- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - Members of an East St. Louis congregation are hoping to rebuild after a large blaze destroyed their church.

East St. Louis Fire Chief Jason Blackmon says the Saturday night fire engulfed the whole structure of the Christ Redeemed Missionary Baptist Church . The cause of the blaze is unknown. Blackmon described it as “almost like a big warehouse fire.” He says the fire started in the back of the church and took firefighters about five hours to get under control.

The building previously was St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church before the current church took over in 1978. The congregation has about 30 active members.

The church’s pastor, the 90-year-old Rev. Dewitt Rhodes, stood next to the church’s smoldering remains Sunday morning. He called the church “a centerpiece for God’s work in the neighborhood.”

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