Tonawanda News — After 119 years on the corner of Thompson and Bryant streets in North Tonawanda, the former St. Peter’s Lutheran Brethren Church will soon open its doors on a new era -- as the iHope Community Church.
The Rev. Matt Richbart, a resident of Sanborn, is the driving force behind the new church, along with his brother, associate pastor Mike Richbart. Services will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday and continue Sundays thereafter, and the Richbarts have further plans for their congregation in the future.
“I wanted a place I could invite friends and family members, a place that would really impact the community,” Matt Richbart said during a recent interview at the church. “God led us to this building in NT.”
At the building, a plaque with the words “St. Peter’s Lutheran Brethren Church,” established 1887, built 1894, still hangs by the front door — not far from the new sign that announces the new church’s name and services. Inside, new continues to mingle with old, with a bulletin board displaying old photos and a historical look at the building near the back, even as the message “Hope is rising in NT” hangs over the pews near the front.
After a number of different incarnations, the old church closed sometime in 2012 and went on sale in the fall of that year, Matt Richbart said. The new owners closed on the property July 30.
“The previous owners took pretty good care of the building, but we have done a number of things to make it a bit more modern and fix things that were deteriorated,” he said.
Matt Richbart said that he felt God calling him to ministry his senior year in high school, a feeling that became stronger in college. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Liberty University in 2008, then received a Masters of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2012.