“Faith is not something to grasp; it is a state to grow into.” –Mohandas Gandhi
Organized religion plays a major role in the culture of our Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin region. We enjoy highlighting places of worship, one in the country and one in the city, in each issue.
Lighthouse United Methodist Church • Est. 1836
4938 S. Daysville Road, Oregon, Ill.
This church will mark its 175th anniversary in 2011. In 1836, Dr. John and Elizabeth Roe arrived in what was yet to be organized as Ogle County. Coming from New York, Elizabeth noted in her diary the arduous last leg of their journey, crossing the windblown Illinois prairie in winter along the “Old Indian Trail.
The couple’s house was on a high point that was clearly visible for miles, and this is the origin of the name. Elizabeth kept a light in the window to help her husband find his way home after his rounds, and to guide others migrating west in their “Prairie Schooners.”
The couple attended Methodist services at Chapel Hill in Washington Grove (now Chana). When that church burned in 1838, the Roes held services in their home, and from this sprang what would become the Lighthouse congregation. The Roes donated three acres of land on which to build a church and cemetery, and by 1844, with more than 100 members, work began on a parsonage. The members milled their own wood and fired their own bricks for this and the church, which was completed in 1846, the same year the Roes moved to Chicago.Elizabeth spent her later years in Chana, and the couple’s descendents still live in the area.
A new church with brick veneer replaced the old one in 1876; the first 125-foot-tall steeple blew down, and the shortened, 83-foot version, was twice struck by lightning. Electricity and a furnace were added in 1930; in 1932, the church was destroyed by a furnace fire. The present all-brick building was dedicated in 1933, built at a cost of about $11,000 and with many donations of materials and labor.
Today, Pastor Rich Fassig leads 9 a.m. Sunday worship, with an average attendance of about 75, followed by 10 a.m. Sunday school for kindergarten through 6th grade. ❚
Grace Episcopal Church • Est. 1835
309 Hill St., Galena, Ill. (815) 777-2590, www.gracegalena.org
In 1826, Galena was incorporated as a town, and the congregation of this church held its first service, on the banks of what is now the Galena River. Services were held in members’ homes until it was officially established as a parish in 1835.
For the next year, the congregation met at the courthouse and then, above a downtown storefront, until it was able to take possession of a wooden chapel on Bench Street.
In a little more than 10 years, the burgeoning membership demanded a larger building, and in 1848, the cornerstone for the existing church was set. Built of limestone quarried on site, it was completed in 1849. Its beautiful stained glass windows are made of Belgian glass. The chapel, altar area and sacristy, added in 1893, along with extensive stenciling and historic plaques, give character to the church’s interior. The organ, which is still played, was purchased in 1838, from the Henry Erben Organ Co. in New York and first used in the Bench Street church. The marble baptismal font was also used there. A complete $450,000 restoration was completed in 2001. Its Parish House Gallery hosts art exhibits throughout the year.
One of the church’s hidden gems is its meditation garden, flanked by the building’s stone buttresses and guarded by an arched wrought iron gate. Inside, a water fountain, icons, statues, landscaping and benches offer a place for quiet contemplation.
It is the oldest Episcopal church in continuous use in the Chicago Diocese. Led by The Rev. Linda Packard, interim rector, services are held twice per week, at 10:30 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays. ❚