After about nine straight months, I finally took a Sunday off from church work (well, at least until 5:00 p.m., when I met with our Director of Religious Education about our upcoming intergenerational Thanksgiving service). Why am I still tired Monday morning? Because I spent much of the weekend at the Pittsburgh Zombie Fest! In the picture from the front page of this morning’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, you can just barely see my arm holding up my shillelagh in the lower right corner.

Pittsburgh is the undisputed zombie capitol of the world. Since the filming of Night of the Living Dead back in 1968, Pittsburgh has been famous for great football, being named America’s Most Livable City (twice!), and zombies. Last year, the Sunday morning Zombie Walk in 2007 attracted 894 shamblers, setting a Guinness Book of World Records mark (that was actually published in the 2008 edition). Other cities have tried to break our mark over the past year, most recently including Orlando and London. But, no one came close. Yesterday’s Zombie Walk smashed our own record, attracting 1,124 of the living dead to Monroeville Mall, site of the filming of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

Aside from now being part of a world record, I am so proud of everyone involved in this event, and am delighted to call them friends. For the most part, the entire weekend was planned and executed by a dedicated group of fans (called the Lifeless on the bulletin board of The It’s Alive Show broadcast locally on WBGN here in Pittsburgh). The Lifeless consist of an enormously friendly and talented group of folks who come together out of their love of horror movies. We call ourselves the Lifeless because, instead of going out on Saturday nights, we stay at home and watch The It’s Alive Show. In addition, the Zombie Fest hosted a number of charity opportunities, from collecting donations to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Central Blood Bank (of course), a charity auction that raised over $1,000 for Komen for the Cure (breast cancer research), and a booth for the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania.

(I am just under the front of the banner with my left hand holding up the bottom right center)

At the Zombie Ball Saturday night, people from older teens to folks in their sixties came together talking and admiring their costumes. We listened to the music of the Ubangis, the Forbidden 5, the Motorpsychos, and Deathmobile, knowing that music is a universal language that speaks to all ages (even punk and metal). In fact, I would argue that “garage” sounds have a visceral appeal that can appeal to a level we all share (but that is a subject for another posting).

There are many communities that make up our lives. I think all of them have what one might call a “religious” component to them. Our church community obviously represents a gathering with a substantially religious purpose. But, I think even communities like our Lifeless serve a fundamentally religious purpose in our lives. They help bring together diverse people over areas of common interest. They help focus our energies on issues of importance while having a good time in a spirit of fellowship. They provide support for participants in times of stress and turmoil (one of the great benefits of the Internet when people are geographically dispersed). And, they offer opportunities for people to come together and express themselves openly in an atmosphere that is welcoming and respectful.