ROCK FALLS – With 75 members, First Christian Church of Rock Falls is among the smaller ones in the area. Like many traditional churches, its membership is getting older, with the average age estimated at 60.
But the church on Fifth Avenue remains active, as it showed its neighborhood Saturday afternoon.
The congregation put on a party at neighboring Veterans Park, featuring music from the combination of two bluegrass bands, games such as ring toss for kids, and food.
It was part of a local effort for churches to reach out to their neighborhoods. On a Saturday in April, 17 churches – 14 in Sterling and three in Rock Falls – held "I Love My Neighborhood" community socials.
The goal: To get residents to know their neighbors on each side and in front and back.
The socials were part of the work of the local WeCan group, which local leaders formed to deal with gangs and other issues.
First Christian Church decided to have a followup function Saturday. In April, members hand-delivered invitations within a 3-block radius. For the latest event, they mailed postcards to 124 residents in the neighborhood.
About 11:30 a.m. Saturday, nearly 50 people were at Veterans Park, including neighbors, church members, and friends and family of the bands.
Dennis Hurd, pastor of Faith Promise Church, said he heard about gospel music at Veterans Park when he was around town Saturday morning, so he decided to show up.
"We need to do more of this kind of stuff," said Hurd, who lives in the neighborhood. "This is how neighbors find out who you are and what you stand for."
For a small organization, First Christian Church has a lot of projects – a food pantry and women's jail ministry, among other things.
One of the event's organizers, Marge Sadowski, said her mother, Willie Harold, belonged to the church for 60 years until her death in 1988. Sadowski said she tries to follow her mother's take-charge style.
"I want the rest of the churches to become more involved," Sadowski said.