The Spire - November 2019
A monthly column by Senior
Minister J. Douglas Patterson
From the Archives
The Story of Smithfield, Part 6
by Donn Neal
From the President's Pen
Be The One
by Jeanette Thomas
I started wearing glasses in the second grade. They were the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I took off before going to sleep. Three years ago I underwent surgery to remove growing cataracts in my eyes and, at the same time, correct my vision enabling me to see without any external aid. I do not now wear glasses at any time for any reason. We live in miraculous times! I am blessed, however, because I had an excellent optometrist, gifted surgeons, and more than adequate insurance coverage. I am grateful! At the same time, however, I think constantly of the millions of people worldwide going blind every day because of poverty, lack of medical care, and nonexistent insurance coverage. This makes me sad.
We have hosted shelters in our church building for over forty years. First with Bethlehem Haven and, for the last 15 years, the cold weather shelter. Approximately one hundred individuals find warmth, rest and security in our basement six months out of every year. This year, however, that is in jeopardy. Our aging building is some cause for concern, particularly fire safety and accessibility. As you may know by now, the shelter will not be opened until these issues are adequately addressed. We are working hard to overcome these obstacles and open our doors in an expeditious manner. In the meantime, with the rapidly approaching severe weather months, the homeless in our city are left with much uncertainty and confusion.
I have a warm bed every night, worry free. I am grateful! But at the same time the images of people, many who I know personally, sleeping in dangerously harsh conditions makes me sad. We have so many blessings, and for these we are very grateful! But awareness of the plight of blind, hungry, homeless, forgotten people in our midst and at our front door makes us very sad.
May God propel our sadness into action!
J. Douglas Patterson
Our Church Family
During the October 27 worship service, we welcomed Steven Anthony Ergler into the worldwide community of faith by baptism. Steven is the son of Shawn and Sarah Ergler.
We welcomed Ronald Snyder into our congregation during the October 27 worship service. Ronald is an ordained UCC minister.
On November 3, Rev. Patterson was recognized for his work at Dutilh United Methodist Church, Cranberry Township, where he served as senior minister for fourteen years prior to coming to Smithfield.
Please keep Tim and Tess Glace in your prayers. Tim recently underwent a kidney transplant.
Bill Connelly passed away on November 2. He was 79 years old. Bill was a longtime member of Smithfield UCC. We ask that you please keep Connie and her family in your prayers during this difficult time.
Once again, Smithfield suddenly had to secure another new minister. He would turn out to be Heinrich Kurtz, who took the pulpit on July 21, 1823, after several “trial” sermons and the official approval of the church. A native of Wurttemberg, Kurtz had come to Pittsburgh from Hampton County, Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, this new partnership did not prove to be a good fit. According to Ruoff, who compliments Kurtz for his scholarly knowledge, his energy, and his leadership of the church but criticizes him for his inflexibility and for taking the stance that a disputed matter was either “yield or break” (or, in Kurtz’s own words, “my way or else”). After some experience with this situation, and after of seeing members of the church revolt or leave it altogether, many of those in the congregation were ready to bid Kurtz goodbye. (It also appears that Kurtz, who was once described as “an insignificant man with a powerful voice,” also terrorized his own family, but that topic lies beyond the scope of this document.)
Ruoff describes how Kurtz steered the church into and through disagreements and cites some instances of the pastor's browbeating. Unfortunately, some of Geiszenhainer’s carefully developed regulations and by-laws fell victim to Kurtz's actions. What was worse, the promising efforts to draw the Reformed and Lutheran parties into a single Evangelical community began to unravel. Open arguments between the pastor and the treasurer over monetary issues and Kurtz’s own salary also poisoned the situation. When in late 1825 Kurtz suggested that the church sell everything it owned and create an entirely new congregation that he himself would lead, the existing church council was ready to sack him, but Kurtz boldly put the matter before the entire community.
The outcome was a victory for the pastor’s supporters – and a riot in the church when Kurtz’s adherents proved that they outnumbered those who had elected the previously elected council, many of whom now resigned in despair. Sensing victory, Kurtz accepted the names of members who were willing to serve on a new council and led his followers from the church to a nearby school.
Things got worse as the members of the church’s former council threatened to bar Kurtz from the church building itself, after which Kurtz threatened that he would resign in December unless he prevailed. The discord dissolved into numerous battles (and disputed ballots) as the two factions fought for the possession of the church and its contents, ranging from its keys to its books. The doors to the building were fortified. The two factions had each another’s members arrested by the sheriff for inciting a riot, for breaking into the church, or for other violent acts. Kurtz then withdrew his offer to resign, stating it would be a disgrace for him to do so.
On the next day, which happened to be Easter morning in 1826, the two sides held separate elections for a new council, neither side accepting the results of the other’s votes. After Kurtz proclaimed victory, his foes occupied the church. In the end, however, Kurtz evidently came to the conclusion that unless he withdrew from his position the matter could not be settled peacefully, so he left Pittsburgh for Canton, Ohio, where he joined a Dunker sect before he died some years later.
(At this point in his document, Ruoff inserted some extended remarks about Pittsburgh’s continuing maturation as a city during these early decades of the nineteenth century. His remarks address a number of topics: the growth of the population of what was now a city with a mayor, the erection of the first of what would later become a great many bridges in Pittsburgh, and how expensive it had now become to live in the city of Pittsburgh. While not especially pertinent to his major themes, Ruoff’s comments are worth reflecting on as we think about Smithfield Church’s continuing presence in this now-burgeoning city.)
As it was necessary to engage yet another pastor for Smithfield, the two sides in the dispute sought to find someone who would be mutually acceptable. Unfortunately, none of those who had been placed on the initial list of candidates proved to be satisfactory. Before long, however, a newcomer to Pittsburgh did please them. He was a 25-year-old preacher named David Kammerer, who was passing through the city en route to making some missionary trips further west. Given his family name, the young preacher may have been related to—perhaps was even the son of—the D. Kammerer whom Ruoff had mentioned earlier; strangely, Ruoff does not address this matter. His silence on this, along with the fact that young David Kammerer had studied under preacher Becker in Baltimore for four years, rather than with the elder Kammerer who had earlier served Smithfield -- suggests that the young man was indeed from a different Kammerer family, but we cannot be certain of this.
I need to tell you that I absolutely loved Doug’s sermon on October 13. If you weren’t there, you should look it up on our Facebook page and watch it. It was called Are You the One? and let me tell you there were several times when he was speaking that I really wanted to shout out, “Amen!” I should have, but my inner voice wouldn’t let me. Nevertheless, I certainly thought it in my head.
I always feel good when I leave church after service, but I especially love it when the sermon pumps me up so much that I feel like I am walking on a cloud. That’s how it was on that Sunday. I was inspired to look for opportunities for me to “be the one.” The one who speaks up when hearing something that is just not right, or better yet steps forward to take a stand when given the opportunity.
Truth be told, I have not had an opportunity to put this into action yet. I have found that I tend to surround myself with people who think like I do, both socially and politically. I see many things I disagree with on Facebook, but I don’t like getting into debates with people on that platform because the truth is you can never really get your point across on social media.
So I will stay patient and vigilant, and look for opportunities to take Doug’s advice to heart and put his words into action. I am ready, willing, and able to “be the one.”