On June 7, 1953, twelve families, consisting of thirty-seven persons, met together for worship in the Masonic Hall, located at 183 West Washington Street in West Chicago for the purpose of establishing the Church of Christ in this city.
For some years subsequent to this a number of that group had been meeting for mid-week services at the homes of the Thomas Rucker and Robert Pipkin families in West Chicago. On Sunday they traveled seventy-five miles, round trip, to worship with the Northwest Church of Christ located at Wilson and Kilbourne Avenues in Chicago.
Very shortly after that first meeting in the Masonic Hall, Don Horn was employed to preach for the congregation. He was succeeded on February 15, 1955, by Oliver Rogers who was to minister the congregation for the next 15 years.
Included in the initial plans was a building fund. Three lots at Ingalton and James were immediately purchased and paid for in less than two years. Following this Samuel Lanford, a Chicago architect, was selected to draw up plans for the first phase of the building program. Lee Newman & Company of Downers Grove did the construction at the cost of about $50,000. About 50% of the needed funds came from the membership, averaging sixty-five in attendance, with the remainder being borrowed. Construction began in August 1956 and was sufficiently completed by March 1957 that the congregation could begin worshipping there.
By 1960 the congregation had grown sufficiently to become fully organized according to the New Testament pattern. Three men, Woodrow Luttrell, Bob Pipkin and Tom Rucker, were appointed as elders to oversee the program of the church. They in turn selected seven deacons to serve the congregation.
In the fall of 1961 it became evident that future growth would be handicapped unless the physical plant was expanded. The second phase of construction began early in 1962. This expanded the facility to a seating capacity of three hundred fifty. Sufficient class rooms were added to accommodate two hundred fifty.
Early mission and benevolence work included monthly support of Shults-Lewis Children’s Home, Valparaiso, Indiana and the Romeo Home for the Aged, Romeo, Michigan. Support was also provided to the Herald of Truth radio and television programs, the New York Worlds Fair project and mission work by the Robert Morris family in Germany.
Early in 1964 the leadership organized and instituted a very efficient program of work entitled, “Plans for Progress,” that was designed to utilize maximum potential of every member. This program worked very effectively and produced most gratifying results.
In 1969 Oliver Rogers left to take a pulpit position with the North Central Church of Christ in Bloomington, Indiana. During his ministry the average Sunday attendance had grown to over 200. Dale Smith, a native of Kentucky, was engaged to minister to the congregation. Smith had been involved in several works in the Midwest and was a field worker for the Herald of Truth. He served the church for about three years. The Smith family was the first occupants of the newly constructed residence built on the church grounds. Much of the construction was done by the membership. During this period the West Chicago congregation was instrumental in the planting of a church in the fast growing Naperville community. Smith would preach in the Jim Rampton home early Sunday morning, and then travel to West Chicago for their 10:30 a.m. service. The Naperville work started on July 5, 1970, grew quickly and by June 6, 1971, was a fully autonomous, self supporting congregation.
Larry Owen, a native of Dora, MO, was the next minister to serve the congregation. He came to the church on January 1, 1973 from Clinton, Iowa after preaching in California, Arkansas and Missouri. During this period average attendance grew to 250 with a high of 287. In August of 1975 the church started a “Children’s Bible Hour” and began running a “Joy Bus” to bring in children from the community. The “Joy Buses” soon grew to three and the number of children to about 70. About 16 couples and 10 to 15 teens were involved in this program each week.
When Owen moved to Missouri in 1977, Louis Rambo, a seminary student in the area, filled in as preacher from January to July of 1978. Ralph Burris assumed the full time position on August 15 of that year. He served the church until March of 1982. In February of ’79 the congregation formed fellowship/ service groups called Brothers Keeper Units. These greatly enhanced the feeling of family and belonging. Also during this time the church was giving support to Charles James in Menominee, Mich., Ed Short in Taiwan, and Craig Webb in Argentina.
When the Burris family moved to be closer to their aging parents in Indiana the men of the church took on the preaching until Sherrill Cox was secured to minister the church. His ministry was to last almost eight years from June ’83 until April ’91. Cox was born in Michigan and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. He was ed ucated at Michigan Christian Collage, David Lipscomb University, Murray State University and Ohio University where he attained his PhD in communications.
During this period the wives of the elders began a Woman’s Ministry to serve the church. It has created a special bond among the women and allowed them to use their very special talents in very special ways to serve others. Their areas of ministry’ are Benevolence, Building Ministry, Edification and Teaching, Evangelism and Fellowship.
In 1989, facing a deteriorating building, a decision was made to renovate the present structure and not to build a new facility on property purchased early for that purpose. Three teams were formed to guide the work -Finance, Construction and Decorating. The project ran into considerable problems with the West Chicago zoning and building departments, the final variances were granted on March 11, 1990. The congregation began meeting across the street at Turner School on March 29 so demolition and construction could begin. During construction Sunday evening services were suspended and Wednesday Bible Study was held in homes. The first worship back in the building was on June 16, 1991.
In January of 1992, after another period of preaching by the men of the congregation, John McRay, a professor of Bible at Wheaton Collage, was asked to fill the pulpit until a full time man could be found. Chuck Miller, then living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, accepted the work in June of’92 and began preaching in late summer of that year. Miller’s background was in education, Christian Youth Camps and Christian Childcare. He had worked for about 10 years with Shults-Lewis Child & Family Services as program director and had recently directed a childcare work in Bowling Green. Although this was to be his first full time preaching assignment, Miller, a son of a preacher, had preached and taught Bible Classes for many congregations throughout his life. He has been a binding force in the congregation.
For much of its history the church has been close to the work of Enoch and Jeannine Thweat in Taiwan and the United States. At one point being the principal support of the work. Rockford Christian Camp is another work the members of the congregation have supported from its very foundation. Locally the church maintains an Emergency Food Pantry for those needing short term help.
Update by Don Brewster 1996