CLEARWATER(FOX13) - For decades, it was a sacred spot to worship. But a fire in February of last year stripped Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church's sanctuary of almost everything.
"For us, it was total devastation," Father James Paris said.
Structural damage and smoke destroyed the inside of the building. Still, the congregation managed to salvage pieces of it's rich history somehow spared by the flames.
The Clearwater congregation didn't waste a moment on worry. The fire happened on a Saturday night. The following morning, they were ready for Sunday service.
"We quickly learned the fire caused extensive damage, smoke damage, we would not be having service in the church. So that evening, about 40 volunteers got together and put together this makeshift church in the gymnasium," Parish Council President Michael Kastrenakes said.
They've been worshipping in their so-called "churchnasium" ever since. Still, they're setting their sights on rebuilding from the ground up. In just a little over a year, they've raised over $4-million to construct a new church.
"We noticed where we had deficiencies and things that needed to be addressed," architect Bill Mazas said.
By Christmas of 2017, they're hoping their 11,500-square foot Byzantine-style sanctuary will be up and open. They still have $1.5-million to go before fundraising is complete, but they're confident the community will come together.
"We're so much greater together than we are individually. That's the beauty and the message of community and that's also the Christian message," Father Paris said.
For more information on Holy Trinity's campaign, visit www.htcapitalcampaign.com.