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.
Country Church: Science Ridge Mennonite Church • Est. 1858
1702 E. Science Ridge Road, Sterling, Ill., (815) 626-0538, scienceridge.il.us.mennonite.net/
Whiteside County was officially established in 1836, and the first Mennonites began to settle there around 1847.
In 1852, Benjamin Stauffer and his wife were the first to arrive with a following, and the group met in Jacob Snively’s corn barn until 1858, when a church was built on land donated by Snively.
The surrounding community of Science Ridge had a one-room schoolhouse directly across road, and the new church came to be known by that name as well. It received its first minister in 1860, and organized the first Illinois Mennonite Sunday School in 1882. An addition was added in 1871, and in 1882, the building was lengthened, a basement dug and a wood furnace installed. Another large wing was added in 1921, and this structure served the congregation until 1967, when a new church was built and dedicated at the current location.
Science Ridge hosted the first statewide Mennonite Church Conference in 1872; the second General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America in 1900; and the first conference session of the then newly united Mennonite and Amish Mennonite conference of Illinois in June 1921. In 1900, Science Ridge formed the first Mennonite women’s missionary society in Illinois.
Today’s membership of 126 is led by Pastor Arnold Owens, with Sunday worship at 10 a.m. and Sunday School at 11 a.m.
City Church: Redeemer Lutheran Church • Est. 1931
827 16th St., Rockford, Ill., (815) 397-2227, redeemerrockford.org
his church began when a group of men decided to organize a Lutheran church on the east side of Rockford, and met with Missouri Synod representatives on May 21, 1931.
The first service of Redeemer Lutheran Church was held just three days later, at Good Templars Hall, with 95 members in attendance. The congregation continued to rent the hall as worship space for another two years.
The church was officially accepted as a member of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in June 1933, and received its first permanent pastor in July of that year. In 1934, a building fund was established; the property at 16th Street and 8th Avenue was purchased in 1936. The cornerstone was laid in May 1938, and the church dedicated that September.
The congregation continued to grow, and by 1950, it was apparent a larger worship space was needed. That same year, Redeemer began broadcasting its early morning worship service over the radio. A new sanctuary was dedicated in December 1951, and the old space converted into office and storage space.
A youth building was constructed in 1961, and a welcome center, with an elevator, was added in 2006. In 2009, a plan was developed to convert the old church space into a youth outreach space, where concerts, special events, study groups and youth-oriented worship services will be held. Called Area 38 to commemorate the year the space was built, the program has hosted a few events but is still evolving.
Currently, The Rev. Stephen J. Klemp leads an average Sunday attendance of 160 in two services: traditional at 8 a.m., and contemporary at 10:30 a.m.