This past Sunday at the MSBA church service, board member Kevin Rim talked about his experiences last week in Montreal. He visited two churches, the ornate Basilique Notre-Dame and the austere St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. Kevin movingly related his mixed feelings on being in the churches. Notre Dame was over-the-top ostentatious, built to glorify God by building Him a palace. St Joseph’s was a stairway to heaven that put earthly concerns aside and turned Kevin’s thoughts to eternal truths.
Then Kevin’s, and our, thoughts turned to Mary S. Brown-Ames Church. The church was built in 1908, at a time when wealthy industrialists helped finance some of Pittsburgh’s most gorgeous churches: Calvary Episcopal, East Liberty Presbyterian, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and many others. Mary S. Brown-Ames Church, although built on a smaller scale, is as grand as the others. The Browns spared no expense in building this memorial chapel to their beloved mother.
As the church–and the neighborhood–adjusted to post-steel mill contraction, the congregation became so small it now meets in the downstairs community room. In that small space the warmth and love the people have for each other is deeply felt, and the energy, compassion and religious devotion of the new pastor, Jeff Lucaks, challenges us to think, wonder, laugh, learn, and believe.