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Row houses, AliquippaIn 1985 the Community of Celebration at Cumbrae secured permanent premises at Aliquippa, a steel town in the Ohio valley north of Pittsburgh PA. The core of the property consisted of a dozen residential dwellings, each with four floors including a basement, built in a block or row in the centre of the town. There were also other buildings, notably a former undertaker's premises which was converted into offices.

Aliquippa was a one industry town, dominated by an enormous steel mill which closed about the time the Community arrived. Overnight Aliquippa became a ghost town, with massive unemployment and social problems not helped by the Steel Company's refusal to honour pension pledges. The majority of shops in the main street remain boarded up to the present day, despite every effort to bring new business into the town.

In this situation, the Community saw one of its main ministries to be a sign of hope. They supported local initiatives in various ways. Initially supporting local protest at the loss of pension rights, they were soon also involved in the Aliquippa Alliance, an organisation dedicated to generating renewal of business. Refurbishment of properties, with friendship lights in windows at Christmas time, helped reverse the sense of decay. Properties were bought, renovated and let at a reasonable rental, becoming much sought after. Individuals took strategic jobs, such as chaplain to the Police Department and local FBI, or a teacher working with special needs children.

The local Episcopal church, All Saints, was similarly affected by the devastation to the town. Half the congregation decided to relocate to a more affluent area, leaving mainly older and poorer members with no permanent priest in charge. The Community filled the gap, and for over 12 years led worship and provided an ordained presence.

Celebration's traditional ministry in worship continued with the production of Come Celebrate! (songbook, tapes and introductory weekend of ministry). Teams and individuals continued to travel widely in the United States. One member took a post with the nearby Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry, one of the recognised ministerial colleges of ECUSA, teaching liturgy and worship. At home, there was a steady stream of visitors, some of whom came on a long term basis, wishing to experience the Community's life and worship.

During these years the Community worked on its constitution and Rule of Life, both in drafting and experiment with structures. Graham Pulkingham's death in 1993 heralded a period of reflection which culminated in Chapter members taking life vows in 1996, together with members of the Berry House Community in England.

A significant event took place in 1999 with the closure of All Saints Episcopal Church in Aliquippa. The diocese recognised that it could not continue without the support of the Community, who faced many other demands on their energies. A new relationship began with the Church Army, which took over the church building, and the Community began to draw up plans for building its own chapel. A new formal relationship was established with CCCT in the UK, the Primary Guardian of the Community at Aliquippa being appointed as an overseas trustee.

Aliquippa conferenceA conference run by the Community of Celebration at Aliquippa. Such conferences are held annually in the summer for Companions of the Community and other friends from across the United States and overseas, including Britain.


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