Pittsburgh’s religious landscape is fragmented. Rarely do people’s social groups reflect the city’s religious diversity. And rarely do religious communities reflect the city’s racial, economic or political diversity. Often, racial and religious segregation go hand in hand.
This didn’t happen by accident. Immigration and the Great Migration, industrialization and class divides, rivers and hills all shaped where, when and how Pittsburghers worship.
“Faith, Race, Place” confronts this past as a means of understanding the religious present. What factors led to religion in the Pittsburgh area as we know it? What role did houses of worship play at key moments in Pittsburgh history? Why (and when) would it have made sense for one neighborhood to have, say, 11 churches?
This project also showcases the individuals and communities who are working to bridge historical divides or heal past wounds. That kind of healing takes intentionality; deep divides don’t mend easily. But Pittsburghers have faith.
House of worship-heavy neighborhoods like the Hill District or Homestead didn’t form by accident. Immigration patterns, racism, industrialization and rivers all played a role.
The stories in this section offer glimpses into Pittsburgh’s religious past. They are snapshots of the diverse religious landscape; they are not comprehensive in their coverage of any one tradition or their picture of Pittsburgh religions as a whole. Still, together, they show important dynamics from Pittsburgh’s religious history that help us better understand faith in action now.
“The Church was complicit in the racial divide in this country, all the way back to slavery and even pre-slavery … Anything that has been divisive between us, we have to name it, recognize it, admit it, acknowledge it and sit with the harm done. Lament over it. And then, in our lamenting, we've got to invite God into the space to help us heal. Healing cannot happen without lamenting. That's why the issue of racial reconciliation is really an anathema in this country. Because you can't reconcile what has never really been in harmony.”