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Service Held After Chicago Church Fire

January 9, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) _ The majestic vaulted ceilings, amazing acoustics and ornamental designs are gone. But the voices that once filled the sanctuary at the 115-year-old Pilgrim Baptist Church sang out Sunday, pledging to rebuild after fire destroyed the birthplace of gospel music.

The chairman of the church’s deacon’s board rallied 200 members gathered to worship in an auditorium offered by Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH/Coalition just a few miles from the church’s burned out shell.

``The Lord built man from the dirt,″ Alfonso Carrington told the crowd. ``What better way to rebuild than from the dirt up? He did it in seven days. I can’t promise you we’ll do it in seven days, but we will rebuild.″

Fire officials were investigating the cause of Friday’s blaze, a fire so intense it could be seen for miles and injured four firefighters. The fire gutted the church and collapsed its roof and steeple.

A children’s gospel choir sang during Sunday’s service, continuing a tradition that started in the 1930s under the church’s longtime music director Thomas A. Dorsey, considered the father of gospel music.

Designed as a synagogue between 1890 and 1891 by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, the church had housed the Pilgrim congregation since 1922. It was designated a Chicago landmark in 1981.

Offers of financial help have come in from across the nation, church leaders said. The church is insured, but it’s unclear how much it can expect to claim.

``We’re going to deal with this,″ said longtime member Barbara Gonzalez as she greeted other worshippers Sunday.

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