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Churches are symbolic and pivotal for minority communities. It is a place of unity, and Stone Temple Baptist Church on Chicago’s West Side is the home to many Christians and a historical landmark. Interviews with the long-term Bishop Derrick Fitzpatrick and his mother Clara shed light on how vital the church is to them and the Lawndale community.
Miss Clara is 81 and has been a member of the church her entire life. Her father founded Stone Temple Baptist Church. She explains that the church has not been passed down in the family, but there have only been two other pastors. She is proud of her son, noting that he was an engineer before the Gospel became his mission, she was proud of him then and proud of him now. She believes that he will be a pastor for as long as possible; he is dedicated to this vision.
Stone Temple Baptist Church has welcomed historical figures in the temple. The most notable is Martin Luther King, Jr. Miss Clara’s father met Dr. King and has a portrait of the encounter between the two in her living room.
Growing up in Chicago, Fitzpatrick spent a lot of time at the Stone Temple Baptist Church. Raised as a Baptist the stories of the Gospel carried the Bishop through to his adult years and inspired him to spread the word of God. Those hymns of worship harvested in Fitzpatrick’s soul and in the mid eighty’s he moved to the southside with his mother and sister where he would use the family home’s third floor as office space for work. With a plan to graduate from college and take over his family’s church.
The long-time pastor and now Bishop has created a life and legacy around what many people would deem as God’s work, by putting the welfare of the community and church members first selflessly, Fitzpatrick and his Wife have etched their names in Chicago history and have gained the respect of their peers along the way.
Bishop Fitzpatrick has been the pastor of Stone Temple Baptist Church for at least 25 years. The mission for the ministry is to bring people to Christ and touch the community as stated by his mother. South Lawndale has been a food desert and it’s important that solutions and the proper steps are taken to better the community.
The Bishop believes in this mission. He has been an inspiration and considerable change of pace for Lawndale. Additionally, Fitzpatrick held virtual church service and occasionally in-person worship with social distancing. He believed It was necessary as people needed to keep their faith strong in times like this. He’s also had food drives and is having a COVID-19 vaccine drive on Jan. 18, 2022.
Fitzpatrick reminds everyone to “put God first, surround yourself around drama-free zones, and always lend a hand to your neighbor. With this mindset, you’re able to stay positive, productive, and kind-hearted.”
Written by Mikal Eggleston
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
Interview: Clara Fitzpatrick; Dec. 21, 2021
Interview: Bishop Derrick Fitzpatrick; Dec. 22, 2021
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Google Street View – Used With Permission
Inset Images Courtesy Bishop Derrick Fitzpatrick – Used With Permission