Reporting Mike Krauser
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A long legal fight over control of a church on the far south side ended with a judge ordering the group that took over the building to vacate. Parishioners who were locked out were devastated when they returned Saturday.
Parishioners found the place destroyed. Holy Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church is on the 1400 block of West 115th Street. The former pastor’s daughter-in-law, Edith Stinson Smith, was stunned when she walked into the building.
“This is hate,” she said, “because they couldn’t have it, this is what the outcome is.” Smith said, “Who did it calls himself a minister and he’s going to burn in hell.”
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Those in attendance Saturday morning declined to name the minister, but police are investigating. The church was started by the late pastor Frank Smith. There was a fire 17 years ago, and a splinter group ended up rehabbing the building and then locked out some members. A legal fight ended last week, when a judge ordered the splinter group out of the building.
The late pastor’s son, now a pastor, himself, the Rev. Donald Smith, has been leading those who were locked out at several other locations and on Thursday night he saw the group moving out and later went in and found what he calls “devastation.”
Pastor Smith opened the door to the former members this morning and there was stunned silence. Everything in the storefront church has
been destroyed, from walls and ceilings to fixtures, pipes and even the toilets.
A contractor friend of the pastor said the damage was easily in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Smith said, “it looks like a hurricane has come on the inside of the property.”
“This was done, he said, by people who says they’re loving people, by people who say they love God and respect God, but they made the mistake of thinking that this is my property, or even theirs, all of this belongs to the Lord.”