In the spring of my senior year, I was accepted to seminary in Atlanta and Pittsburgh. I chose Pittsburgh.
When I told a friend I was moving to Pittsburgh, she said, “That’s a hard city. You’ll love it there.” I don’t know what she meant, but I took it as a compliment. And she was right. I loved it.
Want to know what I loved about Pittsburgh? This: The first fall I was there, I went to a bar on a Sunday afternoon to watch a Steelers game. The guy next to me was having a debate with his buddy and then turned to me and asked, “How well do you know your Steelers trivia?” Now I grew up a Steelers fan, so I said, “Pretty well.”
He said, “Okay. 1974. We’re playing the Oilers. It’s the 3rd quarter, and …” That’s where I stopped him. I could have told him who was in the Coke commercial, and who wore the yellow cleats, but we obviously had different definitions of knowing Steelers trivia.
My parents grew up outside Pittsburgh, which was the main reason I went to school there. I still had family there and was looking forward to reconnecting with them.
I did reconnect with my family. I had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time with my uncle, my father’s older brother. He had been a pastor in southwest PA for decades. I would go to his house Sunday afternoons, eat dinner with the family, then watch football, and let him tell me what to expect in the church.
This is what I learned from him. Most of the stuff that we do in the church? It’s important. Most of the things we argue about in the church? They’re not important.
If you’ve been burned by the church, let me apologize. If you came in looking for a place to belong, but were made to feel unwelcome, I am sorry. You’ve not seen the best of us. We’re not perfect. We’re trying.