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Oakland church of Christ, Fifth Ave & Beechwood Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

A division in the Estella St church in early 1929 marks the beginning of what is now known as the captioned church, meeting at the time of this writing at above address. This thennew group not thought to have been divided over doctrinal matters but over personal differences involving some of its key members, first began meeting in the home of Charles J. Michael scarcely a block away from the Estella Street Meeting House. At its beginning the new group meeting in the Michael residence included Christians largely related to Brother Michael and family either by blood or marriage. After less than a year, because of expanded numbers it moved out of the Michael residence to a volunteer fireman's hall in the then Overbrook tion of Pittsburgh, where it paid all of $5 a Sunday for use of the building. Thence to a former small, former Presbyterian church building a few blocks away in the same neighborhood, and, in 1932 to the 2nd floor of G.B.U. Hall in the Mt. Oliver tion of Pittsburgh at the corner of Brownsville Road & Warrington Avenue

In March, 1934 through arrangements effected by Brother Michael, who was the earliest driving force of this new congregation, the wellknown evangelist Foy E. Wallace, Jr., then Editor of the Gospel Advocate ( a wellknown brotherhood religious journal), and with Brother Wallace a very fine singer, Basil Doran, were brought to Pittsburgh to conduct a fourweek protracted Meeting. With much planning including extensive advertising, an unoccupied former Baptist church building at the corner of McKee place and Louisa St in the Oakland district of Pittsburgh (from which the congregation took its corporate name) was rented in which to conduct this fourweek meeting. The outstanding ability of Evangelist Wallace in the pulpit ferreted out and caused to be restored several delinquent members, and converted several new persons to Christ. The impetus gained as a result of this meeting resulted in a commitment to continue at this location and to rent this former Baptist building as the Oakland church's new meeting place, giving up the G.B.U. Hall located in Mt. Oliver. Before evangelist Wallace left Pittsburgh he took the initiative to strengthen the leadership of this work and to heal the breach existing until then between this newer congregation and its parent, the Estella St church.

Later that same year (1934) John Fairs Nichols, a strict fundamentalist recently graduated from Abilene Christian College as a bible major, became the first full time preacher of the Oakland church, continuing until 1936 when it could no longer support him fulltime.

In early 1938 Evangelist Warren A. Henry became its ond fulltime preacher, continuing until July, 1939 during which time good progress and growth resulted. Brother Henry had been converted from the Nazarene church, for which he preached, a few years earlier. It was during the ministry of Evangelist Henry that interest began in starting a new congregation in nearby McKeesport, PA. with members from the Oakland church, which will be discussed more fully in a later "McKeesport Church" heading.

In September, 1939 Evangelist John C. Graham began laboring fulltime with the Oakland church to conduct a profitable ministry until December, 1941. It was during the ministry of Evangelist Graham than interest began in starting still another new congregation in nearby Coraopolis, PA, also with members from the Oakland church, which will be discussed more fully in a later "Coraopolis church" heading.

Succeeding John C. Graham in December, 1941 was Evangelist Oram J. Swinney (whose father in the early 30's preached parttime for the Estella St church) moved from Texas to Pittsburgh and labored fulltime with the Oakland church until December, 1944. It was at this time that Baptist church owners of the building at McKee Place & Louisa St sold the property to the City of Pittsburgh who demolished the building so it could erect on the site a policefire station. The Oakland church then moved into a large public meeting room in the cityowned Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall adjacent to the University of Pittsburgh's campus, where it continued meeting until April, 1952.

From December 1944 until June 1949 the church had no regular preacher when, on the latter date, Evangelist Caleb J. Kirkpatrick, a former member of the congregation, upon graduating from DavidLipscomb College as a bible major, came with his family to labor fulltime with the Oakland church, continuing until early 1954.

Coming to the realization in December 1944 that it could not hope to gain any real progress meeting in a public hall with its usage limited by the city only to Sundays, the Oakland church began in earnest to accumulate and promote a building fund with which to purchase a suitable building site and thereon to erect its present meeting house at Fifth Ave and Beechwood Blvd. Erection began in July 1951 with completion and the first Lord's Day worship service on April 20, 1952 in this fine building seating 320 including the balcony. It needs to be said that the erection of this fine building was accomplished jointly through contributions of a generous brotherhood and it's generous local membership, the engineering skill of Cliford H. Swensen, one of its then elders who designed and supervised its erection, and the business ability of C.J. Kirkpatrick who was then laboring with the congregation as its fulltime preacher.

Successive fulltime preachers laboring with the Fifth & Beechwood church were Robert J. Roe from October 1954 to June 1957, Don Gardner from July 1957 to January 1960, Byron J. Thrasher from February 1960 to January 1962, Victor Fridena from March 1954 to October 1954. Robert J. Roe returning from June 1962 to January 1969, and Gerald F. Ransom from June 1970 to the time of this writing and continuing beyond. The ministry of all these preachers was profitable to the congregation. Over the years some distinguished preachers who have occupied the pulpit of the Oakland church other than those already mentioned, in one or more preaching services, included:‐ Cled E. WallaceC.D. Plum, E.G. Rockliff, Charles E. Fogle, Ted Waller, Bob Truax, Odes Forshey, James P. Miller, Charley Taylor, Jess Nutter, Kenneth Adams, Tom Butterfeild, I.W. Woodrow, Earl Stephens, Leslie G. Thomas, Alton H. Maner, Carl Matheny, Otis Gatewood, C. Harold Thomas, Jimmy Wood, James Scott, Burton Coffman, George Benson, Eliza Huffard, C. Ellis McGaughey, Ted Norton, and others who labored in are congregations.

During the first ministry of Robert J. Roe a bible correspondence course began to be offered which to the time of this writing continues to be offered, and which has proven to be an excellent working tool for the congregation. Several thousand persons have been enrolled in it over the years. The experiences of the congregation with respect to this B.C.C. offering over the years would lend itself to writing at length, but suffice it to say that visible results from it have been sadly lacking, perhaps for the reason that a close, intense followup of the enrollees and those completing the course has not been diligently practiced.

During the ministry of Don Gardner, an all too brief ministry, an aggressive project nominally titled "Operation Pittsburgh Program" was initiated, the objective of which was to establish new congregations in the peripheral areas of greater Pittsburgh, and to staff them with qualified leadership, plus a nucleus of members and the knowhow to develop and promote financing of ultimate building programs for them. The objectives of "Operation Pittsburgh Program" recognized that the necessity of Christians travelling long distances to meeting places of the Lord's church seemed to encourage delinquency and the loss of many Christians whose faith was weak to the Cause of our Lord, many of who compromised by deviating to denominationalism, and also the loss of many Christians moving in from out of town whose faith was not strong and who refused to travel long distances to practice NewTestament Christianity. To the date of this writing, through the objectives of the "O.P. Program" the new congregations established have been.: Allegheny Valley church of Christ, Homewood church of Christ, and Whitehall church of Christ, all three of which will be more fully discussed in this history. Additionally the "O.P. Program" has been instrumental in encouraging growth through financial and other assistance to the Lord's church in Connellsville, PA., Ligonier, PA., MonroevillePlum, PA., and still other area congregations to a lesser extent.

Before concluding the history of the Oakland church, now known as the Fifth and Beechwood church, we want to mention that while still meeting in rented halls in earlier years, it joined with the former Estella Street church to try and establish a new congregation in the Bethel Park area( a suburb of Pittsburgh), meeting in a volunteer Fireman's Hall. Also, on its own, the Oakland church made an attempt to establish a new congregation in rented facilities in North Braddock area (also a suburb of Pittsburgh) in the early 40's, and in a rented store room on the North Side of Pittsburgh in the late 40's. All three of these efforts failed to materialize into new congregations, due probably to a lack of a nucleus of Christians and leadership local to those areas. The "O.P. Program as it progressed profited from the experience of these failures with respect to methods of establishing new congregations

It can be said to the credit of the Fifth and Beechwood church that at least up to the time this history is compiled, no divisive elements or doctrinal issues have disturbed the peace of the congregation after healing the breach which earlier existed between it and the former Estella St church. As indicated elsewhere the Fifth & Beechwood church owes a debt of gratitude to a generous brotherhood in the late 40's and early 50's for both its moral and financial assistance in connection with the erection of the present meeting house at Fifth Ave and Beechwood Blvd. The congregation has been otherwise selfsupporting from its beginning.

Taken from Limited History Of The Church of Christ In Western Penn'a Compiled by J. Edward Meixner, 1972
Oakland church of Christ
Fifth Ave & Beechwood Blvd

Pittsburgh PA 15206