EDGEWATER — Epworth Church's nearly century-old parsonage was ripped apart by an excavator this week as crews began to demolish the building that was burned by a fire last April.
The fire displaced former pastor Amos Oladipo and his family. He has since left the church at 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. to minister full time at the African Community United Methodist Church in Lincoln Square.
As one of the church's buildings was torn down Friday, Epworth's new pastor, the Rev. Carol Hill, said the Methodist congregation of 67 members was ready to move on from the "catastrophic" fire.
"It's been a journey," said the 31-year-old from the basement office she's occupied since July. "We started out at a real point of sadness. ... And they've grown from that into really seeing this as an opportunity to reconfigure what we're doing as a church."
Hill said the church is looking to buy a condo in the area for her and her family, using $400,000 paid out by the church's insurance company after the fire. The condo also would house future pastors.
After the house is completely demolished this week, she said, the church plans to use the empty lot for either parking, community gardens or a prayer garden. The church may develop the land later, she said.
Hill said the fire started out as a source of grief, as church-goers felt like a piece of their identity had gone up in smoke.
But now "it's blossomed into this place of hope and renewal," she said.
Church member Bruce Greene, 44, said the fire and demolition had been "sad, a little disheartening, but happy at the same time."
"It's a blessing," he added, saying he looked forward to the next decade of growth at the church.
The fire erupoted about 5 p.m. April 13 and quickly spread from a second-floor bedroom, through the wall and into the attic.
Oladipo's wife, son and 20-month-old granddaughter were home when the fire started, but everyone was able to get out safely.
When the fire started, several homeless men who had been in the church's gym, which holds 65 beds for the neighborhood's homeless, grabbed fire extinguishers in a vain attempt to beat back the flames, said Greene, who also manages the church's property.
Hill described the damage as "catastrophic."
"It pretty well burned the second floor and the third floor," she said. "The bottom floor had a lot of significant water damage."
She said when the church decides what to do with the lot, she'll tell the community.
"It could be a place to nurture people's faith, it could be hopeful, it could be joyful," she said, "all good things that we want to happen with this space."