BY CAROL HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — HOOPESTON — First Church of God of Hoopeston will mark its Centennial Celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday with free food, beverages, plenty of games for children and adults and a lot of musical entertainment.
The church, located at 1010 E. Orange St. (Illinois Route 9), began its journey in 1913 as an old-fashioned tent meeting on the Charles Beaver farm in Wellington. As the congregation grew from little cottage prayer meetings, a more permanent meeting place was necessary to hold the growing congregation. The church rented a building on West Main to house its services. That building, which served the church from about 1914 to 1926, still stands, most recently known as Zarate’s Market.
Later in the early 1920s, the congregation’s expansion made it necessary to expand its facility even more. The church made the decision to buy land on West Penn Street between First and Second Avenue to construct a two-story building to house 175 people, a choir loft, four classrooms, a coal furnace/storage area and a washroom. The new church was dedicated in 1926.
Once again the congregation outgrew its building. Land was purchased in 1958 on the north side of East Orange Street to construct a new church. Plans were drawn up for the first phase of the one-story building, donations collected for building materials, and the erection of the new church began. On January 1968, according to history, “the congregation caravanned from the ‘little church on Penn Street’ to its present home.”
The first phase included the sanctuary, baptismal pool and choir loft, three classrooms, a small kitchenette, two restrooms and attic storage.
Phase II for the church began in 1979 after a generous bequest to the congregation. The addition, which included the pastor’s study, four new classrooms and the fellowship hall, was completed and dedicated in 1980.
An unusual event happened in October 2005 that surprised and elated members of the church. A quilt made by the ladies of First Church of God in 1938 with all members of the church inscribed on it, appeared on Ebay and sold for $200 to a Cissna Park couple. The quilt finally made its way home through the efforts of Doc and Pam Whiteman, and now resides on the wall in the church library, a piece of history from the “little church on Penn Street.”
The church does more than care for the souls of its congregation, it also houses a recycle center for cell phones, ink cartridges, store coupons, eye glasses and cases, hearing aids, aluminum cans and pop tabs in the church library. Some of the programs at the church include a clothing shop, an emergency food cupboard for church members, a “Marriage by the Book” program, Awana program for children, an addiction recovery program and, after the recent J&R Used Tire fire, the church was designated as the official Red Cross station in city emergencies.
“As far as future plans, we do still need more space,”said Pastor Micah Mobley. “ I believe the church should be a light to, a hub of community.”
He added, “Starting in January 2014, we will be starting community support groups. These groups will be marketed to and open to everyone. We will be providing meals and tutoring for children and an outlet for people who need community, help and support.”
Sadie Evans, daughter of the Rev. Walter and Gertrude Evans, added, “The history of this congregation is not finished. It is ever on-going, into each successive generation.”
For information about First Church of God, call 283-9330, e-mail: email@example.com or go to the web site: http://www.hoopestonchurch.org.
Ministers 1913-present — It is not known who started the tent meetings at the Charles Beaver farm near Wellington, nor who the itinerant preacher was who conducted the meetings. However, the following list of ministers have pastored at Hoopeston Church of God during the last 97 years: Brother Radaker; Rev. Phoebe Harrington; Rev. Joseph Hoopingarner; Rev. Walter P. Evans Sr.; Rev. G.H. Stringfield; Rev. Henry Stamm (first term, 1940s); Rev. Forrest Witt; Rev. Edward Duty; Reverends Walter P. Evans, Jr. and Gertrude Evans; Reverends Thomas and Jean McCracken; Rev. Harley Benthin; Rev. Rick Blumenberg; Rev. J.F. Selvidge; Rev. Henry Stamm second term, 1970s); Rev. Marilyn Henry; Rev. Billy Wiles; Rev. Lewis Mershon; Rev. Ardeen Webster; Rev. Jeremy Morton; and Rev. Micah Mobley.