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Daley to chair Pilgrim Baptist Church fundraising effort

Monday, January 15, 2007

A landmark church on the South Side is slowly coming back following a devastating fire almost one year ago. Pilgrim Baptist Church took two important steps forward Monday: naming its new pastor and the architect who will be in charge of rebuilding the church. Mayor Daley is giving his support as well

The old walls of Pilgrim Baptist, 33rd and South Indiana Avenue, are all that's left standing. They are buttressed with steel to keep them from falling. But, across the street, Mayor Daley lent his support to church leaders determined to bring Pilgrim Baptist back, saying he will help them raise private money.

"Most importantly, in rebuilding a church, they're really rebuilding the souls of another generation -- and, of course, never forgetting the past," the mayor said.

It was January 6, 2006 that the historic church was destroyed by fire, a fire started by workers on the roof. As it burned, we learned of Pilgrim's history: Thomas Dorsey's famous gospel choir sang here, the building was designed by Chicago architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, and it was originally built as a synagogue in the late 1800s.

Friday, Pilgrim's new pastor touched on that past as he spoke of the future.

"The history of Pilgrim Baptist Church is so rich. It's rich because so many lives have been changed, transformed, because of where God has placed us to be," said Rev. Keith Gordon, Pilgrim Baptist Church pastor.

The design of the new church has not yet been decided, but it will retain what's left of Sullivan and Adler's original.

"We know we're going to keep the walls of the building, but what we do inside the building and outside is going to be based on the input that we get from the church and also based on the type of fundraising that will be done," said Frank Christopher Lee, architect.

The total amount of money needed is vague, because the church needs to decide what to put inside, but it will be in the millions.

Mayor Daley says he will chair the fundraising effort. The Pritzker Family Foundation is offering half-a-million dollars in matching funds.

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