A fire is lit overnight in the beloved historic church

By Steven Graves

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CHICAGO (WBBM) — A fire that destroyed a beloved historic church in Englewood flared up again overnight.

Passers-by on Saturday morning believed they saw smoke coming from the church, but firefighters confirmed it was steam from the extinguished fire.

The extra alarm fire destroyed the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on Good Friday afternoon.

The fire broke out around 2:30 p.m. The fire department called a 2-11 alert and later a 3-11 alert to get additional equipment and manpower at the church at 6248 S. Stewart Ave. at the intersection with Englewood Avenue.

At around 2:48 p.m., the fire department reported that the roof had collapsed.

CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reported that the fire could easily accelerate in high-ceilinged rooms not easily accessible for hose lines. Between this and the heavy wooden structure of the roof, the fire could easily get out of control.

Firefighters trained hose lines from tower ladder trucks. They went to an outside response without firefighters fighting the blaze inside the building.

The fire completely burned away the roof structure and left a lot of heavy timber crashing onto the floor of the church. It is likely that pews inside the building also burned.

Habermehl said firefighters will fight the blaze well into the evening.

No injuries were reported.

CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reported that dark plumes of smoke from the fire were visible from the Dan Ryan Expressway Friday afternoon.

About two and a half hours before the fire, a Good Friday service was held at noon in the church.

CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported that people stood in shock near the burning church on Friday afternoon. Some had only gotten a few hours out of the Good Friday service at the church.

A woman who stood by and watched had been going to church since she was 10 years old.

The woman said she hadn’t spoken to the pastor, but she said he had given a beautiful sermon for Good Friday.

Pastor Gerald Dew has watched over the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church for more than 20 years.

“We’re not leaving the community,” Dew said. “All this means for us is to redouble our efforts to consciously shape our engagement and commitment to this community.”

Dew said the Good Friday service began at 12 noon and everyone was out by about 2 p.m. A little later he received the news that the church was on fire.

When he received the call, he saw smoke billowing from 95th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. He rushed to the church – only to see the fire getting worse.

But he stressed what was important was that the community was doing well.

“The church is not a building. The church is the people – and there were no injuries; no loss of life. So the church is still alive. The church is still open. All I know is that we’re going to have Easter services,” Rev. Dew said. “We will celebrate. We will rejoice. We will praise the Lord.

By 4:30 p.m., the fire was contained, but firefighters were still looking for sources of fire.

The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1925 by Rev. EH Branch. The congregation originally worshiped in Bronzeville and later in Washington Park.

Under Rev. Dr. Wilbur Nathan Daniel, the Antioch Missionary Baptist, moved into his Englewood home in 1958. The Church purchased the building for $200,000, with an additional $75,000 needed for remodeling before moving in.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams noted that Rev. Daniel was very involved in civic affairs and was friendly with mayors and other city leaders.

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