Katie and I visited a "coffee house" in the basement of an old church in Sharon last evening, Bethlehem Presbyterian Church. I told her of the last time I was there. My cousin Paula sang on Christmas Eve while I was in high school. We skipped our own Christmas Eve service to support Paula. Paula really trusted the minister at that time. But I couldn't remember how Paula got started at this church. She was married to Fred at the time, an ex-priest.
A man with gray hair still styled like the 70's, like Tony Orlando, unloaded a flat box of Plaza Pizza from his car when we pulled into the parking lot. When my mom was a little girl she lived in this neighborhood, we were next to the Wengler school, which is abandoned now. Telling Katie all these stories. Like Aunt June being in a school play because this school had a stage, she sang about where did her puppy dog go? at the end, shouted out, "Here, Tippy" The name of their dog. Everyone called the dogs by their first name with family surnames. Mom felt it was a big hit. Pride filled her as her dad was one of the few fathers who attended on his lunch break.
I looked at the man and thought, I know him. I'm also relating to Katie how Elaine and Paula lived not too far from this area and as kids we just walked around while parents visited on Sunday afternoons. The man is rushing around, but says,"Come on in." We were early because of being bored at home, waiting to go.
The red haired young man, Dave, from our church who is performing, of course, is there. Katie is in Bible study with him and his friend, Nick, also at the table. We pull up chairs, then I jump up to look at old pictures. I saw my friend's step dad in one of the photos on the wall and I'm pretty sure I pick out the pastor with whom Paula felt so comfortable relating. Back at the table, Katie asked me about the pictures, then the gray hair man invited the people to get pizza while it is hot.
I'm so excited because it is Plaza Pizza. I love the doughy crust and sweet pepper sauce. I grabbed a piece and I asked the man, if he remembered me. It is Albert, who was married to Elaine and it all came back to me why Paula came to this church.
Albert and Elaine married in this church. It was a quiet wedding, since Aunt Eleanor was dying from cancer, lung cancer, never smoking, but working in her parents' bar all her life. We didn't go. Just the immediate family.
Al with a constant smile on his face exclaimed,"Wow, that was another world!" At first I was shy to say anything because of the divorce, yet that has been so long. Elaine actually lived with another man longer than she was married to Al. Al and Elaine had a girl together, Audra. She followed her dream of being a marine biologist, working in Charleston, SC at the aquarium. She keeps in touch with Patrick, Paula's son, who still lives in Dunwoody,Georgia, near Atlanta.
Al performed and sung with a woman who got this coffee house started. Then the main performer's uncle, also from our church, accompanied himself on guitar for four songs.
The young man then is set to sing with his guitar. Several from our church arrived to support Dave.
Al told me on Sunday, attendance was eleven.The coffee house is to reach out to the neighborhood. One man walked and stayed the whole time for the event. The congregation is waiting for their money to run out, in a year or two. The presbytery owns the building. A plan is evolving to allow another congregation that is meeting in Masury, Ohio, but still in the Shenango Presbytery to have the building. Al actually is excited. This congregation is the first new church in the presbytery in over one hundred years, the church before that? Yes, Bethlehem.
Bethlehem had previously been the Hungarian Reformed Church, Al told me. The old building is still in Farrell on the corner of Fruit and Darr. When the Hungarian men, the grandfathers from off the boat, decided to name this new church, they chose Bethlehem- no Hungarian in the new name. Al felt that was saying they wanted it to be an American church. The congregation that will move into this building is multicultural. I may also add they are pentecostal, as well. Animation, excitement filled Al's continence as he asked, "Dare I say this is Divine?"
I affirmed Al, he had the right audience with me.
Before talking to Al about this merger, I sat at the table, mourning another fading branch of the Lord's Body. My heart goes to dying fellowships. "Lord," I asked in my heart,"how can Your Body grow? I want to help, somehow."
Now, I know, a plan is in place and I can support Cana(that is how it is spelled on their flyer) Coffee House. The basement is opened every second and fourth Tuesday evening at seven PM. I may not make it every time, but I hope to experience the different music and fellowship at least once a month. I can eat up my Plaza Pizza, too.