ENGLEWOOD – A historic church in Englewood is being demolished on Wednesday, days after a devastating fire destroyed the 1880s structure.
Crews began demolishing the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 6248 S. Stewart Ave., Wednesday morning.
The fire broke out on Friday afternoon just hours after the church held a Good Friday service. On Saturday, the Bureau of Fire Investigations determined that a roofer’s propane torch accidentally started 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 blaze for at least three days as material that fell from the roof continually revived.
“The Buildings Department has determined that the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is not structurally sound and poses a potential hazard to surrounding buildings and public safety,” said Amanda Bolton, deputy press secretary in the mayor’s office. .
The department “is committed to continuing to work closely with the leadership of Antioch Missionary Baptist as they face the loss of this historic pillar of the community,” Bolton said.
The building housing Englewood Church has stood since the 1880s. A mural inside the church was left “virtually untouched” despite the flames, fire department tweets showed. Despite its history, the building and the mural will have to be taken down for safety reasons, 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 technically not possible to cut, lift and remove the intact wall. Attempting to remove an intact interior wall would pose a significant worker safety risk and could cause other segments of the structurally composed building to collapse. Unfortunately, we are unable to save the mural.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Reverend 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 great memories here,” Walton said. “People come to know Christ in their father, baptisms, weddings, funerals, fellowship times. We have many members who have been here for 60 years.
The church congregation has worked to preserve the building over the years to maintain its beauty, Walton said. The stained glass windows have been preserved and they have often done renovations, he said.
“It’s devastating to see the building like this,” Walton said. “We were proud. It was the house of God.
Despite the defeat, the leaders hope for the future. Wherever they choose to move, it will be Englewood, Walton said.
“We’re not leaving,” Walton said. “From there comes a new birth, a new life and a lot of potential and possibilities to build a new facility for the next generation.
“Whatever we build, we want to make sure it’s built for the community. We need to minister in this neighborhood. Englewood is Englewood, but there’s a lot going on here too.
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