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Restored dome installed at Great Bethel Baptist

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Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013 2:00 am

The restored stained-glass dome has returned to the sanctuary at Great Bethel Baptist Church in Uniontown.

“We’re really excited,’’ said the Rev. Scott Hoppe, pastor. “It seemed like such a daunting project.’’

The dome features a variety of colors in a geometric pattern with a dove that symbolizes the Holy Spirit in the center. Most of the pieces were made of cathedral-textured period glass. The center of the dome was made of hand-painted and fired pieces.

The dome was originally installed in 1903 in the church, which is located at 47 W. Fayette St., and was built in 1902. Great Bethel was actually established in 1770, the first church west of the Alleghenies. This is the third building for the congregation.

Through the years, the dome experienced structural damage. The lead was separating from the stained glass and the dome supports were lose. For safety purposes, the center section of the sanctuary was blocked for several months before the dome was removed in December 2011.

Hunt Stained Glass Studio in Pittsburgh, a stained-glass restoration company, was hired for the job. The company’s experience includes work at the Grand Concourse restaurant and Union Bank and Trust, both located in Pittsburgh.

Wade Lenhart, field installation supervisor, said the challenge in the project was working with the dome’s shape.

“The shapes were curved in both directions — not just curved in one direction so the challenge was getting that form reshaped. It was a multi-directional form,’’ he explained.

Staff from Hunt dismantled the stained glass and removed it from the ceiling by erecting a very tall scaffolding.

The pieces were taken to the company’s workshop in Pittsburgh. Officials thought the project would take five months but more work was required than originally expected.

Hoppe said, “Some of the individual pieces were shattered and we had to go back to the original glass manufacturer for pieces.’’

Hunt staff waited until after Christmas to install the restored dome, erecting the scaffolding again to put the pieces back.

“They have done a wonderful job,’’ Hoppe said.

Asked how the Great Bethel dome compares to other projects, Lenhart said, “It’s one of the most outstanding pieces I’ve ever worked on.’’

Cost of the project was approximately $115,000. Hoppe said the church paid for the project with some money it had saved, some fundraisers, memorial donations given in memory of the Rev. Dr. Neil Hoppe, who was Scott Hoppe’s father and a former pastor of Great Bethel; as well as $50,000 in contributions given by former members, friends and local businesses.

Hoppe said, “We were left this wonderful legacy from the original congregation and we felt we needed to pass the legacy on to other generations.’’

The congregation is planning a dedication service for the restored dome in the spring.

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