ENGLEWOOD — A historic Englewood church is being demolished Wednesday, days after a devastating fire gutted the 1880s structure.
Crews began tearing down Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 6248 S. Stewart Ave., Wednesday morning.
The fire broke out Friday afternoon just hours after the church hosted a Good Friday service. On Saturday, the Office of Fire Investigations determined a roofer’s propane torch accidentally touched off the blaze.
The fire destroyed the roof of the century-old building, leaving a single pillar and shattered windows. Firefighters worked to put out the fire for at least three days as fallen material from the roof continuously rekindled.
“The Department of Buildings has determined that the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is not structurally sound and poses a potential danger to surrounding buildings and public safety,” said Amanda Bolton, deputy press secretary at the mayor’s office.
The department “is committed to continuing to work closely with the leadership of the Antioch Missionary Baptist as they deal with the loss of this historic community pillar,” Bolton said.
The building housing the Englewood church has stood since the 1880s. A mural inside the church was left “virtually untouched” despite the flames, tweets from the Fire Department showed. Despite its history, the building and the mural will have to come down for due to safety concerns, city officials said.
“The mural referenced in a number of social media posts is painted on a one-story interior wall,” Bolton said. “Unfortunately, it is not technically feasible to cut, lift and remove the wall intact. Attempting to remove an interior wall intact would pose a significant safety risk to workers and could cause other segments of the structurally comprised building to collapse. Unfortunately, we are not able to save the mural.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Rev. Michael Walton stood outside the destroyed church. The executive pastor of worship, media and communications has been a member for 18 years.
“There are a lot of good memories here,” Walton said. “People coming to know Christ in their father, baptisms, weddings, funerals, fellowship times. We have many members that have been here for 60 years.”
The church’s congregation worked to preserve the building throughout the years to maintain its beauty, Walton said. Stained glass was preserved, and they often did renovations, he said.
“It’s devastating to see the building like this,” Walton said. “We were proud. This was God’s house.”
Despite the loss, leaders are hopeful for what’s next. Wherever they choose to relocate will be in Englewood, Walton said.
“We’re not leaving,” Walton said. “From this comes new birth, new life and a lot of potential and possibilities of building a new facility for the next generation.
“Whatever we build, we want to make sure that it’s built for the community. We got to do ministry in this neighborhood. Englewood is Englewood, but there are a lot of good things going on here too.”
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