Originally created 09/12/98

Religion briefs



Majestic pipe organ needs a sanctuary

PITTSBURGH -- For Sale: A 93-year-old organ with 1,200 pipes and an intricately carved oak facade. Value: $400,000.

The sale by the Mount Washington United Methodist Church may not be so easy. Most churches that want and can accommodate such a grand instrument already have one. Others willing to install it may have trouble finding someone to play it. Music school enrollment in organ programs is down, church pay is low and the hours are long.

With that in mind, parishioner John Burton said, "The organ is being offered for sale for a very nominal price, which largely reflects the cost of recent improvements."

In 1994, the church merged with the Fairhaven United Methodist Church, which has an electric organ, and began dismantling the Mount Washington edifice. Already gone is a large stained-glass window and some vintage upholstered chairs and miscellaneous items peddled at a flea market.

"There's no doubt in my mind we'll sell it," Burton said of the pipe organ. "It's just a question of where and which price."

Industrialist Andrew Carnegie helped pay for the pipe organ after the church's original structure was destroyed in March 1903.

Loyola University gets saint's bones

CHICAGO -- Brown-tinged bone fragments from a Roman Catholic saint who died in Spain more than 500 years ago are on display in a silver reliquary at a Loyola University chapel.

The body of San Diego de Alcala, who died in 1463, is preserved in a casket under glass in a cathedral in Alcala, Spain. Loyola was chosen for the saint's first known relics outside of Spain because the university plans a conference next June on the "Complutensian Polyglot," a pioneering four-language Bible published in 1517 in Alcala.

The practice of saving relics, like the two bone fragments from San Diego's shoulder, dates to the Middle Ages, "a more earthy time," when people were much less squeamish than they are now, according to the Rev. Richard Saudis, vice chancellor of the Chicago Archdiocese.

Relics can include such things as bones, skin, clothing, crosses, objects used for penance, a letter written by the saint or holy person.

San Diego's bone fragments are at Loyola's Madonna della Strada Chapel. San Diego was a monk who nursed sick friars at an infirmary in Rome and cared for the poor and hungry in Spain.

Food for the soul?

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- A food court serving breakfast and lunch is part of the Crystal Cathedral's expansion plans, and the Rev. Robert H. Schuller hopes people will come to his church for a bit of religion and repast.

"When the tourists come here, we want to feed their tummies and their souls," spokeswoman Claudia Holloway says. "Now people who are curious can stay longer and break bread together ...."

About 250,000 people a year visit the Orange County landmark, and officials expect even more when the 50,000-square-foot exhibition center and food court are completed in 2000.

Benjamin J. Hubbard, chairman of the department of comparative religion at California State University, said the church is blurring the secular and the ecclesiastical.

"It smacks of the mall mentality gone crazy," Hubbard said. "You shop for religion and then swing by the food court."

18th century chapel welcomes 20th century faithful

BROGUE, Pa. -- The old Guinston Presbyterian Church, built in the Revolutionary War era, comes to life four times each summer and at Christmas.

The services at the old building with its original pulpit carry on a tradition for many families, said Vernon Nemges of Windsor.

"Our grandparents worshipped here, and now our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren do," he said.

The church, built in 1773 in Brogue, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia, was restored 18 years ago with a federal grant by the congregation at the newer church just a few feet away. Worshippers say the small building's rich history is a source of pride.

The exterior walls are stone pierced by arched windows. Inside, white paint flakes from plaster walls, and heavy wood beams support the roof.

Roughhewn posts prop up the balcony level, where slaves once sat. The doors were built to accommodate horses during times of trouble or cold weather.

Parishioners said they enjoy the infrequent services in the old church because of the acoustics. They say their singing fills the small space without accompaniment.

"It has a completely different sound ... inside these walls," said Beverly Kyle of Windsor. She and her husband, Dave, were married in the old church. "We just think about all the history and all the people here before us," she said. "We like old things and what better place than a church built in the 1700s."