Oakmont's first black church reopens after devastating fire
OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) - When Dorothy Griffin saw her beloved church burn down nearly four years ago, her heart broke. But not her faith.
“We were planning a special service that Sunday,'' said Griffin, 91, the oldest member of St. Paul Baptist Church in Oakmont. “It was our pastor's anniversary ... I knew in my heart that we had to rebuild, and I believed in my heart that God was going to enable us to rebuild.''
The congregation did, with the help of other churches and organizations throughout the borough.
A new, larger place of worship now stands at 435 Second St. Parishioners celebrated its dedication last week.
“Three and a half years was a challenge,'' Deacon William Kemp said.“With our spiritual strength and our spiritual ties, we all stayed together as a congregation. Being led by Pastor (Reid) Greene, he blessed us with the strength to keep us all together.
“We watched from spring to summer to fall to winter anticipating (the new church). We got to this point here. It's a wonderful feeling.''
A fire on Sept. 19, 2014, destroyed the church near the corner of Second Street and Delaware Avenue.
The congregation of about 100 held services and Bible study at the Riverview Community Action Corp. facility across the street while it embarked on the reconstruction project. Virginia-based Church Development Services did the work.
The new church is 94 feet by 48 feet, with a 29-foot steeple, seating for 136 and meets all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, CEO Glen Trematore said last month.