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‘Just add water’

Pittsburgh ministry provides ready-made mission experience for visitors

May 6, 2013

STATESVILLE, N.C.

Whether you’re a minister searching for ideas for a new church development or a youth leader looking for a mission trip, Hot Metal Bridge is at your service.

Hot Metal Bridge is a church that was planted in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2002. A member of both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church, the faith community strives to live out its belief in hospitality.

Hot Metal Bridge’s worship space is in a converted bar with apartments on the upper floors. As tenants moved out, the community turned the apartments into a hostel-type facility called the Lofts to accommodate visitors.

But Hot Metal Bridge not only provides a space to sleep — it provides an entire experience.

“My goal is to make this one of those ‘just add water’ experiences where you can just show up and you can participate in the day,” said Jenn Frayer-Griggs, Loft coordinator.  “You just get to show up and the rest is just taken care of.”

Visitors tell organizers what they’re hoping to do on a visit, and the church will connect them with related organizations.

“We’re inviting them to see what life is like here in Pittsburgh and see what urban ministry looks like and what it can look like in lots of organizations throughout Pittsburgh,” Frayer-Griggs said.  “We’re sort of like a hospitality hub who can direct them to different places where they can experience more hospitality and also do service within the city itself. It’s a way for them to live life with us and also see how other organizations do their small tiny part to help make Pittsburgh a better place to live.”

A group’s goals define how Hot Metal Bridge will plan for their visit. A youth group looking for service opportunities might be sent to an urban garden or local thrift shop. Pastors interested in learning more about church planting will be introduced to pastors around the city.

“We have other new church developments that are all so different and so it helps them see the many different ways that new churches can be formed and can grow according to the needs of the community,” Frayer-Griggs said.

At the end of the day, groups have “processing time,” during which they can talk about urban ministry issues such as urban blight, food deserts and gentrification. Hot Metal Bridge leaders or community experts talk about the issues facing the city with the guests.

“We talk about where our world is as Christians and what is happening in the city,” Frayer-Griggs said. “We also add that spiritual angle to it. What does God’s kingdom really look like and how can we do our little part to make that come about?”

Launched about 18 months ago, the program can now accommodate groups of up to 20. The optimal time to visit is Thursday-Sunday, and the church provides linens and meals.

The community hosts a group every month or two, although leaders would like to do much more.

“If we had every week or every other week where we invited guests over, not only is it a really valuable experience for the guests but it’s us practicing, extending what our mission and our goal is as a church,” Frayer-Griggs said. “It’s us extending our hospitality and extending our story telling to whoever comes our way and making connections and getting to know these people and seeing how diverse the body of Christ can be.”

Toni Montgomery is a freelance writer in Statesville, NC, where she is also secretary for First Presbyterian Church. 

  1. What a great idea! As a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, I have been blessed to teach many of the folk involved at Hot Metal, including Jenn. We are excited by what the Lord is doing in this space, and at the window it offers into vibrant new ways of being, and doing, Church. Thanks for your ministry, Jenn.

    by Steven Tuell

    May 9, 2013

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