Jerusalem Church of God in Christ

Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church to Jerusalem Church of God in Christ:
Over the Years

In February 1937 a small group of Presbyterians applied to join the Presbyterian Church of America, a domination that became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

The congregation met at the Schenley Hotel, now the University of Pittsburgh student union, and at the Roosevelt Hotel. They called Rev. Calvin Knox Cummings In April of 1937 to be the pastor of the Covenant Church.

The congregation’s outreach included street meeting evangelism, vacation Bible school, Bible studies, and prayer meetings. They purchased in early 1938 a three-story home at Neville Street and Centre Avenue in Oakland for a meeting place and a home for the Cummings family.

Many churches were located in the area. Rev. Cummings started looking toward other neighborhoods. The congregation settled on the Blackridge section of Wilkinsburg.

Wilkinsburg denied a building permit for the location on Graham Boulevard. One hundred and nineteen residents signed a petition to object to the church building. They maintained property values would be reduced. The property owners of Blackridge hired a lawyer. The case ended up in court.

Rev. Cummings maintained the issue to be one of freedom of religion.

The court ruled in favor of the congregation. Delay continued and the court ordered the borough to explain why. In September of 1945 the borough granted the permit.

On Easter of 1946 the first services were held though the bulding was unfinished. The congregation dedicated the colonial style church on Sunday, September 29, 1946.

In 1951 the congregation dedicated their new church organ at a special evening service with the organist Joseph DeOtto of the C. C. Mellor Music Company, former organist at the Buhl Plaetarium.

Covenant started the Christian School of Wilkinsburg in the church building. The school met at the church for 14 years. It became the Trinity Christian School with its own building.

A fire severely damaged the church on February 24, 2007. It started from near the stove of the fellowship hall attached to the church and spread rapidly. Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh firefighters battled the four-alarm fire for nearly two hours before bringing it under control. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried the headline, “Fire guts Wilkinsburg church.”

The congregation moved to the library of the Trinity Christian School for the Sunday service.

Eventually the Covenant Orthodox Church merged with the New Hope Presbyterian Church to become the New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroeville.

In July 2009, the Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church gifted the church building to the Jerusalem Church of God in Christ.

A newspaper story describes how Bishop Joseph Garlington of the Covenant Church of Pittsburgh was driving by and saw a light on at the burned-out church. Bishop Garlington met Rev. Smith of the Jerusalem Church and welcomed him to the neighborhood. The Covenant Church helped out with a new gas line, duct work, and furnaces.

The congregation, through hard work, faith, and community support, dedicated the renewed church on March 31, 2012.

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Gabrielle Banks, “Fire guts Wilkinsburg church,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 25, 2007.

Rick Nowlin, “Church’s journey to new worship site ends in Wilkinsburg,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 29, 2012.

Wilkinsburg Public Library Digital Archives:

“Blackridge Argument Before Zone Commission: Opposition to New Church Stated at Monday Hearing,” January 1, 1945

“Church Wins Right to Build in Blackridge: Borough Ordered To Issue Permit To New Sect,” August 30, 1945.

“Boro Ordered to Show Cause for No Action: Still Refusing to Permit Church, Must Go to Court,” September 7, 1945.

“Wilkinsburg Church to Get Permit Today,” September 8, 1945.

“Church Built Over ‘Holy City’ Protests to be Dedicated, Wilkinsburg Edifice Figured in Series of Court Battles, Faced Other Handicaps” September 27, 1946.

“Blackridge Church to be Dedicated,” September 27, 1946.

“Church Organ to be Dedicated,” June 7, 1951.

“Covenant Church to Observe Anniversary,” Progress, February 5, 1959.

“Trying Not to Miss A Beat,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 1, 2007.