Organized religion played a major role in the settling of Illinois and continues to influence the culture of our region. We enjoy highlighting places of worship, one in the country and one in the city, in each issue.
“Just as the body cannot exist without blood, so the soul needs the matchless and pure strength of faith.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Country Church: St. John’s United Church of Christ Harmony • Est. 1875
11821 E. Grant Hwy., Hampshire, (815) 923-4263, sthjohnsuccharmony.org
Officially organized in 1875 as the German Evangelical St. John’s Congregation of Harmony, its founders, a group of German immigrants, held services in the Pigeon Woods School for the next five years.
In 1880, 1.2 acres were donated for a parsonage and the church structure that’s still used today. Materials and labor were donated by church members, and lumber was hauled by horse and wagon from Elgin for a simple frame building. In 1890, a steeple and 10-foot addition were added.
Services were held only in German until 1921, and the practice was completely eliminated by 1931.
The church and parsonage were wired for electricity in 1935, and in this decade, funds were raised to purchase stained glass windows.
In 1941, St. John’s officially became a part of the newly formed Evangelical and Reformed Church, the result of a merger between the Evangelical Synod of North America and the Reformed Church.
During this decade, a basement was added and the sanctuary was renovated, with work being completed in time for the congregation’s 75th anniversary celebration in August 1950.
In 1957, another merger saw St. John’s become part of the United Church of Christ. More physical improvements were made over the years: a new circular drive, the purchase and development of adjacent land to accommodate a growing congregation, and a new organ.
Today’s members are led by the Rev. Michelle K. McNamara, interim pastor. Sunday School and worship service are held weekly at 9 a.m.
City Church: St. Gall Catholic Church • Est. 1870
120 W. Shannon St., Elburn, (630) 365-6030, stgall.com
Catholics living in early Elburn (then called Blackberry) had to travel 10 miles to St. Charles to attend Mass, unless a circuit priest was passing through, and then they celebrated in each other’s homes.
The first church of St. Gall was built in 1870 of local cut stone, on the southeast side of Elburn, by the men of Blackberry Mission, at a cost of $1,700. By 1875, the church had been paid for and a steel roof and bell tower added.
In 1911, the small mission church finally reached parish status and received its first resident pastor. The congregation had purchased the house directly across the street from St. Gall to serve as a rectory, where the new pastor lived with his mother and sister. The house still stands.
In 1925, a new church was built, the one still in use today. The Romanesque-style, pressed brick structure, outfitted with a Spanish belfry, cost $28,000 to construct and furnish – about $700,000 today. The first mass was held in the new church on Dec. 24, 1925. Around 1897, the stone of the first church was used to build shelters in Elburn Forest Preserve and Johnson’s Mound.
During the Great Depression, membership dwindled and the church again became a mission, with no resident pastor. By the mid 1930s, the parish had revived and was assigned what would become its longest-serving pastor. By 1960, membership reached 110 families; that number more than doubled in the next decade.
In July 1970, the Parish Hall was completed. The 50-year-old church was renovated and redecorated during the winter and spring of 1975, and again during the summer and fall of 1989.
Today, this parish of 690 families is led by the Rev. Karl Ganss, pastor. Mass is held Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8:30 a.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m.