ROCK FALLS – The town’s oldest house of worship is marking a milestone.
Rock Falls United Methodist Church, 210 Fourth Ave., will celebrate its 150th anniversary Sunday.
The Most Rev. Sally Dyck, bishop of the United Methodist Church’s Northern Illinois Conference, will give the sermon, with food and fellowship to follow.
Mayor Bill Wescott declared Sunday as Rock Falls United Methodist Church Day at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline and state Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, presented proclamations in their respective houses.
The Rev. Solomon Sudhakar, United Methodist’s pastor since 2016, takes pride in its history.
“We have a proud, rich heritage of not only being a witness of this area, but of sharing God’s love out of the walls of the church into the community,” Sudhakar, said. “We share the good news in several other ways, not just preaching, but meeting people’s needs and lending a shoulder for them to lean on.”
For example, the church provides and bags personal care and household items for 150 to 280 families every month.
For that, the Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce awarded it its prestigious Shoulder to the Wheel Award in 2017.
“It’s good to see so many families in need come and really appreciate what we are doing,” Sudhakar said. “That gives us a sense of joy and completeness.”
The church originates from the first Methodist services in 1838 in Harrisburg, which was the east side of what is now present-day Sterling. City founder Hezekiah Brink held services in his cabin.
After Harrisburg merged with Chatham to form Sterling, services were held in the courthouse between Third and Fourth streets until Broadway First Methodist was built in 1855, one block north.
In 1867, a dispute over the sale of pew space reservations led to a split, and about 30 members began Fourth Street Methodist Church at West Fourth Street and Avenue A.
Rock Falls was founded that same year, and the Rev. J. H. Alling of Fourth Street came to the other side of the Rock River in 1869 to hold services. The Rev. John A. Stayt was the Rock Falls church’s first pastor.
Services were held in a schoolhouse before a building was constructed in 1871, at 212 Fourth Ave. That building was replaced in 1904, then burned in a fire Jan. 22, 1922. The current brick structure was completed 9 months later.
Almon A. Wheeler had donated a sterling silver communion set to the church in 1875; it, and a second set, donated by W.B. Emmons in 1906, was salvaged.
Modern sets now are used, but Sudhakar recently used a stein from the 1875 set for a baptismal.
Sudhakar looks forward to continuing United Methodist’s mission and traditions.
“Christianity and faith is all about sharing the good news, and that’s what we are here for.”
Rock Falls United Methodist Church invites the community to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
Worship service will start at 9 a.m. at the church, 210 Fourth Ave., with the Most Rev. Sally Dyck, bishop of UMC's Northern Illinois Conference, offering the sermon. Food and fellowship will follow at 10:30.
In addition, artifacts and historical photographs will be on display Sundays in August during services, which begin at 9 a.m.