Church devasted by fire finds new home after 2 years


After a devastating fire in 2009 that destroyed its building and the death of a co-pastor in 2010, the Northside Institutional Church of God held its first worship service on Sunday in its new home on North Avenue, and stands renewed in its mission and beliefs.

In April, Northside Church of God purchased the former Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at 302 W. North Ave. for slightly less than $1 million, according to the Allegheny County real estate assessment website.

After extensive renovations that included the removal of the crosses that adorned the building’s façade, Pastor Lola Thorpe and her congregation dedicated the building on Saturday.

“I felt like a parent with children without a home,” Thorpe said. “This particular church was a blessing to us. The timing was perfect.”

The church’s original plan after the fire was to rebuild a bigger and better church in order to expand its ministry and reach more people.

The question on everyone’s mind, Thorpe said, is what changed.

With the passing of her husband after a long illness and the economic situation driving up prices, when the opportunity to purchase the Greek Orthodox Church came along Thorpe couldn’t turn it down.

Because of the extensive renovations, Thorpe is not sure purchasing the church wound up costing them less, but believes it all equals out in the end. In addition to façade improvements, they installed a new pulpit and new carpet in the sanctuary and an audio/visual system.

“Our type of worship is so much different” than the Greek Orthodox system, Thorpe said.

The only thing the new building doesn’t have that the building plans did was a gym. Everything else is bigger than planned, though, Thorpe said. The church now has a dining room that seats 450 people, six classrooms and 26,000 square foot sanctuary, compared to their plans of seating for 200, four classrooms and a 20,000 square foot sanctuary.

But more importantly, the church has a home.

The past two years have “been a total walk of faith,” Thorpe said. “The journey was difficult but we received our reward on Saturday.”

For now, Thorpe said the church has no plans for the land it owns on California Avenue. At some point in the near future, they will revisit it and decide whether to sell or keep it and develop it.

Even without a permanent home for two years and the slow decline of their pastor, the congregation remained strong, Thorpe said.

“I’m so glad we had people that are dedicated to ministry. They banded together. We prayed and prayed.”

Now, in a new neighborhood, Thorpe said she hopes to see new faces in the pews as time goes on.

“We’re here to serve the community,” she said.
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