Organized religion played a major role in the settling of Illinois and continues to influence the culture of our region. We highlight places of worship, one in the country and one in the city.
Zion United Methodist Church • Est. 1845
157 W. Jefferson Ave., Hampshire, (847) 683-2430, zionunitedmethodistchurchofhampshire.com
When local farmers first formed this church in 1845, they practiced the Protestant Evangelical faith. Pastor G. A. Blank led their first German Evangelical Church, while the first sanctuary, cemetery and parsonage were built in 1858, near what is now Aurand Cemetery. Most of the original members spoke German, but more of its members spoke English by 1885, when the congregation dedicated a new, larger house of worship in Hampshire.
Between 1912 and 1968, the church changed its name several times as it merged with smaller local congregations. It became the Zion Evangelical Church in 1912. By 1946 it had become the Zion Evangelical United Brethren Church, and in 1968, when the Evangelical United Brethren denomination joined the American Methodist Church, this congregation settled on its current name.
The historic church building has undergone many changes over the years. Beams from a German sanctuary were installed in 1913. Lightning destroyed a steeple in the 1920s. Plumbing was installed in the 1930s, a basement in the 1950s, a new parsonage in 1988, and handicap-accessible functions in 1993.
Recognized today as the oldest church in town, the congregation celebrates its 170th anniversary this year. Events are planned throughout the year, including a “ringing of the bells,” in October, when the church will ring its bell 170 times – once for each year of service to the community.
The Rev. Diana K. Otterbacher has led the church since 2011. Services are on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church • Est. 1965
404 N. Green St., McHenry, (815) 385-4030, shepherdofhills.org
This younger congregation was formed in the early 1960s to fill a need for an American Lutheran Church. Originally started as a mission church and led by Pastor Donald Johnson, Shepherd of the Hills built a sanctuary and fellowship room from 1964 to 1965. Congregants held their first service on June 13, 1965, and dedicated the church that December.
In 1973, the church became a home for aspiring pastors, as it began an internship program that would eventually guide 16 students into the ministry.
With an eye on the future, the growing church began planning a new sanctuary in 1979. During the planning process, interest rates jumped to 16 percent, so to finance a new structure, church members bought loan certificates at 10 percent interest. The new sanctuary was dedicated in 1981 and was paid off within seven years. In 1987, the congregation began planning an education wing. To save costs, many of the congregants spent time painting, hanging doors and installing fixtures.
Calling itself “A Church That Cares,” Shepherd of the Hills remains active in the community, with a youth group and Women of the ELCA, an organization that provides support to members and local residents. Sunday School classes focus on a new theme each week, such as patience, kindness or faithfulness. Both youth and adult choirs sing and play instruments at weekly worship services. Adult music groups include a hand bell choir, brass choir and senior choir.
Senior pastor The Rev. Roger W. Schneider, leads worship every Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.