Organized religion played a major role in the settling of Illinois and continues to influence the culture of our region. We highlight two places of worship, one in the country and one in the city.
Country Church: Middle Creek Presbyterian Church • Est. 1855
12473 Montague Road, Winnebago, (815) 335-2609, middlecreekpcuse.wordpress.com
This church was begun by a group of Presbyterian families that had come from Pennsylvania, who wanted a place to worship near their homes. Its name is a combination of their Pennsylvania church, Middle Ridge, and the local geography, which includes three creeks but no ridges. With a congregation of 47, members built a church on donated land in 1860, and a cemetery was established next to the structure.
Extensive remodeling in 1911, and additions of a basement, a brick education wing, a manse, a modern brick ranch home and a church office, built between 1949 and 1985, have brought the property to its current state. In its 141-year history, Middle Creek has had just seven pastors, giving it consistent leadership.
Today’s congregation, drawn from the Byron, Winnebago and Rockford areas, is led by Pastor Anita Stuart-Steva. The church has a regular choir, a bell choir, a guitar group and a children’s choir.
Family communion is Sunday at 8:30 a.m., with a blended worship service at 10:20 a.m. Sunday School for all ages is offered Sept.-May at 9:15, with Coffee Fellowship following the last service. June-August, Coffee Fellowship is held at 9:15 a.m.
City Church: Berean Baptist Church • Est. 1953
5626 Safford Road, Rockford(815) 962-4661, bereanbaptist.cc
This church was initiated in 1953 by The Rev. Melvin Swanson, ordained in 1950 and ready to start his own church. That first service, held in a basement at 4615 Auburn St. in Rockford, was attended by a congregation of 17.
Eventually, membership growth required the congregation to consider larger quarters. After much discussion, members voted to purchase land and build a more expansive church. Through the contribution of time, money and expertise by church members, the current Berean Baptist Church was built. It retained its original membership and continued to grow.
In 1977, Berean Baptist School was founded by Swanson, with the philosophy that academic and religious learning should go hand-in-hand. Today, it serves more than 200 students, grades PreK through 12.
In 1988, the Rockford church sponsored Berean Baptist Church of Beloit as a mission church, which has grown and prospered in its own right. Since 1995, Swanson’s son Kelvin has served as its pastor.
Swanson served as pastor for 58 years, when his son, Mark, took over in 2011. From that original 17 members, more than 600 attend weekly services, held on Sunday, 11 a.m.-noon and 6:30-8 p.m.