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Marseilles churches share history and faith

About 80 attend museum's event

Seattle Sutton gives a presentation during a program Sunday about the history of Marseilles churches at the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum.
Seattle Sutton gives a presentation during a program Sunday about the history of Marseilles churches at the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum.

Seven churches in Marseilles shared their unique characteristics and traditions Sunday with an overarching theme of unity and charity among the congregations.

About 80 people listened at the event hosted by the Seattle Sutton Marseilles Museum, 151 W. Washington St.

”Everyone here appreciates what their own church offers and enjoys the strong bond with other members each week," Sutton said. "It's your own church family.”

Representatives of the First Baptist Church, First Congregational Church Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church, First Church of God (Rev. Brian Hefner), United Methodist Church (Rev. Kihewan Choi) and Church of the Nazarene all provided snippets of church histories and information while talking about many programs spotlighting community service that includes a food pantry, missionary work, children and teen sports, Christmas events and outreach programs.

Baptisms in the Illinois River

Rosemary Martin said the First Baptist Church was built in 1866, on the same lot the current church is located, 555 E. Bluff St.

“Our church is proud to have Donna Caputo Barr serving as our treasurer,” said Martin, who has been secretary for 20 years. “Donna is the sixth generation member of the original church founder, Mary Harris Northrup. Baptisms took place in the Illinois River.”

During the church's history, 53 pastors served the congregation. One pastor served three months while Pastor Steve Anderson served the longest, seven years. This month, Pastor Troy Tvrdik has been approved as the church's 53rd pastor.

Taking part in Temperance Movement

Pastor Colleen Lawrence, First Congregational Church, also works with the Marseilles Ministerial Association. In 1858, Marseilles had a population of 750 people. In 1860, the church opened on Sept. 23, 1860 with 12 members that included Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans and other Congregational members.

The church has a unique area history regarding the Temperance Movement.

“In the 1870s church women took turns every day visiting the taverns and saloons in our area,” Lawrence said. “Every day they knelt in the sawdust covered floors, praying and of course, those establishments did close for a while.”

'Help each other when there's a need'

Rev. Pastor Howard Buchholz of Immanuel Lutheran Church said their church celebrated their 125th anniversary last month. The church had its share of tragedies.

“In the 1940s, our church burned down,” Buchholz said.

During the flood a few years ago, the Lutheran church helped the Catholic church in town.

"That's what's so great about our Christian community, we help each other when there's a need. Whether there is a church tragedy or a community member in need, we are always here for each other.

“I think we're the only church to own a 50-acre farm,” Buchholz said. “Our church and Pleasant View in Ottawa were interested in this farm located near Interstate 80 but it ended up with our church being lucky enough to have this donation.”

St. Columba intended as Diocese cathedral

Deacon Ron Wackerlin said St. Columba Church in Ottawa was originally built to be the cathedral for the regional Diocese until 1937 when a federal courthouse was built in Peoria and that diocese was established instead.

The pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church was recently reassigned to a parish in Coal City, making it necessary to combine with area churches in Seneca, Grand Ridge, Ransom and Earlville to share the availability of two African missionary priests. It is the first time since 1902 the parish has not had a pastor in residence.

“In 1943, our church burned down,” Wackerlin said. “Because it was wartime, it was not possible to rebuild the church. The Bolatto family donated property on Broadway to us and in 1951 the new St. Joseph Church was completed."

During the 2013 flood, St. Joseph Church suffered $750,000 in damages. The Food Pantry was moved and Immanuel Lutheran Church “let us use their church for our services,” Wackerlin said.

“We repaired our kitchen first so our food pantry could continue and we opened our kitchen to the school for their lunches. During this time, about 40 of our families moved, but today, we have 350 families, strong in faith and community.”

All began with a 'tent revival'

Rev. William Clark of the Church of the Nazarene said it all began in 1930 with a small group of Christians who gathered together for a tent revival on a yard lawn.

“This was when our non-denominational group was formed,” Clark said. “Our first reverend, Arthur Nutt was from Ottawa and in 1931, the Church of the Nazarene was formed with 16 members.”

The church was located at Washington and Main streets.

“Many people testified, many other people observed and soon, people knew about us and our group has grown.”

With about 30 ministries for adults, children and teens, the church has grown throughout the years.

“Through many hardships, we have always praised God and asked him to help us meet our obligations,” Clark said. “Church of the Nazarene is a mission-minded church, serving all over the world. And this is our 30th year of donating over 10 percent to mission work.”

'For the glory of our Lord'

The presentation ended with the Lord's Prayer, led by Lawrence.

“We all know the Lord's Prayer," she said. “Each of us may say it a little differently, so go ahead and recite it as you know it.”

Later, Lawrence spoke about the church presentation and it's importance, to a large round of applause.

“This has shown our community that no matter what faith we belong to, we all practice with love and patience," she said. "This presentation was not a demonstration or history of our individual church growth. This was a presentation for the glory of our Lord.”

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