Friendship Church – Our Partner since 1958
How many churches do you know that invested in a separate commercial property, have renovated it twice, and have maintained a robust, laity-driven, multi-racial ministry for 63 years?
In 1958, Westminster Church joined several other Pittsburgh Presbytery congregations to form a multi-racial experiment. It became Friendship Community Presbyterian Church, facing the neighborhood's many opportunities for ministry. Friendship’s ministry continues in the Upper Hill on Robinson Street next to Pitt and behind Carlow University.
It now reaches Pitt and Carlow's faculty and students, the Terrace Village neighborhood, and several other families who continue to come there from their suburban homes.
Barbara Brewton, one of its longtime members, proudly points out that although it certainly "lives by faith," its budget has not shrunk during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it has attracted a new pastor within the past month. Through the Outreach Commission, Westminster has continued to support Friendship Church since its founding, helping to fund its youth and child ministry staff.
Westminster initiatives through the years
Mary Kay Mitchell worked two months (with Grandma Lee, left) to help Friendship's Child Care be recertified by PA DHS.
The annual Corner Fundraiser brought WPC and Friendship members together for games, dinner, and jazz.
Friendship's youth Pantomine Group joined WPC at the Bridge.
The Corner brings jazz and community gatherings together across the street.
In addition to the initiatives shown above, Westminster volunteers renovated the church's lower level, which provides its Child Care program.
Here are more examples of Westminster's engagement with Friendship Church:
In 1997, Westminster and Friendship members traveled with the Promise Keepers Stand in the Gap March in Washington, DC.
The Corner fundraisers: Jan Baumann, Sue Wyble, Carolyn Kerr, Bonnie Bacik, and others helped The Corner to raise funds for two years with "Jazz on the Hill," which was curtailed last year due to COVID-19.
Over the years, Westminster members have organized visits to Friendship's Sunday worship services. (This is a treat not to be missed!)
Friendship's youth program is restarting its homework assistance program, initially on Zoom, and is distributing 61 laptop PCs to do so. Volunteers are welcome!
The New Beginnings Learning Center became The Corner
In the 1980s, Earl Weaver, John Redfield, and several other Westminster members renovated the New Beginnings Learning Center in a rented building across the street from the church, providing study areas and job search assistance upstairs. The Weaver family, Jeff and Debby Underwood, John and Sue Redfield, and other volunteers provided tutoring and PC training for school age children and youth.
After the building was nearly lost through the property owner's bankruptcy, Doug Mitchell assisted Friendship to raise funds for Friendship to acquire the building.
The newly acquired building became The Corner, which provided a community center, after school study space, and quality affordable housing in two upstairs apartments.
In January 2019, only a few weeks following its successful renovation and adding a coffee and baked goods counter, an electrical fire destroyed the apartments and the new performance venue. Over many months now, Massaro Construction has restored the apartments upstairs and the main floor's art display space. And Friendship has just begun The Corner's $30,000 Phase III capital campaign to restore a larger performance space with bathrooms and a café.
The Corner's jazz nights will return soon, now that the apartments have been restored and are being rented as Section 8 apartments, considered to be part of Friendship's community ministry.
For more information about Friendship Church and The Corner, download the PDF document here: westminster-church.org/assets/media/pdfs/mission/TheCorner-programinfo-2021.pdf.
-- Doug Mitchell, Outreach Commission