Holy Trinity Orthodox Church is a major architectural landmark for the city of Philadelphia. In 2015 we will enjoy the celebration of 200 years since the laying of our church building’s corner stone.
This event gives us the opportunity to reflect on our duty to restore this church and to preserve its beauty – “the beauty” of God’s house, as the liturgical language puts it. We want to restore this church as a more beautiful sanctuary for the community of Northern Liberties, and as a significant architectural landmark for the City of Philadelphia. It is our way of expressing our gratitude for the gift we received some hundred years ago, when our grandparents were welcome to worship within this sanctuary.
It is our greatest conviction that we must hand on this church to generations to come. We want to offer our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren a place of worship and gathering, where they could learn to cherish their ancestral Orthodox Christian faith and to be proud of their Romanian roots.
With the help of our parish members and the support of the sponsors, donors and benefactors who share our vision, we will fulfill our dream to preserve this church that hoards 200 years of local and national history. Over the years, its building will tell the history of our endeavors.
Since the arrival, in 2006, of the new parish priest, Fr. Nicolai Buga, our congregation launched a Fundraising Campaign that has been successful and will hopefully continue to be our main tool in our effort to reach donors who share the same vision with us for Holy Trinity. The parish has hired a well-known preservation firm to produce a Building Assessment. Through the efforts of a restoration committee, then headed by Mrs. Maria Tanase, we have joined the Philadelphia Regional Fund for Sacred Places, which provided us with a capital grant, along with training and technical assistance. With this match-grant, the congregation managed to complete the main essential structural repairs to exterior walls and windows. A fire alarm system has also been installed.
With the generous sponsorship of the famous Romanian soprano, Mrs. Geogeta Stoleriu, and of her husband, the late Eng. Sorin Stoleriu, we have managed to replace the damaged main- entrance-doors of the church with new, oak made ones.
Besides the match-grant from PSP, we have also received grants from the Templeton Foundation, the Virginia H. Farah Foundation and from other foundations and private donors. Important and critical repairs have been accomplished over recent years, with the support of our small but growing congregation, encouraged by our active and experienced priest.
We then proceeded to repair the Festivities Hall: difficult underpinnings have been performed in order strengthen its cracked foundation, and portions of the eastern and southern damaged side walls have been redone and consolidated. The Hall’s interior has been remodeled: the ceiling has been refurbished and painted, and the walls paneled. The stage has been equipped with a velvet curtain. For this work, we have benefited from a grant received from the Department for Romanians Abroad (DRRP), through the efforts of the Parish Council and Fr. Nicolai Buga.
The priority remained, however, the restoration of the church interior, but the high costs of the capital repairs seemed to have had paralyzed any slack in us. And yet, by the Lord’s grace we have received an unexpected gift: a Romanian-style wooden carved iconostasis. This donation from St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church in Elmhurst, New York has helped us to alleviate our fears and brought us back our confidence that we will succeed. As our church was twice larger than St. Mary’s, to match its size the iconostasis required a completion. The work was performed by the Mr. Ioan Pop. It involved months of painstaking work of carving the wood, talent and skills, so that nobody could notice any difference between the original and the addition which actually doubled the original size of the iconostasis. We are now looking forward to having installed the new iconostasis soon in our renovated church. This project would not have been possible without the financial and moral support of Mr. Mike Chiriac to whom we are very grateful.
This was a turning point which gave us courage, and we have subsequently decided to prepare the altar area floor in order to install the new iconostasis. Initially, we thought we would work just in that area.
But while removing the boards, we found out that the condition of the floor-supporting wooden beams was much worse than we expected. This prompted us to check the entire floor structure. Thus, we have found that several beams, especially in the areas of NE and NW of the church, had their extremities completely rotten. As the roof was leaking, rainwater has seeped into the walls, causingthe rotting of the wooden beams. The dammage has become over time, because it weakened the entire floor structure. We have benefited from the skills and experience of Mr Pop, who has completely rebuilt the church floor by doubling or, when necessary, replacing the damaged wooden beams.
The rotten beams were not the only unpleasent suprize: we also found out that the floor space between the joist sticks was filled with debris, which was used as insulation. After having removed over 80 tons of debris, we have replaced this original insulation with a much lighter one, made of cotton and glass. We also had to reinforce the floor-supporting walls in the basement, as well as the woodenbases of the two huge colums in the altar, by strengthening the internal structure of their sockets and rearranging their wooden supporting beams.