Tuesday, August 9, 2011

seventy-first visit: Aug 7th 2011 United Methodist

11:00am sunday

Calvary United Methodist Church

971 Beech Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15233

north side, allegheny west

Here: Outside, gargoyles eye warnings to me from the mismatched spires—one spire soars twice as tall as the other, otherwise the building's facade is symmetrical. Inside, Louis Comfort Tiffany windows. The largest completed by Tiffany at the time. The figures on these windows are astounding. With full turn-of-the-century romance. This church, like the last, is famous, and all of the above is info that I had heard before arriving. Fully confirmed.

I arrive early, with a little time to kill. Take a minute to call a friend on the front steps; a quick hello. I start to photograph. Two people on separate occasions see me shooting the Tiffany windows and say, "You really should come back at 4:30. That's when the sun is at the right spot so that the figures seem to be pulling forward from the window-plane, floating right here in the sanctuary, in our same space." I hope I can, someday.

I love that it's impossible to dial an exposure and correctly capture the values of the entire window. These windows defy reproduction. Must be seen in person. Visual art has a soul that can't be experienced except in its presence.

I settle in for the service. Curiously, the reading is the same as my previous visit (the 8am service at Emmanuel Episcopal), and sermon again is on doubt.

After the service Ellie invites me to lunch, served in the next room. It has been prepared and by children in cooking class: stuffed french toast, egg mini-omelettes, absolutely delicious and even vegetarian, too.

Meanwhile, Bob introduces himself to me. We talk about a lot of things including...
-His take on why congregation sizes are dwindling. Long story short: Immigrants gathered in their churches b/c they missed home and craved the comfort of being with others from their home-country. The next generation was different in this respect and spoke English.)

-Maintenance: The worship-place was symbolic of ethnic pride, and members were more willing to donate personal funds to the maintenance of places of worship rather than spend it on the upkeep of or purchase of a new home for themselves, amongst other things. Priorities changed. Or some feel that the families initially were pressured and convinced to donate to their religious institution, and over time they became less vulnerable to this pressure. "They became smart, began to make more of their own decisions," Bob says.

-He confesses that he chases worship places, too. (see 67th visit, first paragraph) While driving, he will spontaneously pull over, convince his reluctant wife to join him, hop out to see if it's open, run inside, explore.

Phew. Seven visits in nine days. Lately the more I do, the more I want to do. For me, this is normal and expected in art-making. A friend of mine comments that he feels it's also common in religious practice. In my case, which is the source of the drive? Here, making artwork and going to service are the same things; teasing the two apart for an answer is impossible. But truth be told: I never felt this way when I was going to the same place of worship every week.

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