Antioch Missionary Baptist Church demolition begins after fire destroys building

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Demolition work got underway Wednesday morning at a historic Chicago church destroyed by a fire last week.

The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood was consumed by flames on Good Friday. The Department of Buildings said Wednesday that the remaining structure is not sound and poses a threat to surrounding buildings.

Even as the crews worked to tear it down, it appeared the fire was not done yet. Sparks have reignited several times this week, stalling the necessary teardown.

Many were hoping to save the large mural of Jesus ascending to heaven painted on an interior wall, but inspectors determined "it 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."

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Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood is being taken apart brick by brick after a fire; unfortunately a mural that had been spared from the fire cannot be saved.



It's a delicate operation, taking almost as long to take down as it did to build up 125 years ago. Crews on a life carefully took apart the front wall of the church literally brick by brick.

"It really hurts to see the building leave, but the church is still in our hearts," said Darren Garrett, church trustee.

The church has been part of the lives of many members for generations. They've been baptized, married and had family funerals there. It has been a vital part of the community.

"It's devastating because it's a lot of memories," said Pam Woods, parishioner. "The church burned down, but you cannot burn down the memories in their hearts."
According to church leaders, membership once was about 4,000 and now is closer to 1,000.

It is not clear how long the demolition process at 63rd Street and Stewart Avenue will take.

Fire investigators ruled the blaze was an accident and determined it was caused by crews using a propane torch while doing work on the building's roof.
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The church's pastor said they hope to rebuild. Services have continued despite the loss of a physical building; last week they gathered for services at Callahan Funeral Home and leaders expect services to be held again this Sunday, but they're not sure of the location yet.

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