Return to The Little Church

Dear Liza,

The Little Church

When we first moved to Portland, we rented a duplex apartment at the corner of 29th and SE Pine. Just a block from that place stands a tiny white church, built sometime around the 1920s and, until recently, a functioning place of worship.

Signs of renovation and ceramics!

But neighborhoods change and congregations shift, and the church had to close. It was bought by a fellow who planned to turn it into a home. His plans have slowed down, but are still in the works.

Adorable rabbits

In the meantime, ceramicists Catherine and John Rondthaler use the space as a studio and, occasionally, have exhibits.

Catherine and John Rondthaler

Last year we met Catherine. This year, saw both of them! They are really sweet folks. They met 38 years ago and have been silly-in-love ever since.

Accidental perfection

Besides enjoying the variety of ceramics they create and sell, we got to enjoy their stories. One piece was created when a throwing wheel malfunctioned and pitched a few gallons of indigo blue glaze into the air, splashing everything in sight. They liked the splashes, and some great bowls were created. I love accidental perfection!

Besides their ceramics, John and Catherine were showing beautiful prints made by another friend. Needless to say, we got some Christmas presents… but shhh! Don’t tell anyone!

Love, Grandma Judy

The Little Church

Dear Liza,

The Little Church

Our first house in Portland was at the corner of SE 29th and Pine Street. One block up the hill stands a building that was clearly built as a small church…. steeply peaked roof, one main room, high pitched ceiling. It seemed deserted, with no one going in or out, the only lights coming on with timers.

We wondered about this little church. Who had built it? How old was it? Who owned it now and what were their plans for it?

Well, yesterday, we got some (only some) of our questions answered. Auntie Bridgett was walking home from the SideStreet Arts Gallery and sent me a text. “The little church is open! Wanna come?” Of course I did!

Outside, I found a sign advertising an Eclectica Sale. Inside, I found Auntie Bridgett chatting with artist Catherine Rondthaler. She told us what she knew about the church, and it goes like this.

Up until five years ago, she says, it was an operational church, although Catherine doesn’t know what it was called. The attendance at the church was dwindling, and the building was sold. The young man who bought it planned, with his girlfriend, to refurbish the building as a home and live there. But the relationship fell apart and he lost interest. He is out of town a great deal and was having trouble getting anything done.

Artist Catherine Rondthaler

Catherine stepped up, volunteering to get the building to a point where it could be used for community events, but in the meantime, using it as a studio. Towards those ends, she is selling lots of delightful trinkets she has collected over the years, as well as some of her prints and other folks’ paintings.

We found all sorts of little things for Christmas stockings, and while I was taking photos, Auntie Bridgett found my prize! A vintage top hat that folds flat and springs up when you hit the brim, just like in the old movies! It fit me perfectly and…well, let’s just say it came home with us! She also found a wonderful orange briefcase for herself, into which we put all our treasures.

Classy dissident me in front of Catherine’s dissident flags

We walked home to rest up for our next adventure. More about that tomorrow.


Grandma Judy