‘We built it to serve our community’
The doors of New Life Lutheran Church in Sterling are open and congregants are officially welcome inside the brand new building.
On a Wednesday afternoon, a small group of congregants listened as the Rev. Bill Sullivan led a Midweek Lenten Service.
The atmosphere inside was just the calm before the expected storm when the church has its official dedication the weekend of March 16-17. Hundreds are expected to attend.
The church bought land at its new location, 702 W. Lynn Blvd., 2 years ago, Sullivan said. Leaders broke ground on the facility in May 2012. Site preparations began in August. A month later, work on the foundation began, he said.
“After the steel framing went up,” Sullivan said, “our members took over and built the rest of the facility, from framing to drywalling to finishing.”
The church’s sanctuary is impressive – there is seating for 400, and chairs can be added in the center to accommodate 500.
“We wanted to build a warm and inviting space, a big enough space to expand,” Sullivan said. “We know that about 60 percent of the people in our community don’t have a church home.”
Inside the sanctuary are two large digital projection screens, one on each side. While Sullivan delivered his message on Wednesday, congregants followed along by reading the message on the screen.
Rich Kuecker of Dixon, a church member and volunteer, helped to make some of the technology upgrades possible.
“We’re blessed to have a pastor that just embraces technology and forward thinking,” Kuecker said. “On top of a very good sound system, we have very large projection screens, and also computer-controlled lighting for the altar and sanctuary areas.”
He said such features are common in larger, contemporary churches in big cities. The features are intended to create a peaceful environment.
“Worshipping needs to be meaningful to people,” Kuecker said. “They need to be comfortable and employing all the senses. The sound and just the feel of the room help enhance worship and let people focus on why they’re here.”
He said elderly church members are grateful for the enhanced viewing opportunity during service.
Although the new building has many special features, Kuecker is clear about the most important factor in the success of the church.
“It is just a building,” he said. “The people and the congregation are what will do God’s work in the future.”
Ervin Rhodes of Rock Falls, vice president of the church, said the new building was made possible by the work of many volunteers.
“It’s amazing; it’s just amazing, it’s hard to explain,” Rhodes said of the new building. “I’ve been involved with it from the ground up. It’s amazing how it has happened.”
The new, larger space is essential to keep up with the number of congregants. During the first Sunday service in the new building on March 2, more than 400 attended, Sullivan said.
The new facility is a 30,000-square-foot building. In addition to the sanctuary, there is an atrium, fireside room and coffee bar. The building also includes an education wing, offices for staff, a youth room, and a multi-purpose room that can seat 325.
Sullivan said the construction of the church has been “a labor of love.” Some people encouraged the church to contract the work out, he said, but members decided they wanted to build as much as they could on their own.
“It has been an incredible experience that really brought the congregation together,” he said. “We didn’t build it for us. We built it to serve our community.
“We want to reach out to the people of the Sauk Valley and let them know that if they don’t have a church home, that we’d love to have them discover New Life.”
New Life Lutheran Church, 702 W. Lynn Blvd., will dedicate its new building the weekend of March 16-17. On Saturday, the church will welcome the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday, the church will have its regular worship services at 8:30 and 10:45 a.m. The dedication service will begin at 3 p.m.