Windber church working to rebuild after fire

Sep. 19—WINDBER — A year after a 4 a.m. fire destroyed Windber Church of the Nazarene, its congregation is preparing to rebuild again.

The task, however, is going to be a bit more complicated than members first hoped, church Secretary Don Schmidt said.

After crews tore down damaged sections of the Graham Avenue worship house to the first level, they discovered issues with the foundation. Wooden joists that would have been relied on to support the new structure were broken due to a design flaw that likely dates back decades, Schmidt said.

"It's a challenge — but God is able," Schmidt said, adding that board members are confident the foundation issue won't halt their plans for long.

He said the 35-member church's leaders plan to discuss options to move forward with their engineer in the coming week.

The original brick church was damaged in August 2022 during a lightning strike that sparked a fire in the upper floors.

Church of the Nazarene members have continued to worship at the former parsonage next door.

While some plans are still being finalized, the goal is to build a new basement fellowship hall and a sanctuary to house at least 100 people.

An Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant entrance will also be added, as well as a Graham Avenue entrance, Schmidt said.

A classroom and an office are also planned.

Pastor Mike Long said the congregation has been working with Johnstown-based Major Builders Inc., of Johnstown, for the past year, one piece at a time.

Windber Zoning Officer Anson Bloom said the church acquired the permits necessary to remove hazardous material — in this case asbestos — from the site.

He said borough-level permits are in place to allow the congregation to move forward.

"Obviously," Long said, "we would have preferred to have the new church open ... but with the unexpected issues, we know that isn't realistic."

Long said the small congregation is just being patient.

"In the end, we're going to have a nice, beautiful building that Windber can be proud of," he said.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.