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Triple Rock Baptist Church

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Triple Rock Baptist Church
Real Location: Pilgrim Baptist Church
Address: 3235 East 91st St, Chicago IL
Status: Location still exists

Description: In The Blues Brothers, John Belushi's character was so inspired by 'preacher' James Brown he glowed -- radiating in a beam of light -- and then he flip-flopped down the center aisle of the Triple Rock Church.

In real life, on any given Sunday, arm-waving children, dressed in bright purples, blues, yellows and greens, dance enthusiastically at the Pilgrim Baptist Church of South Chicago, where the movie was filmed. Colorful bonnets -- from turquoise to pink to white -- dot the pews.

The music is loud and powerful, and the Rev. Hillard Hudson, holding his hands in the air and wearing a coat laced with crosses, screams, 'There is nothing wrong with celebrating for Jesus!' Parishioners shout back, 'Hallelujah!' and 'Praise the Lord!'

It's a scene only slightly less energetic than Brown's over-the-top rendition of 'The Old Landmark' in The Blues Brothers. The scene pays homage to Chicago as the birthplace of gospel.

The 88-year-old Pilgrim Baptist church is still alive and well at 3235 E. 91st, although it has gone through changes since the Blues Brothers went to 'get wise' and 'get to church,' as Cab Calloway, in the role of their orphanage mentor Curtis, urged them to do.

Although the interior of the church was shot in Hollywood, the re-creation was so exact that the pastor at the time wondered if film crews had sneaked inside.

As it was, the church was paid $500 for filming outside -- a glorious shot that showed off the large, leaning cross atop a high steeple -- and in a vestibule as the Blues Brothers head inside. That steeple -- which led locals to coin the name 'Church with the Crooked Cross' -- was why director John Landis decided to film there, he said.

The movie producers also paid to install stained-glass windows in front of the church to match the intricate ones in the rest of the building. Since then, however, most of the original stained glass sits covered in dust in a back storage area because the church can't afford to have them repaired.

The church now looks very different. It recently completed a $150,000 renovation that provided the first fresh coat of paint in years, new fixtures, a new roof and new flooring.

But with a 200-member congregation that is half the size it was at the time of filming, the church -- like the neighborhood around it -- is a shadow of its former self. The shell of an education center sits behind the church, but the church couldn't afford to complete it. And the 8-foot leaning cross was taken down for repairs and never re-installed.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times (Dave Newbart)

Update


In September 2006, the Pilgrim Baptist Church suffered severe damage due to a fire.

Fire damages 'Blues Brothers' church
S.E. Side Baptist congregation weighs next step

September 23, 2006
BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter
The Southeast Side church made famous by its appearance in the movie "The Blues Brothers" -- Pilgrim Baptist Church of South Chicago -- had planned a big celebration for its 89th birthday Sunday.

The church -- where James Brown sings a spirited rendition of "The Old Landmark" in the 1980 movie -- had undergone major renovations over the last few years.

But last week, an electrical fire at the church so badly damaged the sanctuary that it can't be used for at least six months. Two rooms in the church were badly damaged by smoke, flames and water. Firefighters had to break out eight new stained-glass windows to fight the fire. The pulpit and pews were taken away for repair from smoke and water damage.

"All the work we had done is gone," said pastor Hilliard Hudson. The church has spent about $165,000 on the renovations, raised solely from member donations.

This Sunday's service will be held at a nearby Baptist church -- and the congregation will spend more time figuring out what to do next rather than eating birthday cake.

"It was going to be a great, festive celebration," Hudson said, noting that last Sunday's service featured many tears over the damage to their home, but jubilation that no one was hurt and that the church escaped major structural damage on the outside.

Total damage unknown
Two people were in the church preparing for a Bible study when they heard a crackling noise Sept. 13. Someone outside saw smoke and called the Fire Department.

On Friday, crews began ripping out the recently replaced carpet. They took down some large curtains at the front of the church. Brightly colored broken glass was still on the ground, as was a soot-covered Bible, ceiling tiles, plaster and other debris. An old Hammond organ -- a model that's no longer made -- was taken away; church leaders don't know if it can be repaired.

Church leaders can't say the total amount of damage yet. Although the church is insured, board of trustees Chairman Maurice Carpenter worries they don't have enough to cover everything. And parts of the church that need repair might also have to be brought up to city code, costing even more.

No tie to other Pilgrim Baptist
In the movie, it was referred to as the "Triple Rock Church." Filmmakers took exterior shots and then re-created the interior on a set in Hollywood.

Church leaders said the building is more than 100 years old. Pilgrim Baptist has made its home there since the mid-1940s, although it has been in existence since 1917 at other locations. About 250 people attend services each Sunday, Hudson said. Services will be held indefinitely at Praise Tabernacle Baptist Church, 9511 S. Commercial, although they will start at 9 a.m. and end by 10:30 a.m. so the other congregation can meet.

Although it shares the same name, the church at 3235 E. 91st is not affiliated with the Pilgrim Baptist Church at 3301 S. Indiana where gospel music was born. That church was destroyed in a fire in early January.

"In less than a year, two landmarks, two Pilgrim Baptists, both founded in 1917, in the same city, caught fire. How ironic is that?" Hudson said. At the time of the first fire, he recalled, "People were calling us, asking us where do they send money."

Then, the church sent them to the other congregation. But now, they need the help.

Donations can be made to the Pilgrim Baptist Church of South Chicago Fire Relief Fund, c/o Charter One Bank, 9200 S. Commercial, Chicago 60617. Or call (773) 374-3888.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Coordinates: 41.729996,-87.54544
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