December 1, 2009

The There There

I may have left the impression in my recent post “Seat of Power?” that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) does not actually have an office in the building at 1001 Merchant Street in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. When I wrote the post, all I knew was that, if there were an office there, it was neither conspicuous nor magnificent.

Lest I be accused of trafficking in innuendo, I thought I should check out the ACNA office for myself. Besides, I had never really been to Ambridge, though I once went to a birthday party that might have been within the borough limits.

And so, this morning, I set out with digital camera on the half-hour drive to Ambridge. I parked the car on Merchant Street and walked to the building at Merchant and 10th. My first stop was the set of mailboxes on the 10th Street side of the building. Three mailboxes were labeled, for Watchword Productions (Suite 100), for Janet Vaughn (Suite 104), and for ACNA. That last mailbox lacked a suite number.

ACNA mailboxThe ACNA mailbox label was quite attractive and designed to avoid having mail inadvertently returned to the sender; it offers three possible recipients:

The Anglican Church in North America
Anglican Communion Network
Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses & Parishes

Conservatives do love to create new organizations (or new names)!

I walked around the corner to the front door. Looking up, I could see some nice architectural details, but also flaking paint and boarded up dormer windows.

Looking up from main entranceUnsurprisingly, the front doors were locked. I pressed a button and a representative of ACNA showed me into the building. Yes, Virginia, there is an ACNA office at 1001 Merchant Street. It is small and unremarkable, and, as I suggested earlier, one can find it only by knowing where to look. The office is clearly not set up for greeting visitors or for hosting meetings.

I introduced myself to the two people I met in the office using my real name. Either my name was unfamiliar or these people were too polite to ask me to leave. We talked for a few minutes about the building—suffering from deferred maintenance, I was told—and about Ambridge. I did not tarry.

The deferred maintenance was apparent in many places. This photo below, for example, is of the back of the building.

Roof detailMany of the windows that are not boarded up are covered in clear or black plastic sheeting.

Window facing 10th StreetBefore my field trip, with a little help, I did more research on the ownership of the building. If I read the public records correctly, WatchWORD Productions (or Watchword Productions, or Watchword International, or Watchword Ministries, depending on what document you’re reading) owns and is trying to sell the building. WatchWORD appears to have been given the building by GDT CG1, LLC, and to have subsequently obtained a $150,000 mortgage on it. In the April–May 2009 issue of Trinity, Robert Duncan’s breakaway diocese wrote about a bible literacy project that WatchWORD is part of. (Read the story here.) Actually, The WatchWORD Bible, is an intriguing product, though I don’t know how it wears after many hours. Sample it for yourself.

Anyway, having discovered as much as I wanted to know about ACNA headquarters, I decided to see a bit of Ambridge. Merchant Street was unprepossessing,

Merchant Streetbut Trinity Seminary, which was just down the street, was more attractive than I expected.

Trinity Episcopal School for MinistryAlso impressive was the municipal complex that is the successor to 1001 Merchant Street.

Ambridge Borough Municipal ComplexThe municipal center is across the street from a reminder of Ambridge’s industrial past, however.

Demolition siteWalking back to my car somewhat indirectly, I encountered, the lovely downtown P.J. Carl Memorial Park

P.J. Carl Memorial Parkand the Laughlin Memorial Library, which actually seemed a bit grand for Ambridge.

Laughlin Memorial LibraryI could not pass up picture taking when I discovered the Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge spanning the Ohio River. (I’m something of a bridge freak.) Appropriately, the bridge, completed in 1927, has a superstructure built by American Bridge Company.

Ambridge-Woodlawn BridgeFinally, I ended my Ambridge tour walking along residential streets. The housing was modest and a bit old fashioned, but it was pleasant and well maintained.

Ambridge residential streetI hope this post will help you plan your next vacation.


  1. Well, it was a nice visit...let´s see if funds arrive to make ¨the building/headquarters¨ a bit more, well, grand...we even like grand soup kitchens and fancy old rural Churches...oh what a little fixing up would do...certainly some of the ¨Trinty¨ students will be glad to offer a helping hand? Thanks for the tour. What ever happened to that fiesty ¨dean¨ of Trinity? Did something pop? Our very ¨progressiveness¨ infuriated him as I recall (pehaps he´s been made a bishop in Bolivia).

  2. That's good.Your post is quite inspiring. The church mortgage in USA products are very effective to lessen church foreclosing.


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