Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood, Chicago, on the South Side, is moving Easter 2022 services after a massive fire destroyed the building

CHICAGO (WLS) — A beloved church in Englewood will move its Easter Sunday services after a fire destroyed its building Friday afternoon.

Services for the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church will be held at the Calahan Funeral Home at 7030 South Halsted Street at 10 a.m. Sunday, the church said.

Firefighters were called to the church in the 6300 block of South Stewart Avenue around 2:15 p.m. Friday. A fire appears to have started on an upper floor and quickly spread throughout the structure.

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By 2:25 p.m., the CFD had escalated its response to a 2-11, then to a 3-11 by 3:07 p.m. More than 194 firefighters and 54 devices responded to the scene, firefighters said.

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Most of the building’s truss roof had collapsed by 3 p.m., department spokesman Larry Langford said. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire remains unclear.

It was unclear if anyone was inside the church when firefighters were dispatched, he said. The fire appeared to start in the upper rear part of the church, where crews first noticed heavy smoke. Flames could be seen coming out of the windows of the church in a video posted on social media.

“This church is an anchor in this community,” senior pastor Gerald Dew said. “It’s a place where people got married, found their faith, they were encouraged, they were equipped and empowered. It’s a neighborhood church.”

The cause of the fire was not immediately known and is under investigation. Chicago Fire Department officially declared the blaze extinguished shortly after 4:00 p.m., although firefighters were still battling flare-ups and hot spots for several hours afterward.

“Most of the roof is gone,” Langford said. “It was a very popular church in the black community.”

Dew said he did not believe anyone was inside the church at the time of the fire. Shortly before the fire started, parishioners had filled the pews for holiday services to mark Good Friday.

“I know this: if we have to lose something, losing it on Good Friday is the best time to lose it because after Good Friday comes Resurrection Sunday,” Dew said.

And while parishioners were devastated by the loss of the historic structure, they were also optimistic about the strength of the congregation.

“It’s beyond the sanctuary walls, we are family beyond the church walls. And we love each other,” church member Marquita Gill said. “It’s very devastating, but I know we’ll get over it.”

“All of this gives us yet another reason to redouble our efforts to be intentional about our involvement and commitment to this community,” Pastor Dew said.

At one point, a firefighter was seen being taken into an ambulance. Officials said he slipped on the street and twisted his ankle; he was not injured by the fire.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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Jerry B. Hatch