Second-oldest church in Kankakee County destroyed in fire

A Baptist church in Kankakee County is now a total loss after the sanctuary caught fire early Friday morning.

Christian Hope Missionary Baptist Church was the second-oldest church in the area, established in 1949.

Cellphone video from a church member shows flames shooting from the roof of the building in the pre-dawn hours.

"I feel it's going to deepen our faith because we got to rely on God," said Rev. Desmond Dailey, the Assistant to the Pastor.

Thankfully, no one was inside at the time when the fire broke out around 2 a.m. The Hopkins Park structure was fully engulfed in flames by the time first responders arrived at the scene.


Patrons stopped physically attending the church two years ago during the pandemic and membership has been dwindling since.

"We're a faith-based community. This church was a cornerstone in our community for many residents, and we're hoping from this situation that faith will carry us through and from these ashes will rise something positive," said Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge.

"I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior here at this church when I was nine years of age," said Pastor Howard Wills, a former member of the church.

He like many others found their spiritual way at Christian Hope.

Stephanie McCrary says she was at the church the day before the fire, when something unusual struck her.

"I heard a noise in the back and immediately ran out!" said McCrary. "I'm not wanting to investigate things."

She said the flames Friday morning were coming from the same area where she heard the suspicious noise.

Now, members are wondering what sparked this devastating fire.

"It hurts to see that somebody would do this to the church. Especially a church in this community that has such a strong history," said Rev. Dailey.

They are hoping to raise money online to rebuild or buy a new property.

The State Fire Marshal is now investigating, but there was no gas and no electricity inside.