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‘We were starting to try to rebuild, and then to have this happen, it’s devastating’

East St. Louis church destroyed by fire

Christ Redeemed Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis, IL, in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO, was destroyed by fire Saturday. The church continued burning Sunday morning.
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Christ Redeemed Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis, IL, in southern Illinois near St. Louis, MO, was destroyed by fire Saturday. The church continued burning Sunday morning.

Members of the Christ Redeemed Missionary Baptist Church felt lost, confused and more than a little hurt Sunday by the realization that their place of worship had burned to ruin Saturday night.

“We’re devastated at this point,” said Yola Rhodes, daughter of the Rev. Dewitt Rhodes. “People are calling me now asking, what are we supposed to do today?”

The small congregation of about 25 people has suffered its fair share of challenges. In the 1990s, another fire damaged the building, formerly St. Elizabeth Church, Rhodes said. Her father founded the church in 1978 after the Catholic church donated it to him.

The first fire “kind of brought everything down” because the church didn’t have the money to make repairs. The congregation fell off, and the church’s place in the community as a source of service and outreach diminished. All that was beginning to change recently, however, Rhodes said.

“We were starting over, trying to rebuild that outreach to the community, to be what we used to be again. It’s been a lifelong project,” Rhodes said. “It just hurts because we were starting to try to rebuild, and then to have this happen, it’s devastating.”

There is likely nothing the family can do to rebuild the existing church after the fire gutted it, though they hope to build a new place to worship, Rhodes said. When she left the church at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, the church was “an inferno.”

“Pray for us. We need all the prayers that we can get, and we’re going to try to do everything to rise up out of this,” she said.

Dewitt Rhodes was unavailable for comment Sunday, though his wife, Annie, said: “We’re trying to move forward. So many things need to be done.”

The church was built in 1894 and was used until 1963 when it was left vacant, according to Christ Redeemed’s website.

Fire at St. Elizabeth's Church in East St. Louis.

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