Around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, a fire broke out on the second floor of Epworth UMC’s parsonage at 5249 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago. The Rev. Amos Oladipo was elsewhere leading devotion with leaders of African Community UMC, but his wife, his daughter and 20-month-old grandchild were inside the home. Thankfully, they managed to escape unharmed.
“By the time I came home the fire had done its worst and firefighters were still putting out the flames,” said Rev. Oladipo. “I was emotionally moved and shed tears for the loss of this beautiful building that has been our home for more than three years. However, there was a reason for joy because no life was hurt in the inferno.”
The 1922 Georgian Revival, five bedroom home sustained major fire, smoke and water damage. Much of the Oladipo’s personal belongings were lost or need restoration. The fire, fortunately, did not spread to the church next door or any other buildings. The family was displaced and found temporary housing at a hotel.
During the initial investigation, fire department officials say the blaze may have started with faulty electrical wiring in the wall. This is the second fire to strike the parsonage. In 1986, an arsonist attacked the house gutting the main stairwell of the historic home. It was later renovated.
Despite the tragic fire, Epworth marched on with an inspirational Sunday service with the baptism of three teenage boys. On the day of the fire, one of the boys asked Rev. Oladipo if they were still going to be baptized on Sunday. “I told him that they were because they are more valuable in God’s sight than the materials things that are burning!” Rev. Oladipo recalled.
One week after the fire, the Chicago Northwestern District connectional table held a worship service of praise and thanksgiving in the church sanctuary. “We wanted to be a witness to the community and gather together to pray and give thanks for God’s ongoing mercy and provision,” said District Superintendent Rev. Zaki L. Zaki. “We wanted to extend our love to the church family and find ways to connect and support Rev. Oladipo and his family during this very difficult time.”
Unfortunately, Rev. Oladipo had no renter’s insurance. “Our concern now is how can we recover from the loss? But no matter what happens, God is still good. We believe and trust God for his benevolence!” he said. The Conferences strongly encourages all clergy families to ensure that they have adequate insurance coverage.
“Far too many persons do not secure renter’s insurance because they incorrectly believe church-owned or rental property insurance will cover their personal belongings,” said Rev. Chris Pierson, Director of Connectional Ministries. “There are many different types of renter’s insurance policies at affordable rates and it can at times be bundled or combined with other existing policies such as auto insurance.”
An offering was collected at the worship service to help Rev. Oladipo and his family as well as Epworth church to help rebuild the parsonage. Rev. Oladipo was also presented with a new Bible after his was damaged by water in the fire. African Community church, Rev. Oladipo’s second appointment, has also been instrumental in raising funds for the family. Fortunately, the Conference insurance will pay $25,000 to help with the damage.
Following the service, the congregation, Rev. Zaki and Bishop Sally Dyck gathered outside the burned home to bless Rev. Oladipo, his family and the Epworth faith community to offer hope and healing following this tragedy.
Please keep Rev. Oladipo and his family and the Epworth community in your prayers.