Thursday, September 15, 2011
ninetieth visit: Sept 11th 2011 non-denominational Christianity, Baptist & Pentacostal influence
Zoë Christian Community Center
555 N. Braddock St, Pittsburgh PA 15208
Three months before gatherings began, I drove by this little white building called Zoë, and took mental note. A year and three months later, as I'm scheduling the last ten of my 100 visits I notice that there are only nine places of worship that fall into the category: "must be included or my project will seem amiss." These are nine places that can't be skipped because they are either grand, historical, central to the identity of this city, or of a belief-not-yet-experienced. This leaves room for one wildcard spot. Something told me to go to Zoë. Not only because Zoë is the name of our dog, and also the name of a good friend's girlfriend whom I know to be pretty special; but also because this one-room church would be my anchor, serving ground the other nine places of worship: the grand, historical or quite unfamiliar.
I enter and this is what I find:
Seven adults (including me), four children (including the drummer), plus the keyboardist, and the minister.
Eight or nine narrow rows of fabric covered chairs—the kind you might find in a business's conference room. Arranged on a particle-board floor. A right and a left aisle.
A crocheted runner hanging over the front of the wooden pulpit.
Zoë is filled with a gentleness and honesty that complements my mood this morning.
Celebrations and concerns:
The keyboardist speaks. She lost three people close to her this week, but has not failed to find peace.
A young girl announces she is moving and she is "sad about it."
From the pulpit, the Pastor pauses, and kindly asks me to introduce myself.
The potential of a tiny mustard seed.
Also: believing in things you don't fully understand. I talked to a student this week who says he has never felt so excited about the ideas that are taking shape in his paintings, but he has no clue as to where they are coming from, or what the images mean. And he does not want to know yet. Exploration to arrive at discovery.
The sermon is also about finding comfort and experiencing safety in faith.
Do I sometimes enter my studio seeking these same things? Yes, when the world keeps telling me no. And when it seems people are on my side, I enter to uproot what I think I already know; to escape comfort.
There is no mention of 9/11 on this the 10th anniversary.
After the service, the pastor approaches me to talk further.
He wants to know where I am from, beyond Highland Park. I talk about the west coast; he has a son there. I mention Baltimore; he has a son in DC.
I find out that he is renovating this building himself.
He hopes I come back to visit again.
He says he and his wife would like to take me out to lunch sometime.