Greater Paradise Christian Center plans event to celebrate new church after fire in 2011

BALTIMORE - From tragedy to triumph.

That's the theme of this weekend's celebration at the Greater Paradise Christian Center.  It's unveiling the newest piece to its sanctuary, and thanking the community for its support following a huge fire there in 2011.

You'll find hair salons, cafes and churches in most neighborhoods.  But to find all three under one roof, you'll have to go to the Greater Paradise Christian Center in East Baltimore to see that.

"When He gave us the idea of a hair salon and a cafe, persons laughed," said Pastor Shawn Bell.  "They said 'Oh you're crazy, you can't have a hair salon and cafe at a church!"

But Bell didn't think the ideas were so crazy.  He sees the salon and cafe as a way to bring the ministry outside the four walls of the church and reach out to more people.

"We clap our hands, we praise God on Sundays, but what are we doing Monday through Saturday to service our community?" he said.

It's that community Pastor Bell leaned on when his church caught on fire in June of 2011.  It destroyed much of the building and put his congregation to the ultimate test.

"Of course we cried and we shed our tears, but we had concept we were not running.  We were going to fight and we were going to finish what God had given us," Pastor Bell said.

Today, the new sanctuary is rebuilt.  The hair salon was added a year ago and they just finished the new Paradise Cafe.  They'll be officially celebrating their new church this weekend, complete with music, food, free haircuts for kids and health vendors.  They'll also be donating food to the Maryland Food Bank and give away free school supplies to kids.  It's their way of saying thank you for the support.

"We're not only meeting the needs of the people, but we're touching their hearts and changing a generation."

The celebration starts at noon on Saturday, located at the Greater Paradise Christian Center on 2900 E. Oliver Street in Baltimore.

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