Sunday, April 17, 2011

fifty-fifth visit: April 22nd 2011 Anglican Christianity, Good Friday

12 noon
Church of the Ascension
Good Friday observance
4729 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15213

Good Friday: in remembrance of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, always observed on the Friday before Easter. This service: a three-hour vigil to commemorate the hours that Jesus hung on the cross. Worshipers choosing to attend any one hour will still experience the full sequence of litany, song, and sermon.

I arrive little late, a bad habit I need to try harder to correct (always too much to do in too little time). Accordingly, before I enter, I vow to stay halfway into the second hour. This will put me behind in this afternoon’s drive to Baltimore, but such is the pattern of my life.

A man tends a fire burning in a large metal tub front of the red entrance doors. This, I later learn, will consume the tiny pieces of paper on which prayers or requests of forgiveness are written by worshipers.

I enter the sanctuary. Sing, listen, draw. I notice that three or four artists are stationed in different corners of the church also drawing—using pastels on large easels, representationally, some with models, figures meant to represent Jesus. Something I could never do.

The Church of the Ascension is an Anglican Church, coming from a Medieval Latin phrase meaning Church of England. The congregation incorporates into their worship, elements of Evangelical, Catholic and Charismatic Christianity... although these are not easily distinguishable to me during my visit, probably partially due to the nature of the service that I attended. Besides, I was completely taken by the building; the architecture. Of all the worship places I have visited so far, I feel most inspired by this structure. Not to say it is the grandest, largest or hands-down the most beautiful, but I just feel that something about it matches my personality more than any of the others. Gothic, I suppose, is the most accurate description, but of course most Pittsburgh churches fall into this category. Setting this one off: the warm to cool gradation of colors in the hanging stained-glass lanterns (Arts and Crafts movement?); the amount of wood above my head; the molded concrete resembling carved stone; the faces peering out behind hanging candelabra-style electric lighting lining the left and right walls; the room’s simple, oblong shape. Some sanctuaries are too big for me to feel comfortable. This one is just right. Size-wise it seems appropriate also partly because it is relatively well-filled for a weekday gathering. Relatively well-filled compared to many services I have attended and with a younger congregation than others, too.

I won’t be in town for Easter Sunday. When starting this project, before I changed my goal to 100 and revoked a deadline, I vowed to do one visit a week. I joked that even if I took Christmas and Easter off, I'd still be able to make 50 visits in a year. I didn’t intend this literally, taking Christmas and Easter off, but such is the case. Missing both of these holidays allows me to duck requests to attend this or that place of worship on such fanfared days. A form of serendipitous fairness, I think.

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