Friday, August 19, 2011

seventy-fourth visit: Aug 14th 2011 African Methodist Episcopal Christianity

11:00am sunday 

Bethel AME Church 

(first AME Church west of Allegheny Mtns, 

& oldest black congregation in Pittsburgh) 

2720 Webster Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15219

hill district 

I admit that am surprised that I am still discovering things, 74 visits into this project called gatherings. Realized during this visit: part of why I do this is to seek out evidence of passion. Expression of passion. Here in Pittsburgh. The kind that has nothing to do with football. 

Many times I don't find this during my visits. But Bethel AME does not disappoint; at the first AME Church west of Allegheny Mtns, the oldest black congregation in Pittsburgh, passion has not dwindled.

"Something came over me this morning... I said something came over... Can somebody say 'Amen'?" Now I know why I am drawn to call and response. I need to witness passion to feel human. And I can't make art without it. I need to make art to feel human. 

Before the service begins, Chris comes up behind me. "You are Becky? I apologize that the staff and clergy did not get your email yet. I run the website. It was just now forwarded to them." No worries: more my timing than his, my last-minute email. 

It's refreshing (and rather surprising) to find someone who cares so conscientiously about this as to approach me.

And others approach and welcome me, full-heartedly. The sun is not the only emitter of warmth this morning.

Do I fully agree with all that is said this morning? If I said yes, I would not be doing this project. And this project would not mean anything without such moments.

Music is a huge part of the service here. Choir at front alter. Electric organ hums at will. Boy no older than ten years sits behind a drum set. Not just sits. He's pretty amazing. 

Nick Cave began singing in an Anglican church boys' choir. And who else? All of Sly Stone. Otis Redding. My rocking hair-stylist in Portland, at her father's services. She's pretty special, too.

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