Organized religion played a major role in the settling of Illinois and continues to influence the culture of our region. We enjoy highlighting places of worship, one in the country and one in the city, in each issue.
Country Church: St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church • Est. 1857
8315 S. Massbach Road, Elizabeth, Ill. (815) 598-3367, nwilchurches-elca.com/massbach
This is is the oldest Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Jo Daviess County, and one of the oldest in the United States whose roots are in the former German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa.
The sturdy German pioneers who founded St. John settled here before nearby communities of Elizabeth or Massbach were established, when the area was called “Rush Creek.” They held services in each other’s homes until they decided to construct a church.
The first house of worship was a log structure erected just south of Massbach in 1859, where the church’s cemetery is now located. The congregation’s first marriage was performed that same year. The congregation met here until 1900, when swelling membership required the construction of a larger building. This first frame church was struck by lightning and burned in 1913; the second, built just north of Massbach and dedicated in 1914, was destroyed by a tornado in 1922. Undaunted, the congregants built a third, on the foundation of the old one, and that building still stands.
Services were conducted in German until WW I, when the mother language was largely replaced by English. However, it wasn’t until 1940 that St. John discontinued its once-a-month German-language service altogether.
Pastor Lisa Burbank and her husband Rev. Bruce Burbank lead the church. They oversee a roughly 200-member congregation that attends church services Sundays at 9 a.m.
The couple also co-pastors Trinity Lutheran Church in Derinda, Ill., and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hanover, Ill. These three churches, along with St. Johns in Massbach, Ill., make up Scenic Hills Lutheran Parish.
City Church: Faith Community Church • Est. 1990
2931 Lucerne Dr., Janesville, Wis., (608) 758-2850, faithcommunitychurch.net
The lively congregation at Faith Community Church definitely cares about the Janesville community.
The CARES Ministry of Faith Community Church supports ministries and agencies in the Janesville area. CARES, which stands for Compassionate Acts of service Reaching out, Encouraging others and Serving locally, organizes monthly donations to local agencies that provide food, shelter and clothing to those in need.
At this church, which was founded in 1990, the congregation has an opportunity to serve the local community in three ways: By donating items, volunteering at an agency or making a cash donation.
The church supports multiple agencies in the area, including Acts of Kindness, House of Mercy Homeless Shelter and the YWCA Domestic Violence Women’s Shelter.
Since the supported agencies constantly need food and personal care items, a pantry is located in the church entryway for donations, which are accepted anytime the church is open. A CARES shopping list is also available at the pantry to help churchgoers know what items are most needed.
Visitors won’t feel out of place if they don’t dress up, at this church. Members and visitors are encouraged to come as they are and the music style is contemporary.
Pastor Jeff Williams leads an evening service Saturdays at 5 p.m.
Traditional services are on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. There’s also a Spanish service, held Sundays at 12:30 p.m.