We seek an experienced rector who has demonstrated excellence in leading a parish, in preaching that shows the Bible’s relevance to our world today, and in collaborating with parishioners and other partners in the community for social justice. Our new rector should encourage us to serve one another and our broader community as well as to grow spiritually. We want someone who will help our parish attract more families with children at home and greater diversity, and, especially for these purposes, explore with us new approaches in liturgy and programming while keeping the loyalty of older parishioners. Overall, our hope is to find a rector who will guide us in the way of love, for one another and for all people without exception.
Our mission statement declares, “We are a Christian community of compassion building bridges through faith and inquiry, service and celebration.”
The Church of the Redeemer has a rich history of diversity (racial, economic, and sexual). Parishioners of all ages are active at Redeemer. We are open to all and strive to make everyone welcome. We support the inclusion of all committed couples to full sacramental participation in the Episcopal Church.
Our parishioners are warm, friendly, and genuinely concerned with one another. Our congregation is curious, questioning, and we value education. The best fit for our parish is a rector who is open and always learning.
A focus on fiscal responsibility is important. We need to operate in the black and to build our endowment.
We have a history of social justice and outreach ministries, and we recognize that we need to share our time, our money and ourselves with others. We have expanded our outreach program and become more systematic in our approach. It is important that we maintain our relationship with our Jewish neighbors and St. Edmund’s Academy, an independent private school so close that we share a driveway.
At Redeemer, we take the Bible seriously, but not literally. We know that God works within us and through us, but we are skeptical of emotionalism and impulse. We know that God gave us reason and we believe that God blesses our use of it. We seek a Rector who can teach us in this spirit, who will reason with us through our doubts and who will share our joys in God’s creation.
Pittsburgh is a vibrant, diverse metropolis that is annually highly ranked as one of the most livable cities. Rivers and hills separate our many neighborhoods, but many bridges bind our city together. At the confluence of where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers form the Ohio River at the Golden Triangle, historically and currently Pittsburgh is in a desirable geographic location.
Founded as a frontier settlement for explorers and traders and eventually becoming the nation’s leading steel producer, Pittsburgh now is a world-renowned higher education and medical center. In transitioning from its industrial heritage, Pittsburgh undertook Renaissance I and II, both civic projects, to clean the air, revitalize regions of the city, and develop waterways for recreation. The shift from heavy to service industry was not always smooth, but the city’s revival occurred while still housing the corporate headquarters for PNC Financial Services, PPG Industries, H. J. Heinz Company, U.S. Steel, and the American headquarters of Bayer.
Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods connected by bridges and outdoor stairs. The city is composed of the downtown area and four main areas around it. Downtown centers in the Golden Triangle, which hosts government buildings, the convention center, and a cultural district, which is a 14-block area along the Allegheny River, with theaters, restaurants, and art venues. Recent real estate developments have made the downtown a more residential area. Major cultural institutions, world class museums, and professional sports enrich the region. Pittsburgh is home to the world renowned Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Quantum Theatre, Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Carnegie Museum of Art, Mattress Factory (contemporary art museum), Andy Warhol Museum, Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, the August Wilson Center, City Theater, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, as well as the Steelers, the Pirates, and the Penguins. City, county, and state parks and green spaces are bountiful in the area.
The Church of the Redeemer is located in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood approximately four miles east of the Golden Triangle. It is adjacent to the Oakland section of the city, where the main universities and medical centers are located. A mix of residences and business streets, Squirrel Hill is a vital and energetic neighborhood. Downtown is mere minutes away by bicycle, automobile, or available public transportation. Housing in the neighborhood is divided equally between owner-occupied and rental units. The church property is on the western edge of the Squirrel Hill business district, neighboring a private K-8 school and the Jewish Community Center. Well-maintained houses and apartment buildings along many tree lined streets characterize the area near the church.
The East End of Pittsburgh is a religiously and racially diverse area. There are fifteen synagogues located in the Squirrel Hill community, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist congregations. The East End is also home to a variety of Christian denominations, including Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Church of God, and Church of the Brethren. Asian families, many of whom are associated with Pittsburgh’s educational institutions, have recently immigrated to Squirrel Hill. They join the historic Jewish population, as well as Christians and those of other faiths and races. To help immigrants in our community and beyond, Church of the Redeemer members lead several conversation groups for English learners.
Racial tensions do exist in Pittsburgh and the East End. The Tree of Life synagogue, the site of the recent massacre, is a few blocks from the Church of the Redeemer, and Pittsburgh efforts to reach out to this community have become well known. Support for Black Lives Matter and concern about the racial issues that have divided this city have become a mission of the religious, educational, and social institutions. Redeemer has acted to bridge the racial divide.
With the help of our Outreach Committee, the Church of Redeemer has been active in Social Justice causes in our community and the Greater Pittsburgh area. We have contributed to our Diocese by chairing the Social Justice and Outreach Committee and the Commission on Race and Reconciliation. Our church has been a member of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN). We co-sponsored vigils after the Tree of Life shooting and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and panels on race relations particularly as they pertain to Pittsburgh and police reform.
History of Redeemer
The Church of the Redeemer has been blessed with a line of strong rectors who have left a distinctive imprint on the lives and ministries of our church. Looking back, it is clear we are a congregation that embraces its traditions while continuing to adapt and change. What has remained constant through the years is:
- the appreciation of and commitment to liturgy and music;
- the continuous formation of all parishioners in Christ’s teachings;
- a celebration of our diversity in all of its manifestations;
- dedication to outreach, and
- an empowered lay ministry blessed by a number of dedicated and talented parishioners.
The Church of the Redeemer is a microcosm affected by the shifting demographic forces of the Pittsburgh region and the erosion of mainline churches worldwide. Forces within the diocese and the congregation have accelerated these changes. As with many congregations, our numbers have fluctuated since our founding, with a noticeable and precipitous decline since the late 1990s. Today, we have stabilized as a smaller congregation, focused and energetic in our pursuit of evocative worship, personal spiritual growth, and Christian living. We continue to look for better ways to share this energy with others.
The Church of the Redeemer started in a home in 1900, primarily as a Sunday School. In 1902, the congregation moved into a temporary chapel built by Archdeacon John Wightman, who became the first rector in 1903, when the parish was officially recognized. He led in organizing a choir, altar guild, women’s guild and initial outreach programs. The first church on its current Forbes site was built in 1913 by Reverend Robert Nelson Meade, who also planned an expansion completed under Reverend Hugh Clark, our rector from 1936-1969. During Reverend Clark’s tenure, Ascension Academy began meeting in Redeemer’s parish house in the early 1950s. In 1952 it became St. Edmund’s Academy and in 1955 moved next door, with Redeemer’s rector as chaplain. St. Edmund’s became an independent non-sectarian school in the 1980’s but still uses the church for their weekly chapel service.
The last 50 years have seen a growth in outreach and collaboration with our neighboring community. In the 1980’s, under the leadership of Reverend Bill Coates, Redeemer members protested the declining steel industry’s treatment of their workers, and helped to found the interfaith East End Cooperative Ministry. We still donate to the EECM food pantry and serve one meal a month at their homeless shelter. Reverend Roger Ferlo, our rector from 1987 to 1993, gave intelligent and powerful sermons with inspiring liturgy and music. He encouraged education, outreach, and youth ministry, and extended warmth to all. We welcomed LGBTQ members, helped found the Shepherd Wellness Center, a support community for people living with HIV/AIDS, and opened our space for the holding of AA meetings. During his rectorship our membership increased markedly.
After Roger Ferlo left for St. Luke in the Fields in New York City, Redeemer called its first female rector, Rev. Cynthia Bronson Sweigert. She increased involvement with EECM, developed and extended interfaith dialogues between Christian, Jewish, and Islamic congregations, and helped to form the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network. She arranged a standing-room only memorial service for Matthew Shepard and regularly hosted Dignity (LGBTQ Catholics). As our then Bishop Duncan formed the Anglican Network of parishes that would split from the Episcopal Church’s inclusion of openly gay clergy, Redeemer was the first in the nation to refuse, by a unanimous vote at our annual meeting. Rev. Bronson Sweigart tried to keep the lines of communication with the Bishop and his followers open, but these were difficult times and they took a toll on her energy and our membership. Nevertheless, during her service, we undertook a successful building campaign, accomplished significant renovations, and started a midweek worship service at Heritage Shadyside, a nursing and rehabilitation center.
Under our most recent rector, Michael Foley, we continued the outreach and collaboration efforts mentioned above. We expanded our music program, as will be discussed in the next section. We cooperated with the Jewish Family and Community Services to help immigrants with applications for citizenship, and began conversation groups for English learners. After a gunman killed eleven people at the nearby Tree of Life Synagogue, we worked together with Temple Sinai, near us, and Sixth Presbyterian, across the street, to hold a vigil, and we also held vigils, both collaborative and solo, in response to excessive police violence. About 5 years ago, we began the Great Issues series, semi-annual forums bringing in experts and widely publicized outside our congregation. The first panels discussed race in Pittsburgh in regard to police-community relations, housing equity, and education. Later topics have included the criminal justice system, LGBTQIA+ issues, and immigration.
Redeemer continues to be a welcoming community for those new to Pittsburgh, for those looking for a new congregation, for those no longer wanting to be unchurched, and for those who want a congregation that has advocated for LGBTQ persons in the spiritual life of the church – all of these groups have found a home at Redeemer. Today, our diverse congregation has a strong and stable core that is hospitable to new members.
We are currently a small but committed congregation, who although challenged in many ways over the last two decades, have combined our efforts to ensure Redeemer’s lively presence in our lives and those of our surrounding community. We’ve struggled with questions of programming and scheduling priorities, sometimes with part-time or interim clergy and always with volunteer parishioners who may be stretched thin. But we have emerged with a strong sense of the important place Redeemer holds in our lives. We are confident that we will continue to both maintain what is the best from Redeemer’s traditions and remain flexible for new challenges ahead.
Worship and Music
The congregation strongly believes that worship is the heart of Redeemer’s life – it brings our family and church lives into one as we celebrate the liturgy, the word, and the sacrament together. When these combine, under one roof, it is a powerful and positive experience. For us, liturgy is a corporate experience, with few mere pew sitters but many who are actively engaged in various worship ministries.
Redeemer celebrates the Eucharist twice on Sunday, at 8:00 a.m., and at 10:30 a.m. (the principal service). Rite II is the parish norm, especially at 10:30 a.m., with Rite I being used at the 8:00 a.m. service and at other times on a seasonal basis. Redeemer also offers midweek worship in the church (now online), as well as weekly services at Heritage Shadyside, a multi-level care facility in the neighborhood.
The liturgical service at Redeemer is extremely important to our congregation, with people coming to our church from varied religious or even non-religious backgrounds. Folks report that they sense a spiritual community or a spiritual presence, and they want the rector to make the Gospel relevant to people’s lives through clarity in preaching We have been blessed by preachers who refer to the Biblical readings for each week, who take note of what is happening in the world or in Pittsburgh or who relate a poem or book to the text for the day. Sunday services include both a formal gospel procession and the casual return of the children from church school and an extremely friendly, very mobile Sign of the Peace, as congregation, priest, choir, acolytes, and organist circulate throughout the nave, joyfully welcoming and greeting one another.
Most of our members are called to serve in some particular ministry of the church. Lectors, chalice bearers, greeters, and members of the Altar Guild all contribute to the fullness of Redeemer’s worship. Parishioners of all ages and sexes serve in each role. At Redeemer, the liturgy is truly “the work of the people.”
Redeemer has a strong tradition of liturgical music, which the congregation wants to continue. Parishioners sing from both the pews and the choir stalls, and some play instruments, willingly and enthusiastically. They are joined on a regular basis with choral scholars. In addition to leading the liturgy, the choir recently has performed newly composed musical anthems and services by local composers, as well as by our former organist-choirmaster. Our current organist-choirmaster is a specialist in French liturgical and organ music who regularly improvises on hymn tunes as a Postlude.
A group of donors known as Friends of Music at Redeemer was formed in 2008 to support musical activities complementary to the church’s music budget. This includes choral scholars and the annual Bach’s Birthday concerts presented each March by an ensemble of early music specialists conducted by a member of the parish.
A welcome addition to the music program is the First Friday Concert series, presented in collaboration with the Osher programs at Carnegie Mellon University. Past programs have included chamber music, and vocal and keyboard recitals by members of the local musical community and invited guests.
Ours is a parish that adheres to tradition while we respect each other’s broad differences in background, belief and lifestyle. There is a combination of formality and intimacy that can be felt in the church building itself and in the congregation which gathers there to participate in liturgies as we share our lives together as an Episcopal family. With Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, and the University of Pittsburgh all nearby, students and faculty from these institutions attend. Ours is an academically and intellectually curious congregation.
The parishioners at Redeemer are a varied group that includes “cradle Episcopalians” of all ages as well as many who were raised in other denominations, all of whom have found Redeemer to be a place for those who question and search for individual meaning in their faith. It is a place where gay and lesbian members are welcome. The vestry for years had a teenage junior member; men serve on the Altar Guild, and there is a long history of supporting and encouraging both female and male parishioners who seek the priesthood. As part of our commitment to social justice, we have congregants serving the diocese through its Commission on Race and Reconciliation, its Social Justice and Outreach Committee, and its Commission on Ministry.
Any description of parish life would be incomplete without mentioning the special place that children have at Redeemer. Our recent rectors have frequently involved children in the services. The church school has provided a central focus for the children and young people in our church family. While the number of youth participants has fallen, the spirit of participation found at Redeemer is evident in the enthusiasm and involvement of the adults who teach, organize, and interact with them.
Because we like to be together and eat together, we have a long tradition of parish brunches, picnics, and Home Eucharist dinners. The scene at coffee hour after the 10:30 service is noisy, mildly chaotic and reflects the sense of pleasure at being together. While animated discussions take place over coffee and bagels, the children play underfoot and are unobtrusively tended by all the adults present. This sense of vibrant community is an essential, valued and carefully nurtured quality of our parish life. We are warm and friendly, and we help each other out, whether it is tutoring in computer use or providing meals to parishioners who are seriously ill.
Because parish outreach and social concerns are vital to the Church of the Redeemer and are integral to our mission and the call of Christ to help those who are the least among us, our Outreach Ministry has grown over the past six years.
Our most enduring outreach program is with East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM), dating back to 1983, when Redeemer joined a consortium of 40 churches and synagogues in the East End of Pittsburgh. Today, EECM is a large and vibrant organization, housed in its new facility. One Sunday a month Redeemer parishioners prepare and serve a hot meal for the approximately 60 guests in EECM’s shelter. In addition, we collect food and dry goods for the EECM Food Pantry each Sunday. As a congregation, Redeemer participates regularly in a wide range of anti-hunger campaigns. In addition to our work at EECM, we also serve as a water station for the CROP Walk Against Hunger and participated in the diocesan Race against Hunger campaign.
Discovering that Heritage Shadyside, a residential health care facility for people who no longer require hospitalization but need 24-hour nursing and other personal care services, had limited spiritual or religious services, we began to offer a midweek service there. We currently provide a weekly Wednesday Eucharist or prayer service for residents. This outreach is shared by a few licensed lay ministers under the direction of the rector.
Redeemer has hosted a number of educational events about social justice issues which drew people outside the parish. Topics have included, among others, whether war now can ever be just, the background of the Paris Climate Conference, and the consequence of our overuse of plastics. More often, we have had a speaker or a film during or after our Sunday coffee hour. This most regularly occurs in connection with Black History Month, but we have also shown films and had discussions on topics ranging from world hunger to voting rights to transgender people in the church.
Recently we began a new outreach to the broad community with panels on important issues of the day, planned long in advance by a committed core group. The Great Issues Forum is now in its fifth year and has presented such topics as Race in Pittsburgh: Police-Community Relations, Affordable Housing, Education Equity; Two Perspectives on Immigration; and Gun Violence, Mental Health, and the Law. We had scheduled two forums on climate change that had to be delayed given the Covid pandemic. The forums are led by experts on the topic and advertised to the wide community. We regularly have an attendance between 75 and 100.
We have also partnered with Jewish Family and Community Services to assist refugees in completing applications for green cards and for citizenship. We recently set up an opportunity for recent immigrants to practice English as a second language with sessions held in our parish hall several times each weekend. With the current pandemic, these sessions are held on Zoom and have attracted young graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University.
Fitting with our commitment to social justice, Redeemer accepts and embraces all–LGBTQ+ or straight, married or unmarried, though committed, or single–who share in our community. We house Dignity services, and participate in the Pittsburgh Gay Pride celebrations annually. We have hosted regional and national Integrity speakers, and held a special memorial service for Matthew Shepard. Another part of Redeemer’s history that connects to our present is the use of our building for Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery group meetings. Redeemer encouraged these groups and offered meeting space long before they were welcome elsewhere.
For both adults and children, the intentional and ongoing education of our congregation – our minds and souls – has drawn our community together since our founding in 1900. Our efforts to provide our children with an appreciation of Christian tradition and opportunities for individual spiritual growth have been primarily guided by lay men and women. Redeemer has approached Adult Education and Christian Formation in a number of ways. For a time, the Rector led the adult education offerings at Redeemer. A book group, formerly led by a retired seminary professor, has studied a variety of subjects such as scripture, contemporary issues, feminist theology, and spirituality, and is now focusing on racial justice issues. Another group meets weekly for centering prayer. Until the pandemic hit, a group met between our two Sunday services to discuss the Bible readings of the day. All these discussions provide a safe environment in which to grow and to develop Christian community.
Finance and Membership
There are currently 100 adult members of Redeemer with approximately half over age 65. Less than 15% of our members have young children who attend Sunday school and church services. Our average Sunday attendance in 2019 was 66 and our Easter attendance for 2019 (for all services) was 162, including parishioners who attended all services as well as guests and family members.
There are 51 pledging units, a number that has been stable over the past seven years. In addition to the approximately $163,000 pledged this year, rental income of over $52,000 and income from the endowment of approximately $28,000 are the major contributors to Redeemer’s annual operating budget of $246,000. The annual drawdown from the endowment of $28,000 is primarily used to support capital improvements, with $4,000 used to cover the balance of the operating budget. Our endowment is currently $865,000, a gain of over $500,000 over the past five years as a result of income from a number of trusts and the gain on investments.
The church buildings have been well maintained and are in good condition, thanks to strong lay leadership. Over the past six years, all the stained-glass windows have been restored and covered with vented protective glass. This project, which cost $146,000, was supported with generous donations from Redeemer parishioners and grants from the Episcopal diocese, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and various other charitable foundations.
The Church Buildings and Grounds
The Church of the Redeemer is located in Squirrel Hill, a popular and diverse neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The property extends from Forbes Avenue to Darlington Avenue. The church building and rectory sit in -between and are surrounded by grounds and gardens. In recognition of the church’s unique features, Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation has designated the church a historic landmark.
The church and Parish Hall were built in 1936-37, according to the designs of E. Donald Robb of the Boston architectural firm of Frohman, Robb and Little. The buildings are modest, early English Gothic in style, clad in dressed stone and roofed in slate. A square bell tower crowns the chancel. A second floor was added to the Parish Hall in 1940. The undercroft of the church was renovated into functional spaces in the early 2000s. The Sanctuary stained-glass windows were renovated in the last two years. The rectory sits next to the church and is a stone cottage designed by Lamont Button.
The Church. The sanctuary is a simple hall with a coffered ceiling supported on hammer beams. The light is softened by stained glass windows. A sacristy leads into the chancel from the side. The choir pews face each other and are graced by our organ. The Lady Chapel is on the right of the main worship space and is used for smaller services. The Narthex in the rear is separated from the nave by clear stained- glass panels honoring saints and early church leaders.
Parish Hall and Offices. Our Parish Hall is comfortable and accommodating. Many events occur here. The kitchen is large and functional. Two offices sit near the Parish Hall.
Second Floor. Here are the Choir Room, Rector’s Study, and two smaller multi-purpose rooms. Best of all is our Library, a welcome room with fireplace and comfortable seating.
Undercroft. Here are 5 classrooms, an auditorium/gym, a gathering space, storage rooms, and bathrooms. Currently the Pittsburgh Academy of Music rents these spaces; on Sundays, classrooms are used for youth Sunday school. Formerly, a Spanish school rented these spaces until they outgrew them and relocated.
The Rectory. An inviting and cozy 2-bedroom home, with fireplace, porch, gazebo, and large lawn. It can be rented out or can be inhabited by our next rector.
Grounds. The grounds of the church are an oasis in the city. There are multiple perennial garden areas, several sitting areas, an enclosed garden, a large lawn where summer services are held. The people of Redeemer tend these spaces.
Perhaps the most fitting description of the Church of the Redeemer may be found in Landmark Architecture of Allegheny County by James D. Van Trump, published in 1965. He writes:
“Extremely simple in design, the church has a fineness of scale and proportion and an amiable forthrightness of aspect that make it one of the best things of its kind in Pittsburgh. The appointments of the church are well designed and executed with a proper regard for material and workmanship; typical are the handsome stained-glass windows, all designed by the late Howard Wilbert, a parishioner of the church.”
The Future We Want
We want to be a loving community, growing in Christ, that is
- vital and creative
- working for social justice and serving our neighbors, drawing on the vision of the national Episcopal Church
- attracting younger families while maintaining the loyalty of our older members
- practicing the way of love for one another and for all people.
While retaining and enhancing the Eucharist-centered Episcopal liturgy that is at the core of our common worship experience, we envision an enlivened and energized congregation of all ages participating in Christian education and spiritual formation. We seek guidance in how best to serve our neighborhood and fulfill the role God wants us to play in the broader Pittsburgh community.