Monday, August 1, 2011
sixty-sixth visit: July 31st 2011 Presbyterian
Oakmont Presbyterian Church
415 Pennsylvania Ave, Oakmont PA 15139
As mentioned in my last post, in order to convince myself that these first couple of weeks back in Pittsburgh are simply an extension of my travels in Germany and the Czech Republic, I am choosing to visit worship-places with elements that carry over from my trip.
There's a backstory to this one. In fall of 2010, shortly after beginning gatherings I received a text from a friend, Dave English. His family owned a funeral home in the Pittsburgh area, so he's well-versed in religious culture here. He sent a short list of visit-suggestions, including this comment: "Oakmont Presby has a cool bell tower." The sentence holds significance to me for several reasons. 1) I have an unfinished body of artwork concerning a story about a bell-ringer. 2) E.A. Poe's poem The Bells —sharing a fascination with the range of the historic purposes of bells and their range of sonic expression. In additional to this, I'm simply enchanted by church bells' massive physicality and that of the gears and ropes that make them move; I'm enthralled by bell-ringers, and also the bellmakers in Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev.
In Prague, my husband and I climbed to the top of St. Vitus Cathedral's bell tower. The 462 year-old spiraling stone staircase, the bells, the gears, the ropes, a window-peek into the ringer's quarters (old wooden table, chair, stacks of books) and finally the view from the top—an experience I won't forget. 96.65 meters, or 317 feet, or more than one football-field-length in height.
This morning I wondered if I could obtain permission to climb Oakmont Presbyterian Church's bell tower. I remember as a child, climbing the stairs of the tower at the church my family belonged to. I remember ringing the bell, my feet lifting from the ground on the up-swings. No such experience today in Oakmont. The only access was through a ceiling panel in the church's entryway. A far-fetched fantasy.
I think gatherings is a little far-fetched for Oakmont, too. Following the service, I introduce myself to the associate pastor. I could tell from his reaction that he was a little uncertain of me. Unexpected ideas can be a little frightening to some, I guess. Sometimes my ideas scare me, too. That's when I know they're worth doing.