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: Millard Community Covenant Church • Est. 1842
N6713 County O, Elkhorn, Wis., (262) 742-3457, millardchurch.com
When the first members of this congregation met for worship, the only roads to follow were Native American trails. By 1842, the numbers attending services required a permanent building. An American Baptist congregation was formally organized at Barker’s Corners (now Millard), and services were held in the local schoolhouse until the first church was dedicated in 1849.
A second building was dedicated in 1892, completely paid for, along with a newly purchased parsonage. The old building, moved to the back of the lot, became the church hall. By 1898, membership had grown to 89, and the church was a gathering place for area social events. Members celebrated a 100th anniversary in 1942, with speakers and programs.
In April 1950, the main building was struck by lightning and it burned to the ground. Services were held in the old hall until completion of the current building in August 1951.
The church has been led by more than 30 pastors, with the Rev. Wallace Christen holding the longest tenure – from 1944 until his death in 2003, the same year the congregation voted to leave the American Baptist denomination and join the Evangelical Covenant Church.
The Rev. Lyle Heinitz is senior pastor to 173 confirmed members. During the school year, Sunday School begins at 9 a.m., with worship at 10 a.m. During the summer, worship begins at 9 a.m.
City Church: Zion Lutheran Church • Est. 1883
925 Fifth Ave., Rockford, (815) 964-4609, zionrockford.com
Rockford’s Swedish population in the late 1800s was booming, and with it the number of Swedish Lutherans. In 1883, about 150 of them held their first meeting as The Swedish Eangelical Lutheran Zion Church.
Members originally used Chick’s Hall for services, but eventually needed more space, so congregation leaders designed their own church. Although it was difficult to acquire the necessary funds for building costs, many congregants dontated their labor to help excavate and lay the foundation.
The church’s cornerstone was laid on July 20, 1884, on property acquired in Rockford’s Swedish neighborhood.
Membership and Sunday School enrollment continued to grow, and in 1929 the church completed its expanded instruction space.
In 1921, the Rev. Carl Solomonson helped to increase weekly offerings by introducing the envelope system, a way for congregants to donate during services. Most of the services then were spoken in Swedish, but as time progressed, English services became more common.
In the mid-1980s, Zion contemplated relocating its worship space to Spring Creek Road, but instead opted to remain in its historic home. Accordingly, the church has long supported food pantries and established the nonprofit Zion Development Corp., to provide employment, housing and economic support to its neighbors.
The church is currently under the leadership of Pastor Michael Thomas. Services are held on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.