Organized religion plays 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.
“Faith is not something to grasp; it is a state to grow into.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Country Church: Alden United Methodist Church, Est. 1863
16532 IL Route 173, Alden, Ill., (815) 648-2240, aldenunitedmethodist.net
Alden Township was first settled in 1836 by Nathan and Darius Disbrow, and the spot where they built their cabin became the village of Alden. The first Methodist services were held in 1838 in the cabin of another Disbrow, and the members worshipped in this manner, served by circuit preachers, until 1856.
The congregation built its own church, a simple wood frame building with a bell tower, which was dedicated in 1863. It was heated by two large wood-burning stoves, with sheds and a livery stable behind.
A Sunday School room was added in 1914, and by the 1920s, it had a membership of about 50. The basement was enlarged in 1949, and in 2005, siding was installed over the well-worn, oft-painted boards.
The congregation received the gift of an Allen Digital Organ in 2006. This year marks the 150th anniversary of this “Cathedral on the Prairie.” Its pastor, The Rev. James Bell, leads Sunday services at 9:30 a.m., with an average weekly attendance of 32. Sunday School is offered for children age preschool to third grade, during service time.
City Church: The Congregational United Church of Christ, Est. 1837
40W451 Fox Mill Blvd., St. Charles, (630) 584-0929, uccstc.org
In 1834, Dean Ferson built a cabin on the west side of the Fox River, near what is now Mt. St. Mary Park, becoming the first settler in St. Charles. In 1837, nine charter members established the Congregational Church of St. Charles, meeting in each other’s houses for three and a half years, during which time membership grew to about 25.
In 1842, ground was broken to build a permanent structure at what is now Walnut Street. Construction was completed in 1848, and the first bell in St. Charles was installed. By 1878, membership had grown to about 140.
It became the United Church of Christ in 1957, when the Congregational and Evangelical Reformed churches merged. The members continued to worship in the same spot until a gift of land was received in the Mill Creek subdivision in 1995. The congregation voted to sell the original building to the Free Methodist Church of St. Charles and began to plan construction of a newer, larger facility.
The current church was dedicated on Nov. 8, 1998, marking exactly the 150th anniversary of the first house of worship on Walnut Street.
Today, the Rev. John Rodgers serves as pastor to a confirmed membership of 992, and an average weekly worship attendance of 275. On Sundays, a brief service is held at 8:30 a.m., and a full service with Sunday School at 9:30 a.m.