Campaign to rebuild Englewood church destroyed by fire kicks off on Sunday

Most people see the ruins of a burnt-out church at the corner of South Stewart and West Englewood Avenues.

But the senior pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church sees a new chapel, health and wellness center and youth center. And he imagines cutting the ribbon for the new complex at Easter 2024.

“I envision it to be the heart of the community,” said Reverend Gerald M. Dew. “Not just a place where people from the church come to attend church, but a place where people from the community come to experience support and encouragement and love and lessons and of the Lord.”

The chapel will be a space where the congregation can come together and worship, celebrate their faith and encourage each other through “the kind of love that was shown on that hill called Calvary,” Dew said.

The health and wellness center will include a gym, a room for recreational activities and will house the church’s health ministry. Meanwhile, the youth center will provide mentorship, life skills classes and Christian education to children and teens in the community.

“I hope we can galvanize this energy so that even when this is over we can tackle other issues: gun violence, teenage pregnancy, school dropout rates, alcoholism, domestic violence,” Dew said. “If we can get together and do that, then we can get together and do anything.”

Antioch caught fire on April 15 and reignited several times in the following days. The damage necessitated the complete demolition of the historic building. The only thing to save was the church’s iconic neon cross sign.

The iconic neon sign of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is the only part of the structure that will be saved.

Cheyanne M. Daniels/Sun-Times File

Demolition began on April 20. Only one wall remained standing on Friday. Demolition is expected to be completed within the next two weeks.

“When I left on Wednesday, the south wall and the west wall were still standing,” Dew said. “When I came back this morning, I walked into the church and saw these two (disappeared) walls. I felt almost the same as when I saw the flames coming out of the roof. It was devastating.

No one has yet calculated how much the new complex might cost, although the church has so far raised $40,000. Antioch will launch a new fundraising effort on Sunday with churches from North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, Mississippi, California and even the Netherlands joining the Englewood church in prayer at 11 a.m. central.

The Reverend Dr. Gerald M. Dew speaks at a press conference outlining the campaign deployment effort

The Rev. Gerald M. Dew on Friday introduced the “Help Antioch Build” campaign to rebuild the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

“Any of us could have experienced this tragedy,” said Tyone D. Hughes, senior pastor of Third Baptist Church in Chicago, which helped organize Sunday’s event. “We are all at a moment’s notice from a tragedy. And so it was important for the church to be its own custodian to help one of us, part of all of us, rebuild what is a historic staple in our city.

In addition to raising funds for the new facility, Hughes said Antioch hopes Sunday’s event can become a model of global collaboration.

“The church sometimes has an unfortunate profile that we can’t work together because of our differences in doxology and theologies,” Hughes said. “We want to prove that our differences do not separate us. We hope this will become a national model for us to work together not just now, but in the future.

Sunday’s event will be streamed live on Antioch’s website, Donations can also be made through the site.

Pastor Tyone D. Hughes speaks at a press conference outlining the campaign rollout effort

Tyone D. Hughes, senior pastor at Chicago’s Third Baptist Church, helped organize Sunday’s kickoff for the “Help Antioch Build” campaign.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times viaReport for Americaa non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the South and West Sides.

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