On Wednesday, February 15, a representative of the Department of City Planning informed a group of church leaders that the City of Pittsburgh would like to eliminate all parking along both sides of Ellsworth Avenue and install bike lanes instead.
- First Unitarian Church is a healthy and thriving religious community that contributes not only to the well-being of our parishioners and their families, but also to the life of the community of Pittsburgh.
- Through public concerts, recitals, and art exhibitions, we contribute to the cultural life of our city.
- Through our social justice witness and our humanitarian service work, we promote justice, equity, and compassion in our city.
- By providing space for gatherings of twelve-step recovery groups, for meetings of community groups, for weddings and memorial services, and for the needs of a variety of other groups, we contribute to the personal well-being of countless individuals and families.
- And by taking the initiative to install a $500,000 geothermal heating and cooling system, it should be evident that we, too, are doing our part to promote a more environmentally sustainable Pittsburgh.
First Unitarian Church is an important destination for hundreds of people each week. While it is true that many people pass by our church on their way to other places, it is not fair, nor is it in the best interest of the larger community of Pittsburgh, to have our church sacrificed just so that other people can more easily get to other destinations. Along with the needs of people who pass by our church, the needs of people for whom our church is a significant destination need to be respected and accommodated.
The proposal to eliminate parking along both sides of Ellsworth Avenue is an example of mechanical or inhumane pursuit of an ideology. The representative of the Department of City Planning was so caught up in technical talk of multi-modal traffic and street width and efficiency that there was a complete lack of awareness of how the proposal would affect the lives of the actual human beings here at First Unitarian Church who have done so much over so many years to build up our religious community into the amazing religious institution it is today.
I enjoy riding a bicycle just as much as the next person. But to speak plainly, the values that we promote, the relationships that we build, the social justice witness that we offer, the care that we provide for those experiencing trouble, the children whose eager and thoughtful spirits we nurture, the lives that we celebrate at memorial services, the marriages that we celebrate at weddings, the remarkable cultural events we offer – if I had to choose between our sacred purposes and bicycle riding, I would definitely choose the sacred purposes that we promote here at First Unitarian Church. The scenario where we have lots of people whizzing along Ellsworth Avenue on their bicycles while our congregation has dwindled to fifty people rattling around in this big old building is a sad scenario indeed.
It may be that some sort of compromise can we worked out. For example, I don’t think that our church would object to bicycle lanes during weekday business hours, so long as parking would be available along Ellsworth Avenue on weekdays after 6:00 p.m. and throughout the day on weekends.
The representative of the Department of City Planning said that a public hearing will take place sometime later this spring. We are pretty good at community organizing here at First Unitarian Church, so once the public hearing is scheduled, let’s all show up and share our thoughts and feelings and aspirations.
See you in Church!
P.S. Last month I listed several ministry teams that help provide hospitality and build community at our church, including the Connections Team, the Covenant Group Team, the Pastoral Care Team, the Sanctuary Preparation Team, and the Ushers and Greeters Team. Here is one more:
Community Table Team. The Community Table Team coordinates our refreshments after church on Sunday mornings. Shelley Ross leads this team which includes Kim Freed, David Green, Lois Hurt, MR Kelsey, Alice Lieb, Kathy Miller, Lynne Porterfield, Tracy Safran, Alison Schwartz, and Irma Tani.