Thieves tear into Springdale church
The Rev. Joseph Posta has been imprisoned for his faith, but even behind the Iron Curtain, his church wasn’t harmed.
He had to move to the Alle-Kiski Valley to have that happen.
Sometime within the past month, someone took about $20,000 worth of copper pipes and most of the stainless steel from the Springdale Hungarian Reformed Church along Walters Lane. The denomination is associated with the United Church of Christ.
With just 10 active members and a congregation of no more than 60, the church hasn’t been able to afford the $2,000 annual property insurance premium for some time.
“It’s horrible,” said Posta, 71, who said he spent 13 years in a Romanian labor camp before he moved in 1982 to the United States, where he could preach the word of God in peace.
Posta taught German and Latin while earning a doctoral degree. He became pastor of the 101-year-old Springdale congregation, which has services once or twice a month depending on weather, about 15 years ago. He also serves as pastor of churches in Duquesne and Vintondale. Posta also is an assistant administrator of a nursing home in Ligonier, where he lives.
But neither years in the labor camp or his rigorous schedule prepared him for what happened.
All of the copper pipe and most of the stainless steel was stolen — including tables and, literally, the kitchen sinks.
“Two people with pipe cutters and bolt cutters would need a day or two to get this much,” said Paul Henry, chief church elder since 1992 and former Hyde Park police chief.
The items were stolen sometime between Oct. 19 and last Thursday.
“I saw people die in the labor camp, but no one bothered churches — not even under the Communists,” Posta said. “Here, nothing is sacred.”
Henry lives minutes away from the church in a neighborhood within sight of Pittsburgh Street. He found the destruction when he checked the mail.
He was heartsick.
In every corner of the church — on each of its two main floors — large holes reveal where copper pipe was cut, pulled down and hauled away. In darkened corners, a few cheaper steel fixtures remain.
They went so far as to take the back flow valve and gas meter.
“They even took the handles off the door to the fellowship hall,” Henry said.
In the sanctuary, the burglars took two large gold-plated candlesticks. They also made off with four or five antique collection plates made of copper.
“But they left the gold cross alone,” Henry said. “It was sitting right there behind the Bible.
“Did they have a sense of religionâ¢ I don’t know,” Henry said. “The cross was at least two-and-a-half feet tall, gold plated and old. The pastor has it now.”
The sanctuary, with its stained glass windows and a 1918 Bible in the Magyar language from Budapest, stands ready for use. So does the social hall.
But the attached kitchen is a mess. Steel legs from a work table are heaped on the floor where they were removed from a stainless steel table.
Henry fears the crime will bring an end to the church’s rich history.
The congregation held its first services under a tree a few blocks from the church, Henry said. They opened a church along Keene Street and this one in 1961.
Police seek tips
Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call Springdale Borough Police at 724-274-9022 or Allegheny County emergency dispatching non-emergency number at 412-473-3056.