Sunday, September 18, 2011

ninety-first visit: Sept 18th 2011 Presbyterian

11:00am sunday
Third Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh
5701 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15232

As I begin my final ten visits, many of these ten are chosen for reasons that reflect my hope to include all paths of faith that meet regularly in Pittsburgh. Though this is my goal, I will most likely inadvertently (sadly) miss one or more...

But there's another aim in these last ten.
Though I've tried to keep quiet about this, it now makes sense to state clearly that I was raised Presbyterian. And Pittsburgh is known as the "Presbyterian City." 160 Presby churches in all, I learn today. Number-wise, I could do a whole project and a half on just this denomination and still have ten left over. Crazy. In honor of the two points above, in these last ten visits, I'm going to include a count-down of Presbyterian churches: this the Third Presbyterian, the Second (in Wilkinsburg) and the First, downtown. And amongst these three, I'll interweave faiths with which I'm comparatively unfamiliar.

Something else I learned today: This the Third Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh was not named so because it was the third of its kind established in Pgh. Instead, its name comes from the fact that the church was initially located downtown on Third and Ferry Streets. None-the-less, this congregation first convened in 1833, which still makes it pretty old. (The oldest congregation in Pgh proper is here.)

The building I attend today is the congregation's third home, constructed 1897-1903. Totally worth seeing. Gorgeous. What I love about the architecture: French Gothic with no apologies. Pointed arches curve and reverse curve to extended points throughout. Varnished carved oak butts up next to carved stone to the right and left of the front alter—at the start of right and left wings, lofting right and left balconies. Six Tiffany windows, and the others: nothing to brush off in the least, either. Absolute romantic drama in these figures. I look up and know this: I want to wear these costumes in this world where garments float. In these exact colors. Where extended wings double angel's heights.

And the intricate turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau patterning makes my drawing time this morning a true mental and visual meditation.

The sermon: Walk by faith; not by sight.
Life is full of hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Or moments of the unexpected. To anticipate and be prepared for the unexpected.

You know, I have to say that my life does not seem that boring to me. If it were, it would be 100 percent my fault because I'm in charge of thinking up my projects. (Aren't we all?)
Every so often there might be a boring part, and when there is, I'm fully responsible for shifting it.

I remember visiting a friend of mine in NYC (freelance commercial artist, writer, adjunct professor; known her for 20 years) who commented: "My goal is to live an interesting life." I think that this shared sentiment drives most of the life-decisions that I make. I'm lucky to have the freedom... but I think most of us could find a way if it's made a priority. But maybe not everyone wants this. Who is to say. One thing for sure: we certainly don't have control over the really exciting, unexpected parts of life. And certainly not over the moments of terror. The need to sort out such moments, to make sense of them, is as common as being human, and the means we choose are as varied as our personalities. ...through pre-established or self-realized philosophies, by external or internal manner... or perhaps in a studio.

After the service, Preston (director of music) kindly spends some time talking with me. Turns down the lights to enhance the photos I shoot. Brings me a booklet about the windows. Shows me the attached chapel, where services were first held until the main sanctuary's construction was complete. Thank you. Countdown has begun.

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