By Bob Allen

OAKMONT (KDKA) – Members of the congregation at St. Paul Baptist church in Oakmont showed up for regular Sunday service.

But the service was moved across the street to the Riverview Community Center after their church was destroyed by a horrific fire on Friday.

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“It was devastating,” said Church Trustee Barbara Jackson. “But when you have faith and trust in God, he removes all that, you become stronger.”

“We have a new pastor and we have a new beginning now,” said congregation member Dorothy Griffin. “So that’s the way it is.”

Investigators believe the fire started while workers were resurfacing the church parking lot. Even though the building is gone, Pastor Shane Austin says it’s the people who make the church, not the building.

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“Scripture teaches us that we are the temple,” said Austin. “It’s hard because we know the memories are there. This is a way to actualize what those memories stood for.”

A number of members and their families were baptized and married at the church, which has been in Oakmont for 109 years. And the fire destroyed pictures and other artifacts that can’t be replaced. Ironically, it happened the same weekend the pastor was celebrating his third anniversary.

“It’s a challenge,” he said, “but it’s one that we, I believe, we will embrace and move forward.”

“I believe that God is doing something different and we have to see that we have to see spiritually further than what we see in sight,” said congregation member Lee Audrey Howard. “And just believe we’re going to do something dynamite in this community.”

Despite all of the construction, members of the congregation still have many reasons to count their blessings. No one was hurt, the church has insurance and now many are looking forward to the day when a new church rises from the ashes.

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