Pastor Marshall Lee Barnes has barely eaten or slept since the moment he first smelled smoke at his East Baltimore church, the historic Grace Memorial Baptist Church, Sunday morning.

Pastor Marshall Lee Barnes had barely eaten or slept since the moment he first smelled smoke at his East Baltimore church Sunday morning.

Instead, Barnes had been on the phone, fielding calls from religious leaders across the city, all offering help to the now-displaced congregants of the historic Grace Memorial Baptist Church.


“There’s been an overwhelming outpouring of love,” Barnes said Monday. “The church community and pastors, both black and white, have been overwhelmingly helpful. They’re offering if I need to use their place, give them a call. If we need a place to meet, give them a call.”

About two dozen parishioners were studying the story of Abraham and Isaac during Sunday school when a two-alarm fire broke out at about 10:30 a.m. All were able to escape the building safely. Firefighters worked to contain the flames billowing from the church’s roof.

“The fire may have burned our building, but it didn’t burn our faith,” Barnes said. “We’re grateful that we’re all intact. We plan to be back on the corner of Chase and Eden streets as soon as possible.”

At this point, Barnes doesn’t know when the building will be inhabitable once again. Still in the early stages of dealing with the chaos, he hadn’t had a chance to meet with the insurance adjuster.

Barnes doesn’t know yet where the church will meet this Sunday. But not for lack of options.

Fire burns historic Grace Memorial Baptist Church in East Baltimore

Firefighters responded to a two-alarm fire Sunday morning at the historic Grace Memorial Baptist Church, where congregants had been attending Sunday school.

“Well over 50 churches have offered their space,” he said. He said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh also pledged her support in helping the congregation find a temporary fix.

Still, he said he worries about what will happen to the people who relied on the church’s Tuesday soup kitchen.

Grace Memorial Baptist Church, incorporated in 1927, was originally housed at the Star Theatre Auditorium on Monument Street. It’s now located at 1100 N. Eden St.

As would have happened in any church that dates back nine decades, Barnes said, historic items were lost to the fire. He hasn’t been able to go into the building to assess the losses yet.

“We’re just grateful everyone is safe,” he said. “We’re not hung up on crosses and steeples. It’s people you cannot replace.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, Baltimore City Fire Department spokeswoman Blair Skinner said.