet individually, with eye contact: "May you, (insert pet's name), be blessed by the One who created you and may you continue to be a blessing to those who love you."

At the finish, all creatures move to the reception area. Treats for the dogs and treats for their owners. The humans exchange pet stories for a bit. Pastor Deb has two dogs and two cats. They are Minister's children of the worst kind while she is officiating, so instead, every year, she takes them downtown to Trinity Cathedral to be blessed there. Ironically, Trinity is my next stop—three days out.

4:15pm Finally, finally home.

ninety-fourth visit: Sept 21st 2011 Buddhism, Dzambhala Practice, Fall Equinox (Drikung Kagyu tradition, nonsectarian supportive)

7:00pm wednesday
Three Rivers Dharma Center
Dzambhala Practice, Fall Equinox
observing Fall Equinox two days early
201 S. Craig St, Pittsburgh PA 15213
north oakland

Today I read an article that started like this:
"If you are in any way witchy, or follow the equinoxes, then you will know that the 23rd marks the first official day of fall this year. "
The article has nothing to do with religion but it expresses a connection between my 93rd visit and this one. Perhaps an arguable one, though. My question here: are we fully justified to associate the equinox with Witches? Is the equinox not more universal than this? Secular? Astronomical? My digital dictionary says nothing about any religion when I look up the word "equinox". Alas, the Pagans still lay claim to traditional rituals associated with this bi-annual occurrence.

But I also found: "... according to Jewish superstition, when Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac at the autumnal equinox, and blood appeared on his knife." ... "In Greek mythology autumn begins as the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld to live with her husband Hades." ... "In China the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is celebrated around (but not precisely) the time of the September equinox."
... "Higan, or Higan-e, is a week of Buddhist services observed in Japan during both the September and March equinoxes when day and night are equal at length." (here)

Tonight's meditation:
Dzambhala Practice, with a nod to the Fall Equinox two days early. Three Rivers Dharma is located in the basement level of a building that was once a house. It can be found on a street where most of the buildings are former residences, with the ground floors now used for independent commercial shops and cafes. (The architecture on this street is a little like the row-style seen in Baltimore, if you are familiar.)

At Three Rivers, you are rewarded for early arrival with time for cookies and tea. By 7pm there are close to 8 of us, at most. Like the last meditation I participated in, this is led by a non-Monk. His name is John.

After everyone settles in, stashes shoes and chooses a zafu (cushion), John orients us to the evening: beginning prayers from the more general collection, and a packet of pages specific to tonight's Dzambhala Practice. Each of us holds a copy. In an earlier email, John mentioned: Dzambhala "is the Buddha of prosperity, but this doesn't mean that we are chanting for wealth. Rather, it recognizes that a certain level of material things are necessary for us to have time and energy to devote to Dharma practice. Also, this practice helps dispel a 'poverty mentality' in order to free us to live generously, openly."

And just before the practice begins, John describes the god,
Dzambhala: the left hand holds a mongoose, who emits jewels from his mouth when prompted with a squeeze. Under the right foot is a conch shell. Light emitting from certain points. ... so this is what we should be attempting to visualize during the meditation.

In emails earlier this week, John emphasized that this meditation is more challenging, as it involves difficult visualization. Unless I'm misunderstanding the process, it ends up that the visualization is not what is hard for me. Having a strong mind's eye is a basic requirement for artists, you know. It's the simultaneous chanting in Sanskrit that provides the challenge of keeping the visualization going. ...or maybe that's exactly what he meant.

We chant the same relatively lengthy series of syllables 108 times. Some keep track using beads. I
t takes time for me to understand where in the chant, the stressed sounds fall. The sentence is too long to memorize, so reading steals concentration from my inward visualization. And one more obstacle in my way: repetition of this sort always makes me feel mildly queasy leading to an ounce of mild panic. I know: kind of the opposite of the purpose of meditation. It's probably something that I need to psychologically work myself out of, as it's the same feeling I experience with my slight case of claustrophobia. And this issue with repetition is the same reason why I choose to avoid learning to knit. But that's not to say that I don't value this experience. As I said, the symptoms are mild.

Following, I have several interesting conversations with members as we carry cushions up to the second floor in preparation for a Monk's visit this weekend. I meet a Carnegie Mellon University student who sat next to me during meditation (philosophy major, art minor). She is currently doing a project in which she is asking religious leaders of all faiths in the Pittsburgh area to define what it means "to commune." Comparing notes about our projects, I say something about my interest in experiencing all these different ways [of spirituality]. To this she adds, "and experiencing all the common aspects.
" No doubt.

ninety-third visit: Sept 18th 2011 Paganism

11am-6pm sunday
(me: 3:45-6pm)
Greater Pittsburgh Pagan Pride Day
Buffalo Inn
Buffalo Dr, South Park Township, PA 15129
south park township

Both Christian and Pagan scholars have written books on the fact that many Christian rituals and traditions practiced today contain elements carried over from the Pagan belief. However, there is a lot of unrest, especially amongst Christians, when it comes to this topic. I do not mean to upset anyone in this respect.
This troubled relationship is important to me for several reasons, including the fact that over the past year I've had more than one college art student address this issue in their work.

Some of the emotion surrounding the conflict between Pagans and Christians comes from these two facts: in order to leave Paganism for Christianity, Paganism must be rejected. I feel that the negative emotions surrounding this issue results from sentiments left over from this rejection that happened 1600-2000 yrs ago. Additionally,
in order to motivate people to convert to Christianity, it was declared kosher for some Pagan elements to be carried over into this new religion called Christianity. This is not the only instance of this kind of fluidity (see 75th visit, 7th paragraph). Honestly, it's so hard for me to see why this is something to get worked up about. Why is this bad?

Pagan Pride Day:
PPD is inclusive to Wicca, Heathenry, Shamanism, Druidry, the Neo- forms of the aforementioned and a few other beliefs. These each fall within the broader practice of Paganism.
Inclusion and tolerance are driving forces of gatherings, and there is plenty of both at PPD. This typographic image:
appears repeatedly in pamphlets, on T-shirts and in the theme of the ritual performed at day's end.

Here's a side note: I found out shortly after naming this-here project, that the word "gatherings," is precisely the term used for meetings held by Pagan religious groups.

Another side note, as many have asked me recently about the relationship between Paganism, Wicca and WItches: All Witches are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Witches. All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. Is Wicca different from Witchcraft? Some say yes, some say no.

So, my experience at PPD...
My first and immediate impression: here is a gathering of people to whom the expression of one's individual identity is very important. In appearance and beyond.

I attend a lecture on the history of runes presented by Ann Gróa Sheffield, a runes scholar. Pretty interesting. Especially since I am studying German—regarding the link between these.

The first person I meet while exiting the lecture is a fiber artist. Everyone I speak to thereafter seems to be involved in creating things of some sort. Besides short lectures and workshops, there is a whole roomful of tables with creations for sale: candles, clothing, and a food counter. The portobello mushroom hoagie I order is delicious.

At this event, I receive by far the most numerous and most positive comments on my dress than anywhere else so far. Perhaps partly because this event is more social than other worship services, but none-the-less, the fact remains. Most want to know whether I had made it myself, or if someone else had done so.
There are no puzzled looks. No one asks me to explain myself. No one expects me to explain anything, even when I really wanted to talk about my impetus for attending PPD. But when I do, always an interest: "Very cool. You must be seeing so much and learning so much. Have you been to (this church or that synagogue) yet?" One one thing that made the dress stand out a bit: its whiteness as opposed to blackness, which was rather omnipresent.

A man named Cameron looks, pauses, and asks if I am Semitic (as in the Ancient Semitic, or Proto-Semitic religion). He also gives me a bracelet he has made, and tells me about a religious group that he belongs to, that meets in the same building on Ellsworth, where I attended a Quaker service (23rd visit) and Zen Buddhist meditation (81st visit).

As the ritual time nears, just outside the building, a fire is built in a cauldron on a hill. A woman named Rowan sits near me during the ceremony. She explains that the ritual is specifically intended to be inclusive to all forms of Paganism—in purpose and actions performed.

I can't stop thinking of Hinduism during the ritual. Hindu pujahs begin with a fire in a small or sometimes large (as at my wedding) metal pot. And the first action in both: spirits are invited. At the ritual today, a large ring of participants encircle the cauldron, many carrying hand-written scrolls. The spirits are addressed in Calling the Four Quarters. Because different Pagan beliefs refer to the quarters differently, today they are referred to as north, south, east and west. Following this, an appointed representative from each of the beliefs present today steps forward from the circle, toward the cauldron. He or she then speaks about his or her group's intentions, focus, and spiritual contribution to the community and to the world (which has been written on the scroll), then surrenders the scroll to the fire.

Related to this: the remarkably universal quality of the elements involved in ancient Norse Pagan rituals—that which I learn about at the rune lecture: a sacred cup or chalice, chanting, symbolic blood, and taking in, imbibing, drinking. I still know so little, but as perceived by outsider, I have to ask: how many other observances in how many other beliefs involve these elements? At home I talk to my husband about this. "In the end," he says, "we simply are all human beings." In some ways it would make sense if this was my 100th visit. But not yet: seven more to go.

ninety-second visit: Sept 18th 2011 Latter-day Saints Movement (Mormonism)

1:00pm sunday
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

250 N Dithridge, Pittsburgh PA 15213

north oakland

I have a friend who is a fabulous painter, a practicing Mormon, and a pretty remarkable person. His name is Ryan and we attended grad school together, fine arts. I have not talked to him in a while; he's a half-day's drive away. But I thought of him throughout this visit.

Because of conversations I have had, I was under the assumption that, as a non-Mormon, I would not be permitted to enter the building, let alone attend a service. To clarify: as I understand, this would be true in the case of entering a Mormon Temple. The building I attend today technically is an Institute. I had stopped by a couple of weeks ago and spoke with Virginia (a member) as well as Sister Marshall, who both insisted that I am certainly welcome to do both (enter and attend). Virginia even invites me to stay for lunch that day, served at the conclusion of the class she has just attended. But unfortunately I have to run, promising to return for a service before long.

And so I return. I choose a small pew for my lone self. Within minutes Alexia approaches me and invites me to sit with her and her husband. Asks if I am visiting. Learns about this project. Does not stop asking about my dress until she has to, when the service starts.

It seems that this services is specifically for young adults and young adults with young families. The children sit with their parents throughout the entire hour. Moms or dads occasionally pop up and leave the room carrying a vocal wee one, but it's pretty remarkable how well-behaved the youngest members are.

"What struck you about the service?," my hair stylist asks me this week when in for a trim.
That the speakers and readers during the service are congregants. A single leader does not dominate.
That each speaker is moved to tears during their talk, each of them offering thoughts and stories on the topic of friendship.
That none of the speakers seem very nervous.
That so many of them studied art history (as was Ryan's undergrad degree) and others are musicians, composers.
That tiny cups of water are passed for communion, as Alexia kindly confirms my understanding of the meaning of this portion of the service.
The fact that those with families rooted in this belief share common ancestors, is not something that is not entirely unapparent. Or maybe there are other reasons that these members look like they share oneness.

I assume that I will feel too self conscious to draw during this service. But I surprise myself.

When the service ends, Alexia and I talk a bit more about my dress. She wants to know how she can find out when and where I will be showing the work. This reminds me and I mention to her, that I was not able to get emails of those who had invited me here. She pulls up Virginia's email on her iPhone. No back seat for hospitality here. Thank you.

Count of worshipers wearing Steelers garb while worshiping:
1 worshiper in a black suite with a yellow shirt and black tie.
(I saw like 13 people wearing Steelers garb while I was driving
between visits today, but I guess that can't count.)
Running Total for the project: 28 (to date)

ninety-first visit: Sept 18th 2011 Presbyterian

11:00am sunday
Third Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh
5701 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15232

As I begin my final ten visits, many of these ten are chosen for reasons that reflect my hope to include all paths of faith that meet regularly in Pittsburgh. Though this is my goal, I will most likely inadvertently (sadly) miss one or more...

But there's another aim in these last ten.
Though I've tried to keep quiet about this, it now makes sense to state clearly that I was raised Presbyterian. And Pittsburgh is known as the "Presbyterian City." 160 Presby churches in all, I learn today. Number-wise, I could do a whole project and a half on just this denomination and still have ten left over. Crazy. In honor of the two points above, in these last ten visits, I'm going to include a count-down of Presbyterian churches: this the Third Presbyterian, the Second (in Wilkinsburg) and the First, downtown. And amongst these three, I'll interweave faiths with which I'm comparatively unfamiliar.

Something else I learned today: This the Third Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh was not named so because it was the third of its kind established in Pgh. Instead, its name comes from the fact that the church was initially located downtown on Third and Ferry Streets. None-the-less, this congregation first convened in 1833, which still makes it pretty old. (The oldest congregation in Pgh proper is here.)

The building I attend today is the congregation's third home, constructed 1897-1903. Totally worth seeing. Gorgeous. What I love about the architecture: French Gothic with no apologies. Pointed arches curve and reverse curve to extended points throughout. Varnished carved oak butts up next to carved stone to the right and left of the front alter—at the start of right and left wings, lofting right and left balconies. Six Tiffany windows, and the others: nothing to brush off in the least, either. Absolute romantic drama in these figures. I look up and know this: I want to wear these costumes in this world where garments float. In these exact colors. Where extended wings double angel's heights.

And the intricate turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau patterning makes my drawing time this morning a true mental and visual meditation.

The sermon: Walk by faith; not by sight.
Life is full of hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Or moments of the unexpected. To anticipate and be prepared for the unexpected.

You know, I have to say that my life does not seem that boring to me. If it were, it would be 100 percent my fault because I'm in charge of thinking up my projects. (Aren't we all?)
Every so often there might be a boring part, and when there is, I'm fully responsible for shifting it.

I remember visiting a friend of mine in NYC (freelance commercial artist, writer, adjunct professor; known her for 20 years) who commented: "My goal is to live an interesting life." I think that this shared sentiment drives most of the life-decisions that I make. I'm lucky to have the freedom... but I think most of us could find a way if it's made a priority. But maybe not everyone wants this. Who is to say. One thing for sure: we certainly don't have control over the really exciting, unexpected parts of life. And certainly not over the moments of terror. The need to sort out such moments, to make sense of them, is as common as being human, and the means we choose are as varied as our personalities. ...through pre-established or self-realized philosophies, by external or internal manner... or perhaps in a studio.

After the service, Preston (director of music) kindly spends some time talking with me. Turns down the lights to enhance the photos I shoot. Brings me a booklet about the windows. Shows me the attached chapel, where services were first held until the main sanctuary's construction was complete. Thank you. Countdown has begun.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ninetieth visit: Sept 11th 2011 non-denominational Christianity, Baptist & Pentacostal influence

11:00am sunday
Zoë Christian Community Center
555 N. Braddock St, Pittsburgh PA 15208
homewood south

Three months before gatherings began, I drove by this little white building called Zoë, and took mental note. A year and three months later, as I'm scheduling the last ten of my 100 visits I notice that there are only nine places of worship that fall into the category: "must be included or my project will seem amiss." These are nine places that can't be skipped because they are either grand, historical, central to the identity of this city, or of a belief-not-yet-experienced. This leaves room for one wildcard spot. Something told me to go to Zoë. Not only because Zoë is the name of our dog, and also the name of a good friend's girlfriend whom I know to be pretty special; but also because this one-room church would be my anchor, serving ground the other nine places of worship: the grand, historical or quite unfamiliar.

I enter and this is what I find:
Seven adults (including me), four children (including the drummer), plus the keyboardist, and the minister.
Eight or nine narrow rows of fabric covered chairs—the kind you might find in a business's conference room. Arranged on a particle-board floor. A right and a left aisle.
A crocheted runner hanging over the front of the wooden pulpit.
Zoë is filled with a gentleness and honesty that complements my mood this morning.

Celebrations and concerns:
The keyboardist speaks. She lost three people close to her this week, but has not failed to find peace.
A young girl announces she is moving and she is "sad about it."

From the pulpit, the Pastor pauses, and kindly asks me to introduce myself.

The sermon:
The potential of a tiny mustard seed.

Also: believing in things you don't fully understand. I talked to a student this week who says he has never felt so excited about the ideas that are taking shape in his paintings, but he has no clue as to where they are coming from, or what the images mean. And he does not want to know yet. Exploration to arrive at discovery.
The sermon is also about finding comfort and experiencing safety in faith.
Do I sometimes enter my studio seeking these same things? Yes, when the world keeps telling me no. And when it seems people are on my side, I enter to uproot what I think I already know; to escape comfort.

There is no mention of 9/11 on this the 10th anniversary.

After the service, the pastor approaches me to talk further.
He wants to know where I am from, beyond Highland Park. I talk about the west coast; he has a son there. I mention Baltimore; he has a son in DC.
I find out that he is renovating this building himself.
He hopes I come back to visit again.
He says he and his wife would like to take me out to lunch sometime.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

eighty-ninth visit: Sept 9th 2011 Islam

1:30pm friday
Al-Masjid Al-Awwal
1911 Wylie Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15219
crawford-roberts (near hill district)

After calls and an email with no avail last week, I stop by to ask about attending. On the front steps, I run into a staff-member. He welcomes me to join them any Friday, and points out the women's entrance.
This visit to the first Muslim Mosque established in Pittsburgh (1932) is timed intentionally just before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (more here, 2nd paragraph).

Something I did not mention last week: For my visit on October 1, 2010, I was nervous. The Islam faith is probably that with which I am least familiar, as far as attending services, and it is conducted in a language with which I am also completely unfamiliar. I am not nervous at all during my second mosque visit. And neither at the start of this visit. It's kind of uncanny to feel this difference.

As you know, I sew between (in response to) each visit, making an addition of fabric or embroidery to my dress.
Just before my first visit to a Muslim mosque (Oct 1, 2010), I added sleeves to my dress, to avoid inappropriateness of attire. Adding more than that seemed too much, unbalanced and not right for the perimeters of this project, so I needed to temporarily wear a longer skirt under my dress, and a larger headscarf to that service. By the time of my second mosque visit, a week ago, I only needed to add a longer skirt. Before my third time (today), I have finally achieved complete mosque-worthy apparel, length and all. Except that I find out after this visit, that as far as clothing goes, white is set aside for males. In more conservative, traditional Muslim communities, it is considered improper for a woman to wear white. At my two previous gathering-visits to mosques, I remember some women were wearing very light colors. And last week I was not the only one in white. But here such is not the case, as all the women are in black.

Compared to last week's, the message today is stepped up in intensity.
The following two paragraphs document the Imam's words, with very little, if any, paraphrasing:
The terrorist attack of 9/11 is not permissible under the teachings of Islam, and thus Islam frees itself from these actions. Islam does not allow the assassination of innocent people, whether done by Muslims or non-Muslims. We have to speak the truth about these affairs without compromising out faith. Without apology for our faith, because this is not an action that happened under the construct of our faith. We must combat the ideological basis that the terrorists were using wrongly in the name of Islam.

The Imam reads from a flier announcing an interfaith vigil to be held on September 11th at the Islamic Center of Pgh (my 7th visit). He states that one of the names of the establishments mentioned on the sponsor list, though similar to the name of this mosque, is not to be confused with this congregation. Attending this interfaith vigil, [implying] interfaith prayer, is a compromise of faith. Though we feel nothing but sorrow and sympathy for those lives lost and those affected by the terrorist attack, it is forbidden to pray for non-Muslims; thus it would be a compromise of our faith to support this interfaith vigil.

A full-congregation prayer, and the service ends.

One woman approaches and greets me. Another speaks kindly to me on my way out.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

eighty-eighth visit: Sept 7th 2011 Scientology

2:00pm wednesday
Scientology Pittsburgh
1906 East Carson St, Pittsburgh PA 15203
southside flats

Yes, I know this is one of controversy. And questions are laced throughout my visit, proving to be kind of interesting in the end, I think.

Last week, Shawn at Scientology Pittsburgh answers my call. I explain gatherings. He responds that if I want to attend a service, a worship-gathering having to do with Scientology, I should go to Cleveland or Columbus. "We don't do anything like that here." There was a curious tone in his voice that now makes sense to me.

It helps to have the full back story:

In my household, there has been a running debate as to whether Scientology should be included in this project at all. One side of my household has done some web research on the topic that led him to conclude that, because of its structure, Scientology is not a religion and therefore should not be included in gatherings. The other side of the debate... the side connected to the fingers typing this post, says that this project is not about judging whether people who say they are worshiping, are or are not worshiping. It is about exploring the relationship between art and spiritual belief, if there is any at all. BTW, it happens that France, Germany and the UK agree with my husband. However, it happens that the USofA does recognize Scientology as a religion, so I feel that if I excluded it, it would indeed be just that: an exclusion, and I would be acting against the principles of this project. And so for these reasons, I go.

And I'm not afraid to be this blunt about the above. Because I know I'm not offending anyone at Pittsburgh Scientology. And this is a project about Pittsburgh. And Robert at Scientology Pittsburgh says "Well, you can call... call it a religion... if you want to... but you see personally I'm a Christian. And Scientology plays a separate role in my life. But you can certainly see it as a religion if you want to." And some people do. In other cities, and from other followers of Scientology, you would receive a more emphatic answer.

There is a lot written a lot about Scientology. To start, the office I visit is chock full. Books floor to ceiling, wall to wall, most by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. There's also a lot written and posted on the web by those who are, and are no longer involved in Scientology. And by general theologians and their stance. It's there, to digest and use to arrive at your own conclusions as to where you stand on this debate. And it's important to do that. But as content, that part does not belong in this blog. Instead I'll just tell you about my experience visiting Scientology Pittsburgh.

When I arrive, Shawn is in the back room with a client, so I don't get to meet him face to face.

My time is spent with Robert, who invites me to sit and watch a DVD about the basis of Scientology—an interview conducted with Hubbard in the late 1950's.

These are the main points that I walk away with:
--Hubbard began his work with the intent of discovering the essence of what it means to be human; to find truth(s) common to all humans, across all races, nationalities, and cultures. Hubbard first established Dianetics, a self-help program. Scientology expanded from this, differing from Dianetics in that it addresses not only the mind, but also the spirit.
The goals of Scientology involve:
--making sense of your own life, coming to know yourself, doing one's part to make a better world for all to live in, overcoming obstacles, and finding happiness. Finding and creating a better way of living. Finding happiness through success.
--addresses the value of becoming introverted in order to then become extroverted and express the knowledge of your true self.
In this way, it draws from principles of Buddhism—in reference to the benefit of achieving an awareness in order to gain control over the subconscious. Belief that a subconscious that wanders out of control (called aberration) can be a source of our general and specific anxieties.
--Hubbard does not intend for Scientology to be associated with psychology or psychiatry in any way; he is very against this. He feels psychology puts humans into the category of animals. (It's implied he's referring to his perception that psychology and psychiatry view one's personality as the result of brain-chemical interactions.) Scientology has evolved to instead address the physical being as well as the spiritual being.
--He does not feel strongly that it should be recognized as a religion. "It does not have to be seen that way." But he feels it can be compatible with all religions, and can be a part of all religions.
He also feels that the principles of Scientology have been absorbed into the medical field and are responsible for successes in achieving health. ...although he did not set out to provide medical treatment, and Scientology does not intend to serve this purpose.
I also watch a section on the importance of and ways in which to uphold human rights, and racial and ethnic equality.

After an hour and a half, I thank Robert and head home.

eighty-seventh visit: Sept 4th 2011 Roman Catholicism (service in Spanish)

12:00 noon sunday
The Parish of Saint Regis,
or Parroquia De San Regis

3235 Parkview Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15213

south oakland

See the last section of my post for my 86th visit. My experience for this visit is included there.

eighty-sixth visit: Sept 4th 2011 Hungarian Reformed, Christianity

10:00am sunday

First Hungarian Reformed Church

221 Johnston St, Pittsburgh PA 15207


(My 87th visit, occurring the same day, is described here, as well.)

I've been a little slow at posting these days because the school year has started. I'm not teaching this semester, but instead, embracing continued time to devote to this project and taking another semester of college German. Language classes are one of U of Pitt's strongest points, but unfortunately not mine, so it takes a lot of time to insure that it does not completely kick my butt. Consequently this leaves less time for gatherings than I had last month.

And in honor of starting German classes again, this Sunday's theme is language.

Being completely honest in my posts is an obvious rule of this project. And to be honest, I am definitely experiencing a strong feeling of burn-out today. Or maybe the timing of burnout is psychological... in that if I was doing 200 visits, 85-86 would still feel fresh and full of wonder, and the burnout would begin to happen just before 170. I'm not sure about that. Even with only 100, for me, this is a lot of service-going. Especially at the rate of 4-5 per week, the pace I have been following since the beginning of August. At this point, the burn-out is a feeling that comes
more strongly when attending services of religions that I am more familiar with.
So here's one thing I am thankful for:

For a while now, I've known more or less where my 80th-100th visits will occur; I've already chosen the locations. And while compiling that list, I was pleasantly surprised to find that
Pittsburgh is holding its own in providing a continued source of the unfamiliar for me, up to the end.

Anyway, this Sunday's theme of language is also partly inspired by this article.
I was hoping that going to a Hungarian service and a service in Spanish would keep things fresh... and honestly, I'm not sure it worked.

Well, to be fair, it's partly my fault. At the Hungarian Reformed Church, the service is almost entirely in English.
I forgot to thoroughly look into this. Services in Hungarian start up again in October, when I expect my 100 visits to be done. But the final blessing is in Hungarian, as are words in the stained glass above the main entrance, declaring a divine welcome (photo above). It's too easy to dump them into a web translator, so I'll just let you do that.

Despite the dose of multi-cultures via these visits, I did not experience all that much except that which is to be expected, as far as church-going goes. And maybe knowing what to expect comes from attending 86 services in exactly a year minus a day. If this was visit number three I'd probably talk your ear off.

Just a couple of quick stories from First Hungarian Reformed Church:

This is the first Hungarian Reformed Church in North America. And this is the original congregation (or descendants, friends and neighbors there-of) that still gathers in this same building, all their years of existence. This situation is VERY unusual for this city. This is also the last Hungarian Reformed church left in existence within the city of Pittsburgh proper, although there are a few outside the borders.

Pastor Ilona Komjathy is fifth generation Hungarian, from New Jersey. She used to be the organist when her husband was the minister here. When he died very suddenly of a heart attack fourteen years ago, she went to seminary school, and was ordained.

Reverend Komjathy knows eight languages, including Hebrew. (Judaism's gateway language, of course). "Do you use Hebrew?," I ask. She reads in Hebrew every day. And uses Latin often, too. She claims that it's pretty handy because some of the old Latin texts have never been translated and printed.

It was Charles Brauchler, a member of Smithfield United Church of Christ (originally a German congregation), who suggested that I visit this church. He did not tell me why he recommended it, but I assumed it was because of the building's Historic Landmark status or my cultural interests. Pastor Komjathy said that it also might be due to the historical connection between the two congregations: she says that 125 yrs ago Smithfield helped this church find a pastor.

...And a quick conversation with the woman across the table from me at coffee hour that I won't forget. She works four hours every night at the Hazelwood neighborhood bar. She hates it ("it's just awful") and wants to quit every day, but says the patrons won't let her. The person to previously retire from her spot had the job for fifty years. Could not get out until past retirement age, for the very same reasons.

St Regis, (my 87th visit)
is mentioned in
this article and that's what brought me here.

This service is entirely in Spanish, with a bit of Nigerian from a visiting missionary, which, in turn, is translated into Spanish by the Priest. And my favorite part: musicians playing Spanish guitar, too.

One of the stained glass windows (Joseph's) depicts a prominent Star of David along with iconic carpenter tools.

I have almost no interaction with other worshipers at this service—mostly due to the fact that I become 100% introverted when I become short on sleep. And that I am. Busy, busy life. Almost no interaction, except that while photographing the nearly empty sanctuary before the service starts, I drop my duputa in the center aisle. A young female politely taps me on the shoulder and returns it. Thank you. That would be a minor tragedy not to make it through the project with my gatherings ensemble in tact. Every piece of my attire, once added to my attire, must go to every service.

OK, for feeling burned out I still (predictably) came up with quite a bit to say. And that's quite enough for now...