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.
Ebenezer Reformed Church • Est. 1869
2997 N. German Church Road, Oregon, Ill., (815) 732-6313, ebenezerreformed.com
Before becoming an official church, a group of local German immigrants met regularly for prayer. After about 20 years of worshiping in residents’ homes, they learned that a small schoolhouse was available for use, so they moved services there and became recognized as an official church in 1869.
Several people led services until 1874, when the church declared the first pastor to be Rev. L. Watermulder. One year later, members realized a need for construction of additional space to accommodate the growing congregation, and a church was built on the property that’s now directly across from the current building.
The initial setup of the church included a partition that separated men and women during services. The services were originally spoken in High German, reflecting the German immigrants’ home language.
The congregation broke ground for a new building on May 12, 1968, and a dedication was held exactly one year later. This development provided enough time for the congregation to commemorate its 100th anniversary at the new building in 1969.
In 2004-05, a, 8,146-square-foot structure was attached to the church, providing eight classrooms for Sunday School and a large Family Life Center to host events.
Ebenezer, which translates to “Stone of Help,” partners with many local organizations, including the Rockford Rescue Mission and Jackson County Ministries. The youth group, Ladies Aid Society, work camp programs and other church groups have contributed to these organizations over the years.
Sunday School is on Sundays at 9 a.m., with services immediately following at 10 a.m.
The Old Stone Church • Est. 1838
101 E. Union, Rockton, Ill., (815) 624-6212
The Old Stone Church is the common name for the First Congregational United Church of Christ. The congregation was founded in the same year (1838) and by many of the same people as the Village of Rockton, Ill. It has been a vibrant part of Rockton’s history since that time.
The congregation met in homes of the members until the church building was constructed in 1850, making it one of the oldest active church buildings in Winnebago County. The limestone for the building was taken from the still-active quarry just south of Rockton and the walnut for the pews from just on the other side of the river, west of town.
One of the many stories in the history of the church is that the bell was given as a donation from the Talcott family and placed in the belfry in 1854. In 1913, a severe storm sent the steeple and its bell crashing to the ground, but the bell was undamaged. Though the bell was placed in a modified belfry, the church didn’t have the money for the new steeple until 1957. That same bell is rung every Sunday to announce worship and after every wedding to announce the new union.
The Rev. Dan Herman has been the pastor of the Old Stone Church since 2004. The church of 250 members holds worship at 9:30 a.m. every Sunday. The church is home to a food pantry which was organized 20 years ago by pantry manager Donn VanSchelven and serves people around Rockton, Roscoe, Shirland and South Beloit.