Wednesday, September 7, 2011
eighty-sixth visit: Sept 4th 2011 Hungarian Reformed, Christianity
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...