Antioch Missionary Baptist Church erupts in flames as firefighters go on the defensive

An extra-alarm fire on Friday heavily damaged a South Side church that has been a staple of Englewood’s Black community.

Crews were called to the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 6322 S. Stewart Ave., around 2:20 p.m., according to the Chicago Fire Department. Most of the building’s truss roof had collapsed by 3 p.m., department spokesman Larry Langford said.

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

Firefighters responded to a fire Friday at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, 6322 S. Stewart Ave.

Chicago Fire Department video still

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

Around 150 fire personnel and 50 engines, trucks and ambulances were on the scene, Langford said.

The only reported injury at 3 p.m. was a firefighter who slipped on the street and injured his leg, Langford said. He was being evaluated in an ambulance and may be taken to a hospital.

Firefighters first tried to battle the flames from above, but the truss roof made those efforts “extremely dangerous” and the order was made to evacuate and go on the defensive, Langford said.

Additional details were not immediately available.

The Antioch MBC congregation purchased and renovated the building in 1958 after outgrowing their church at 5129 S. Indiana Ave. in Washington Park, according to the church’s website. The church underwent a massive renovation in the 2000s that cost $450,000, according to the church’s own history.

The South Side church was well-known for its political clout and commitment to community development, investing in several housing projects starting in the 1960s.

The church says on its website that it closed its doors for the first time when the pandemic hit, from March 22 of 2020 to April 4 the following year. The church again closed its doors as COVID cases began to rise again earlier this year. It has just reopened to services last month.

“Like a phoenix, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church continues to rise and move forward in faith,” the website said.

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