You’ve been a lifelong Christian, Anita. Tell us a little more about your upbringing.
I was raised in Port Carbon, Pennsylvania and grew up in the First Presbyterian Church there. I really loved going to that church. I loved it so much that I went not only in the morning, but on Sunday nights as well. The evening service was special. The lights were dim, the room was quiet and intimate, and the message was always the same: God loves you.
How did you find your way to Pilgrim?
The church in Port Carbon closed when unemployment rose and the population dwindled, and for years I looked for a church like it, with that same simple message: God loves you. When my husband Harry and I moved here, he left the church shopping to me, so I went by myself. On my first visit to Pilgrim, my eyes were drawn to a huge cross above the organ and wide windows on each side. The sun was shining through those windows on the heads of people in the pews. As I sat down, I immediately felt at home.
Did your husband eventually join you?
Oh yes. I’ll never forget one Sunday when I was singing with the choir and watched Harry walk toward the altar with the offering he’d help collect. I knew we’d finally found the right place to worship.
This congregation has been with you through some difficult times.
When Harry died, I can’t tell you how many people from this church sustained me. I will never forget the kindness from the minister and organist who helped plan his memorial service. The congregation arrived to support me, and the Care Committee provided a buffet. Harry’s ashes are scattered in the Memorial Garden next to the church. I like to think that when the magnificent Hook and Hastings organ is loud, Harry hears it and knows that a loving congregation—including me—is near.
Looking back on your journey of faith, how would you describe it?
My faith has been a constant in my life, even as I went to college, met my husband, graduated, got married, taught for a while, had three children, went back to teaching, and retired. My life is different now—I write in my free time and am looking for an agent—but my faith has always been there. I go to church on Sunday and Bible Study on Tuesday. Church is comforting. Bible Study is stimulating. We dig deeply into the scriptures and are free to question without condemnation. My faith is a light in me. Sometimes it’s dim, sometimes it’s bright, but it’s never gone out.
Where do you sense God’s presence in your life?
God has been looking out for me all of my life. He helps me when times can be difficult. He rejoices with me when things go well. He invites me to his house every Sunday. When people smile, or say hello, give me a hug, or ask how I’ve been, He’s there to greet me. When I leave the sanctuary I’m ready for another week. Pilgrim Church has blessed me.