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.
United Church of Beloit• Est. 1849 & 1859
657 Bluff St., Beloit, Wis., (608) 362-6857
United Church of Beloit formed after the 2012 merger of two congregations established before the Civil War – First Presbyterian (1849) and Second Congregational (1859). The two had always shared much in common, including a commitment to helping the needy of their community.
“For example, both congregations worked to establish the local Caritas food (and diaper) bank in the 1970s, something that’s still very important to people today,” says Carol Taylor, licensed lay minister. “We’re very proud of the way we’ve always served the community and still do.”
“Doing Really Good Stuff” is a church motto that sums up what this church is about. Members not only work to meet the spiritual needs of local people, but also physical and mental needs like food, shelter, school supplies and companionship.
Family Promise, Beloit Meals on Wheels, Beloit Salvation Army, Groceries Plus for God and Project 16:49 are among missions projects with local impact. Taylor describes the latter as “a nonprofit organization serving Rock County’s homeless teens, providing them with support they need to stay in school and become self-sufficient adults.”
United Church also supports Heifer International; Wycliffe Bible Translators; National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) Missions Argentina, Missions Mazahua and Indian Trails; One Great Hour of Sharing and Presbyterian Disaster Fund.
The Rev. Steven Erkel, a California native who’s served several Midwest churches, leads this merged congregation. He formerly worked as a counselor to at-risk high school youths.
Erkel is assisted by Taylor, a lifelong resident of Beloit.
United Church is a member of both NACCC and the Presbyterian Church USA.
Services are Bible-based and rich in multi-generational music, both traditional and contemporary. Communion for all is served on first Sundays of each month.
Sunday Worship is at 10 a.m., with child care provided after a children’s sermon. Taylor leads adult Bible study at 9 a.m.
Ebenezer Reformed Church • Est. 1869
2997 N. German Church Road, Oregon, Ill., (815) 732-6313
This busy little country church will celebrate its 150th anniversary on Sept. 21 with the kind of fun its founding families may have enjoyed – a men’s vintage softball game, picnic, cake walk, games, horse-drawn wagon rides and a bonfire with s’mores. (OK, maybe there weren’t s’mores in 1869.)
Located between Oregon and Byron, Ill., the church was founded by immigrant farmers from the East Friesen area of Germany. Services were conducted in German. Their first church sanctuary featured a partition down the middle that separated men’s seating from women’s.
The name “Ebenezer” relates to Hebrew words meaning “stone of help.”
Today the church supports Rockford Rescue Mission, a place where the downtrodden are restored to spiritual wholeness. It also supports Jackson County Ministries, serving people of the U.S. Appalachia region through volunteer service projects and evangelism.
Too, the church partners with Latin American Christian Ministries, which trains leaders to meet the needs of today’s fast-growing Protestant churches throughout Latin America.
Church members also serve their own communities in myriad ways, such as the annual backpack and school supply drive they conduct to help needy grade-school students in Oregon, Byron and Stillman Valley, Ill.
The Reformed Church in America is rooted in the Protestant Reformation of 1500s Europe and has about 975 churches in the U.S. and Canada.
Pastor Josiah Youngquist recently settled into the parsonage with his bride, Emma, and will be formally installed to Ebenezer Reformed Church on Sept. 15.
Sunday worship is at 10 a.m., with Sunday School at 9 a.m.