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 in each issue.
Country Church: The Brick Church, Walworth, Wis. • Est. 1844
N1509 Brick School Road, Walworth, Wis.
In 1844, a group of 22 pioneers believed God wanted them to establish a Christian church in what would become Walworth, Wis. This was four years before Wisconsin became a state.
In 1845, they secured their first minister, who also preached in Darien, Wis. The little group first met in a small log schoolhouse and, by 1856, had erected the first section of the current brick church building, for $2,500. Two early church leaders ordered a bell from near their homeland in England. It took four years to arrive and still rings today.
Throughout the history of The Brick Church, members have improved the building with their own hands, even digging and cementing a basement in 1938.
For a time, the church became the First Baptist Church of Walworth. But Baptist affiliation ended in 2002 and it again became an independent, non-denominational fellowship of believers known only as The Brick Church.
Today, congregants support a variety of missionaries, both foreign and domestic, as well as the Christian education of children K-12 at private Faith Christian School in Williams Bay, Wis.
They also support Inspirational Ministries, a 65-year-old entity in Walworth, where people with disabilities can grow, work, mature in faith, and lead productive, joy-filled lives.
Too, the Brick Church supports Agape House, in Walworth, where teen girls and young women from all walks of life receive guidance from a professional team of counselors who help them to heal their hurts, further their educations, mature in faith and lead productive, healthy lives.
Senior Pastor William E. Lincoln leads the Brick Church. Sunday worship and children’s church is at 10 a.m., with 9 a.m. Sunday school.
City Church: St. Anthony of Padua, Rockford • Est. 1909
1005 Ferguson St., Rockford
This parish turns 110 years old this year. It’s known for serving Rockford’s early Italian-American immigrant population with a church, school and “Americanization Center” for learning the English language and other skills important to gaining employment and assimilating into U.S. life. The first wave of Italians began arriving here in the 1880s.
The church’s self-published history states, “Immediately after the first World War, there would have been anther wave of immigration if it had not been stopped by restrictive legislation passed by Congress which set the Italian quota at 5,666 immigrants per year (quota system). The law of 1965 (Immigration Reform Act) abandoned the quota system, an injustice against which the Order Sons of Italy in America fought for many years. Since then more than 20,000 Italians have entered the U.S. yearly.”
About 10,000 Rockford households are of Italian origin today and Italian-Americans own many local businesses and serve in the highest positions of the city.
While the ethnic composition of the church’s southwest Rockford neighborhood has changed, and the church closed its school in 1974, the Italian-American membership of this parish remains steady at about 1,100. This is partly because it is a national parish, meaning that any stateline-area Italian-Americans may join, even if they don’t live inside the parish borders.
The church remains an anchor of stability in southwest Rockford, offers religious education to all ages and serves the greater community in many ways.
The congregation is led by the Rev. James M. Ciaramitaro, pastor, and the Rev. Lucjan Szymanski, associate pastor.
Weekday mass is at 8 a.m.; Saturday vigil is at 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday mass is at 7, 9 and 11:30 a.m.