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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Englewood’s Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Destroyed In Extra-Alarm Fire

Firefighters responded to the church around 2:30 p.m. Friday. Officials say the roof is destroyed. No injuries have been reported.

A massive fire at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood on Apr. 15, 2022. The roof was gutted, and the building suffered massive fire and smoke damage.
Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
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ENGLEWOOD — A fire broke out at an Englewood church hours after a Good Friday service, officials said.

Firefighters responded to the fire around 2:15 p.m. at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 6248 S. Stewart Ave., according to tweets from Chicago Fire Department.

Asst. Deputy Fire Commissioner Donald Walker said more than 184 firefighters with more than 50 pieces of equipment responded to battle heavy flames in the roof. Walker said firefighters began trying to douse the flames but quickly had to retreat because the fire consumed a truss roof, which officials say is prone to quickly collapsing. At that point, firefighters had to switch to “defensive” strategies, Walker said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what started the blaze but it was quickly designated an extra-alarm fire as flames tore through the upper windows and roof. Officials said the roof is destroyed and the damage will be “extensive.”

No injuries have been reported. The fire was extinguished around 4 p.m., fire officials tweeted. The smell of smoke continued to fill the air as firefighters doused. the burnt remains from above. Only one pillar of the structure remained and windows on the top floor were blasted out.

Church officials led a Good Friday service around noon Friday, according to the church’s livestream. Church leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.

Antioch Missionary grew out of the Salem Baptist Church in 1922 and got its start in Bronzeville in February 1925, according to the church website. It moved several times over the next three decades before buying the church building at Englewood and Stewart avenues from Foster Park Baptist Church in 1958, according to the website.

Antioch bought the building for $200,000 and spent another $75,000 on renovations, according to the website. Church leaders paid off the loan by the following year.

The church then got into affordable housing , spearheading low-income housing for seniors and families in West Pullman, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Roseland and other locations, according to the church website.

By the late 1990s, Antioch counted more than 4,500 members, according to the church website.

Dr. Gerald M. Dew took over as pastor in 2001. The church then launched a $450,000 renovation, including overhauls to the sanctuary, kitchen, banquet hall, chapel, restrooms, offices and meeting rooms, according to the website. The church also upgraded is sound system and technology.

Shanette Fallon, an Englewood resident, stood in the pouring rain as firefighters continued to extinguish the fire. Fallon said the church is a known pillar in the community, hosting holiday events for kids every year and feeding people struggling with homelessness.

Fallon said her late grandmother was a member of the church.

“My grandmother used to be the first person outside waiting to get into church,” Fallon said. “When I was a kid, my grandmother forced me and my oldest cousin to get baptized there. I was just telling my cousin we need to take our kids on Easter to this church where we got baptized.”

Rev. Allen Robinson, a pastor at New Season Church of Gary and a good friend of Dew’s, said he drove in to support the church and the pastor when he heard about the fire.

“The church is totally consumed. It’s unfortunate,” Robinson said. “There are so many memories in this church. I remember coming here when I was young.”

Despite the fire, Dew was in good spirits when the two spoke, Robinson said. It was heartbreaking to see the church engulfed in flames, but “God is able,” Robinson said.

“Pastor Dew is a great leader. He’s a very strong, charismatic pastor,” Robinson said. “I know that God has a plan for this church, and he has a plan and vision for moving forward. I’m sure it’ll be back up and running real soon.”

Credit: Chicago Fire Department
A fire broke out at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood on Apr. 15, 2022.
Credit: Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
A massive fire at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood on Apr. 15, 2022. The roof was gutted, and the building suffered massive fire and smoke damage.

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