Stone Temple Baptist Church receives $440K in federal grants

Karen Jordan Image
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
West Side church receives $440K in federal grants
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A landmark church on Chicago's West Side is getting a new life thanks to some federal funding.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A landmark church on Chicago's West Side is getting a new life thanks to some federal funding.

Take a look around Stone Temple Baptist Church in North Lawndale and its fixtures tell its story. It was originally a synagogue established in 1926 by Romanian Jews who were escaping anti-Semitism.

But by the 1950s, the neighborhood was transitioning to being predominantly African American, and Reverend Derrick Fitzpatrick's grandfather, Reverend J.M. Stone, saw an opportunity.

"When he found out that this building was becoming available, he decided to move the church that we had on the South Side of Chicago to the West Side," Fitzpatrick said.

Since then, Stone Temple Church established itself as leading voice for social justice. Reverend Stone was called upon to host an up and coming minister from Atlanta.

"When Daddy King called my grandfather, he said sure, send Martin this way. We'll make sure we take care of him," Fitzpatrick said.

As the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King would often visit Stone Temple Baptist church where he would address the congregation from this podium.

"I was only like 10 or 12 and the children were in the balcony so I remember standing there looking down at him in awe," said Janice Bickcom, a church member.

It's that history that earned the church landmark status two years ago. On Tuesday, the city of Chicago informed the church that it will receive a grant for more than $440,000 for repairs to shore up the building.

"All the things that we've been praying for that we can continue to do in the community, God is making a way for it to happen," Fitzpatrick said.

"I was just pleased because it proves that as long as we're faithful, then God will be faithful," church member Marvin Walker said.

More than $12 million in what are called African American Civil Rights Grants were given to projects in 24 states. Stone Temple Church received the only grant handed out in Chicago.