Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Former liquor store filled with new spirit

By Michael Jones
For the Tribune-Review
Jan. 7, 2010

Members of the Swissvale United Methodist Church found an unlikely place to reinvigorate the spirit of their congregation.

With the 80-year-old church on South Braddock Avenue becoming too large and expensive to house the decreasing membership, the congregation and church leaders decided to move services to a former Wine & Spirits store in the Swissvale Shopping Center.

"Most of us just love the irony," said the Rev. Dai Morgan.

Morgan said that when he arrived as pastor in 2006, many in the congregation thought the church would have to close eventually. The antiquated church required a lot of resources and money, which were estimated to run dry by late 2009.

As the congregation pondered what to do early last year, Morgan said the Pittsburgh Mennonite Church contacted it about purchasing the building. The sale was finalized in June, leaving the Swissvale congregation in limbo for the next few months.

The 50 active members spent four months sharing worship services with nearby Presbyterian and Lutheran churches, which Morgan said was an "excellent experience" for all sides. There were low points, though, he said, as the members discussed a different direction.

"We needed to envision a new image for the congregation, and that was a hard thing to do," Morgan said. "Being an old and traditional congregation, there was no way we would grow. We needed to change ourselves."


(Above photo by Philip G. Pavely - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

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