“Restore Illinois” and Its Timeline for When Gatherings of 10, 50, and More Can Meet

Governor Pritzker’s five-phase “Restore Illinois” plan is summarized below with relevant points for gatherings of people. The pagination references below begin with the title page of the “Restore Illinois” document.

In short, essential gatherings of 10 are presently allowed (Phase 2), nonessential gatherings of 10 are allowed in the next phase (Phase 3), gatherings of 50 are allowed by June 26 (Phase 4), and gatherings with no limits are allowed after certain conditions are met.

Phase Summary Points for Churches Timeline
Phase 1: Rapid Spread Illinoisans must shelter-in-place and socially distance. Further, “only essential businesses remain open” (p. 2). “Every region has experienced this phase once already, and could return to it if mitigation efforts are successful” (p. 4).
Phase 2: Flattening “Non-essential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery” (p. 2). Outdoor activities are allowed. Illinoisans must cover their faces “when outside the home” (p. 2).

 

“Essential gatherings, such as religious services, of 10 or fewer allowed” (p. 2).

“To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May” (p. 4).

 

“No overall increase… in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days” (p. 7).

 

The end of this phase would be May 29 at the earliest.

Phase 3: Recovery Some businesses “reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions” (p. 2). “Gatherings of 10 people or fewer are allowed” (p. 2). Again, “No overall increase… in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days” (p. 8).

 

The end of this phase would be June 26 at the earliest.

Phase 4: Revitalization “Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed,” and more businesses open, schools and the like “reopen under guidance” (p. 2). “Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed” (p. 9). No specific time factors are given. Phase 5 only comes when “Vaccine, effective and widely available treatment, or the elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through her immunity or other factors.
Phase 5: Illinois Restored Everything functions as before, only now “with new safety guidance and procedures” (p. 2). All phases are complete.

 

A PDF of “Restore Illinois” is available here: https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/19948697/restoreillinois.pdf

If anything above is incorrect, please correct me in the comments section below. Thank you.

A Conference for Pastors and All on Monday, May 18: “Ministry in 2020: The Pastor, the Church, and Challenges Today.”

Click here to see the conference website.

Dear Pastors, Deacons, and Fellow Believers in Christ,

Please mark your calendars for this year’s Conference on the Church for God’s Glory on Monday, May 18, 2020, from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Our theme for the day will be Ministry in 2020: The Pastor, the Church, and Challenges Today.” As we see less of God’s common and saving grace in our society today, I believe that you will find this conference a help to you with the sessions that are offered: 

David Huffstutler will open the day with an expository sermon with the same title as the theme for the day, “Ministry in 2020: The Pastor, the Church, and Challenges Today.”

Kevin Bauder will guide us through Scripture’s thoughts on creation, sex, and gender, and relate these topics to some of the issues of the sexual revolution of our day.

Glen Currie will give us a Scriptural look at the senior pastor’s “last five years,” encouraging us towards how to plan and lead a church for when its senior pastor steps down.

David Doran will tackle the topic of missions and planting churches, a challenge throughout the history of the church.

Mike Harding will evaluate the social justice movement taking hold in many churches today.

Matt Morrell will wrap up the day by encouraging us all with an expository sermon from 2 Timothy 4:1–5.

To read more about our speakers, click here.

To see the schedule for the day, click here. 

Each of the men above either pastor, regularly work with pastors at a seminary, or do both. Speaking apart from myself, I believe these speakers represent a wealth of integrity, giftedness, experience, and wisdom that will help you face the challenges that they address. The fellowship with the other conference attendees will be worth your time as well.

I hope you can make it. We look forward to ministering to those who are able to come.

Trusting in Him,

Pastor David Huffstutler
First Baptist Church
Rockford, IL

PS As always, wives are free to attend (but please still register), and there is a discount for students in college or seminary. We do not have staffed nurseries for the day, but our nursery rooms will be available to any mothers who wish to use them.

2016 Conference on the Church for God’s Glory: “The Theology and Practice of Evangelism”

My church has the privilege of hosting an annual conference for pastors each year. Below is a short promo letter that we’ve already emailed to many. Please read and consider attending this year. You can find our conference website by clicking this link: ccggrockford.org. It has information about our schedule, speakers, travel, lodging, etc. I hope you can come!

Quoting a hymn from his day, the apostle Paul said of Jesus that He was “proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world” (1 Timothy 3:16). The proclamation continues, and many from the world’s nations continue to believe. To strengthen us in our continued proclamation, the theme of this year’s conference is “The Theology and Practice of Evangelism.” Our speakers are all men who have served as pastors, trained pastors, or both – Kevin Bauder, Scott Aniol, Michael Riley, David Huffstutler, Mark Snoeberger, and Steve Pettit.

Please mark Monday, May 16, 2016 on your calendar for the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory at First Baptist Church of Rockford, Illinois. The day is geared to encourage and edify, and we hope you can bring your staff members, deacons, and other church leaders. They will benefit from these sessions by hearing an excellent day of preaching directed towards leaders in the church.

As always, we will have our Publisher’s Bookroom with gift books for conference attendees and an array of books on display by various Christian publishers. Pastors will be able to go through the bookroom before 10:00 AM, and the bookroom is available to other conference attendees after the first session.

Ladies may join their husbands for free, but our publisher’s bookroom will be limited to attendees who have paid to attend the conference. (Please note that we do not provide a nursery or ladies’ sessions for the conference.)

In Christ,
David Huffstutler
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Rockford, IL

First Baptist Fridays: The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 3 of 3)

This biography of Dr. Allen was originally written at the time of his retirement. Click here for part 1 of this series, and here for part 2.

The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 3 of 3)

On January 16, 1952, a special business meeting of the church was held—a solemn and unhappy occasion for the majority of the members, and certainly for our beloved pastor For at this time his formal request for retirement was presented by the board of deacons and advisory board to the church at large The advisory board recommended that Dr. Allen’s request that his retirement begin May 1, 1952, be granted. This was so voted and the board then recommended adoption of a contract with Dr. Allen. This contract was adopted and provides that he shall receive a life pension of $3500.00 per year, in recognition and appreciation of his twenty eight years of devoted service to the Lord in this church. This recommendation was unanimously adopted Dr Allen, in his remarks, spoke of his happiness in his work in Rockford through the years, and said that his reason for wishing to retire at this time was solely that he felt the increasingly heavy demands of his position as pastor had become too great for him to attempt to fulfill at his time of life. He assured us that he will remain with us as a member of the church, and expressed deep gratitude for the pension voted him.

At a business meeting held later in January, Dr. Allen was voted the title of Pastor Emeritus. Also at this meeting, the advisory board recommended that the assistant pastor, Rev. Will H. Bisgaard, be extended the call to become First Baptist’s next pastor. This recommendation was adopted and Rev Bisgaard accepted the call. He will take up his duties as pastor on May 1, 1952.

Thus comes to a close, officially, the noteworthy active career of an able and courageous man of God. But as a Christian layman he still will find many tasks to perform for his Lord alertly interested as he is in every aspect of church and community life around him.

This church has been uniquely blessed in having had such a man as B.E. Allen, chosen of God, to lead her skillfully and firmly through all the years of growth from a struggling rather disunited little group of 275 souls to its present vigorously active and spiritually minded membership of well over one thousand. Nowhere could there be found a more devoted pastor, willing to give the entire twenty four hours of a day, if need be, to any member of his flock who was ill or in trouble. Always, he has been available on call day or night and the community as a whole, in addition to his own church people, has grown to rely upon him for all sorts of advice and assistance.

The high standard of integrity and rigorous work schedule Dr. Allen always has set for himself have amazed and impressed even his opponents — for he has had some — and everyone who knows him admires his unshakeable faith in the whole Bible as the inspired Word of God, and his firm stand for everything upright and honest in both public and private life. More than once during his career has he had to face not only criticism but actual persecution. During Prohibition days, his stalwart stand against “John Barleycorn,” boot-legging, and the like even brought threats against his life!

Never satisfied with half-way measures, Dr Allen, once convinced a cause is right and in need of his support, gives his wholehearted effort and thought to it. He is a past president of the Central Area of the Conservative Baptist Association, and at the present time, is Secretary of the Board of the American Association for Jewish Evangelism, as well as Vice-president of the Temperance League of Illinois.

Although to some who have not known him well and his firmness of character may have made him seem somewhat stern at times, Dr. Allen actually has a genial, sympathetic nature, and a lively and keen sense of humor. He enjoys saying that he has had as much fun throughout his life as anyone he knows. Among the recreations he especially has always enjoyed are attending baseball games (a sport in which he excelled as a youth), camping, and travel.

This sketch would be entirely incomplete if no mention were made of Dr. Allen’s lovely wife, Grace Fuller Allen, and of her splendid influence upon the lives of all who have come into contact with her. If ever a woman was perfectly suited in every respect to be a minister’s wonderful and loyal helpmate through the years, it is she. Sweet and winsome by nature, she has been ever a loving friend to all who have known her, and never at any time, despite much ill health and many other trials and testings, has she shown the slightest meanness of spirit nor spoken harshly to any of us. Many a time her gay little laugh and friendly word have smoothed the way for some of us possessed of far less patience and loving kindness than is she!

The lives Dr. and Mrs. Allen have lived before our church’s people all these past twenty-eight years have been constant testimonies to us of God’s marvelous grace and blessing toward those who truly love and seek to serve Him. The Book of Titus, chapter two, verses seven and eight, almost exactly describes the example the Allens have set among us.

It is with the greatest reluctance and regret that we take leave of Dr. Allen as pastor. All of the words that might be set down here, in whatever form or combination, never could express what his and Mrs. Allen’s work among us has meant to us all. We only can hope and pray for them every good and lovely thing in the years ahead, and rejoice that they are to remain with us as church members. May God richly bless them both!

Click the link below for a PDF of the entire text in this series:

A Sketch of the Career of Dr. B. E. Allen

First Baptist Fridays: The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 2 of 3)

This biography of Dr. Allen was originally written at the time of his retirement. Click here for part 1 of this series.

The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 2 of 3)

In December, 1907, the young Reverend Mr. and Mrs. Allen moved to Osceola, Illinois, to assume pastoral duties in the Baptist church there. Their salary was nine hundred dollars per year, plus use of the parsonage. The church at Osceola was a struggling, loosely organized group of only a few members in a country community and offered a real challenge to the pastor and his wife. During the sixteen years, three months of their pastorate, this church underwent marvelous change and growth, and was greatly blessed of the Lord.

Under the Allens’ leadership, it became one of the ten outstanding rural churches of all denominations in America, and Country Gentleman magazine ran a large feature article, with photographs describing its progress and development. It was while still at the Osceola church that the Reverend Mr. Allen became Doctor B. E. Allen, through an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. This degree was conferred by Shurtleff College in recognition of his excellent work in building up this church, and may be considered a double honor, doubly earned for he had been forced to get all of the theological education leading to his ordination on his own initiative, never having had time or funds to manage a formal college education.

During the years at Osceola, Dr Allen had developed into a sturdy fighter for Christian principles, as well as having earned the reputation for scrupulous integrity and high ability in all matters pertaining to church business and organization.

In 1923 the First Baptist Church at Rockford, searching for a new Pastor, had been listening to quite a number of supply preachers throughout the summer and fall, but none had seemed to be the right one. And then Dr. A. S. Loving, the church treasurer, learned through a friend the Rev. J. V. Whiting, of Peoria, of Dr. Allen and his background of successful work. Accordingly, he was invited to fill the pulpit on December 9, 1923. Our people were pleased with him, and a unanimous call from the pulpit committee was extended to him on that very day. He accepted the call, and began his pastoral duties on March 1, 1924. The membership roll at this time showed 275 names and many of them were of inactive members.

At the time of the annual business meeting, in January, 1924, the Treasurer’s report showed a balance of $252.77 in the current expense fund, the pastor’s salary was to be $2750.00 per year, and the debt on the new church building, completed in 1920, was $15,700.00.

The new pastor immediately set about helping the church reduce the debt on its building, and began looking ahead toward new projects to encourage growth and sound organization. During that first year $9000.00 was raised for all church expenses, and it was voted to begin an organ fund. The Lord’s blessing on this team of pastor and people had immediately been given, and has been increasingly felt throughout the ensuing years! Membership and income increased steadily year by year and spiritual life began to be greatly deepened.

In about the second year of the Allens’ pastorate here, an entirely new work was undertaken by some of the women of the church, under the Christian Americanization plan of the Northern Baptist Convention: This was work among the wives of Mexican railroad laborers — visiting them in their homes to teach them English from a textbook and a Spanish-English New Testament. This was a much-needed work and, though often slow and difficult, won some souls to Christ, and opened the way for a larger service in this field.

Shortly thereafter, an English Sunday school for young Chinese men was begun at the church on Sunday afternoons, using similar teaching methods, and it was not long before young Mexican men were asking for classes, also.

Among those who began this missionary work, which was the seed from which was to grow our present Mexican Baptist Mission, were Mrs. E. L. Braid, Mrs. B. E. Allen, Mrs. C. A. Jackson, and a number of others, including our church’s organist, Miss Blanche Ambuster.  The patience and faithful work of all the women who helped with these projects helped our church to become really valuable in home missions at our very doorstep. Among the early converts was the Alba family, whose daughter, Carmen, now is the wife of our Mexican Mission pastor, Rev. Ralph Bratton.

The pastor’s salary moved upward through the years from 1924 until 1929. The new organ was installed, and was dedicated November 3, 1929 — on Dr. Allen’s birthday. Things were going well in all phases of church life, and, under the new pastor’s efficient and consecrated leadership, the church had come a long way in a few short years.

— And then the Stock Market collapsed — in October of 1929. The full meaning of this fact was not realized at once, nor even felt, and, in February of 1930, payment was completed on the building debt, and the mortgage was burned amidst great rejoicing. Also in 1930, Dr. Allen’s salary was increased to $3200.00. But, by 1931, the depression had swept the country, and our church suffered in proportion as her members felt the impact of curtailed incomes.  Every practical economy in operation of the church plant was adopted. And, in 1932, Dr. Allen voluntarily rebated twenty percent of his salary until conditions should warrant return to full payment. In addition, he further voluntarily cancelled some of the unpaid salary the church owed him as a result of depression difficulties.

In April of 1946, Miss Connie Alba and Mr. Roger Arendsee, both young members of the church, were endorsed for full-time Christian service, and Roger was licensed to preach, pending completion of his preparation for the ministry. Miss Alba was preparing for missionary service.

By the beginning of 1947, Dr. Allen’s responsibility had become so heavy, with the greatly enlarged program of service and number of members, that the church voted to call an assistant pastor. The number of deacons was increased to ten that year.

For several years, Dr. Allen and the church people had been much concerned over what seemed to be an ever-growing trend toward a toleration of liberalistic interpretations of the Bible on the part of the Northern Baptist Convention. Dr. Allen, especially, recognized this tendency and the accompanying danger to the spiritual life of the church. The fact that officers of the Illinois Baptist State Convention wished to control the erection and ownership of the chapel we proposed to erect west of the city only added to our anxiety, as this Convention was an affiliate of the Northern Baptist Convention. We feared that our individual rights and privileges as an independent Baptist church would be affected. Therefore, on May 14, 1947, the members voted to adopt a manifesto of our faith and declaration of our intention to affiliate our church with the newly-organized Conservative Baptist Association of America. This did not then constitute a withdrawal from the Northern Baptist Convention, however.

It was in the Spring of 1947, too, that a call was extended to the Reverend Will H. Bisgaard, to assume the duties of assistant to the pastor. This he accepted, and took up his work here that Fall. A second parsonage, at 2011 Cumberland Street, was purchased for the assistant pastor and his wife to live in. Their coming was very welcome, and their work among us — especially with the young people — has deepened still further our spiritual life, as well as broadening the scope of our church’s activities.

And then, in August of 1948, under the straightforward and farsighted leadership of our pastor, the church rook one of the most significant steps in its history: The deacons, pastors, and advisory board recommended, and the church in business session unanimously voted, to sever all connections with the Northern Baptist Convention and its affiliated missionary societies. This was a bold step to take after the many years of affiliation with the Convention, and there were many who had felt grave misgivings, and had heatedly debated the wisdom of such a decision, nearly forgetting to entrust the future to the Lord. But, as in so many previous instances throughout Dr. Allen’s pastorate here, God had used his yielded life and exceptional ability to guide our church over a rocky, stormy portion of the way, and out into the sunlight of a brighter prospect of service in His Name! The church’s subsequent and steady progress, spiritually and materially, proved this to be the case.

Sunday, October 16, 1948, brought another milestone in Dr. Allen’s career and the church’s history. That afternoon, on the land the church had bought west of the city, an impressive groundbreaking ceremony was held. At last the long-deferred chapel was begun, with the church launching and sponsoring the project “on its own.” The following Spring, the name Memorial Baptist Chapel was adopted, and the church launched a search for a student pastor to serve there; the building was to be ready for use by June first. On June 22, 1949,  the church voted to call Mr. K. Donald Berg and his wife, of Wheaton, Illinois, to serve as student pastor on weekends at the chapel. Mr. Berg was at that time studying for the ministry.

In June, 1950, following examination by Dr. Allen and Rev.  Bisgaard as to his faith and doctrinal beliefs, and with the approval of the board of deacons and the church as a whole, K. Donald Berg was ordained by a council of Conservative Baptist churches. And, the following February, the church called Rev. Berg to the full-time pastorate of the chapel. Thus a long-hoped-for advance in the work of our church in our own community has at last become a reality.

First Baptist Fridays: The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 1 of 3)

First Baptist Church wrote up a biography of Dr. Bart E. Allen at his retirement in 1952. It was broken into three parts, which is reflected in this series, a reproduction of this biography. A previously posted biography on Bart Allen was a condensed version of what you will see here today and the next two weeks.

The Life of Bart E. Allen (Part 1 of 3)

There was little enough of money, and nothing at all of luxury, in the little home on that third day of November, 1878. But there was love, and loyalty, and willingness to work to make the future brighter. And today there had arrived a new baby son. The Eugene Allens decided to name their second child Bartlett Eugene.

Looking back to that event in Arlington, now Bell Creek, Nebraska, it seems that God already had chosen just that child from just such a background, for a life of vigorous service in His Name. Eugene Allen was an upright honest man, whose word was “as good as his bond” and his wife was a sweet and cultured Christian woman. Like most of the young couples of their day and circumstances, they expected to make their own way, earning a livelihood and caring for their family by their own hard work. Never would it have occurred to ask others to shoulder even a small part of their responsibility and they would have been dismayed and humiliated had anyone suggested it.

When little “Bart” was six months old, the family moved to the Kansas Territory, to homestead, and his earliest memory of home is of the sod house in which they lived until he was six years of age. After six years, the father gave up homesteading and moved his family back to Nebraska. This time, not a sod house, but a dugout, served as home until a house could be obtained. Care had to be taken that the door was fastened securely, as the Indians living in the region were fond of walking in at any hour and taking whatever of food and household items happened to interest them!

The years in Nebraska, from the time he was six until the age of fifteen, were busy, important, happy years for young Bart Allen. He was learning the lessons all boys of pioneer families had to learn — to work hard, to study when he could, to live thriftily, to honor his stern and just father and gentle mother, to be trustworthy, to share with brothers and sisters (for five more babies joined the family during the years). Entering country school at the age of seven, he began to absorb all available book learning with great speed discovering within himself an unquenchable thirst for knowledge — a quality which has proven vastly useful throughout the years. So eagerly did he learn that from the day he began first grade until his graduation from high school at the age of fourteen, he had spent only seven years in school! This was accomplished by means of much burning of the midnight oil (literally, for there were only kerosene lamps to read by), in the time left after finishing the chores allotted to him at home. The money needed for high school he earned by hunting and trapping small animals for the price their pelts would bring. It was during these formative years that the boy made his life’s most important decision. When only twelve years old, he accepted Christ as his personal Savior, later joining the Baptist church, even though his father’s and mother’s families always had been Presbyterians and Methodists.

In the Fall of 1894, the Allen family set out from the town of Western Nebraska, for Arkansas. This was an exciting adventure, for the trip was made by covered wagon. At nightfall, the wagons had to be arranged in a circle, with the men and boys taking turns as guards, in case of a raid by the stock rustlers who preyed on wagon trains. Along the way the party saw for the first time the real blanket Indians of the Plains. At the end of seven weeks they arrived at the farm the father had purchased, near Almyra, Arkansas. Their second son was now fifteen.

Money being scarce, boys of that day were obliged to take men’s responsibilities at an early age. So, at sixteen, Bart Allen became a schoolteacher. This was work he grew to love, and was the beginning of a twelve year period of teaching during which time he was appointed superintendent of the county seat school, as well as county examiner of teachers. And, when he was a dignified schoolmaster with a year of teaching experience behind him, at the age of seventeen a highly important event took place. He met Grace Fuller, who had moved with her parents to Almyra from Marshalltown, Iowa, in the Spring of 1895. Their courtship lasted two years, and they were married on November 6, 1897. They met at the Baptist church, in Almyra, and always have been very active in Christian life.

Increasingly, through these years, the young teacher felt called to the ministry, and he began studying for this while continuing teaching. Finally, he was ordained in the Almyra, Arkansas, Baptist church and soon became pastor of the DeWitt, Arkansas church. At that time, he was head of the county seat school, and continued both church and school duties until the burden proved too great, his health broke, and doctors ordered him away for a long rest. It was during these years too, that several children were born to the young couple, only to be taken by death each time — a sorrow which never has been quite erased from their lives.

All of these circumstances and events have been mentioned here for two reasons: They are interesting glimpses into the early life of a vigorous, intelligent man, and, more important they combined to lay a strong foundation for a splendid career of accomplishment in God’s service. The parents of both Dr. and Mrs. Allen were of real pioneer quality — hard working, courageous, and uncomplaining. Their children thus had excellent examples set forth for budding strong character. They are fond of saying that the early years consisted of poverty, hard work, faith, and much happiness.

First Baptist Fridays: The Life of Bart E. Allen in 500 Words

Born November 3, 1878 in Bell Creek, Nebraska, to a fine Christian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Allen, Barlett Eugene (“Bart”) Allen lived in the pioneer west of America. He was saved at age 12, attended the local Baptist church, and finished high school by 14, paying his own way by selling the pelts of small animals he hunted and trapped. In the fall of 1894, the Allens traveled by covered wagon to Almyra, Arkansas.

At age 16, Bart became a schoolteacher and was appointed superintendent of the county seat school and the county examiner of teachers. He married Grace Fuller at age 19 on November 6, 1897. He taught for a total of twelve years and studied for the ministry, finally to become the pastor in DeWitt, Arkansas. The work of being both teacher and pastor broke his health, and several children born and lost broke the hearts of Bart and Grace as well. He took a doctor-ordered break for a time. Despite the poverty, hard work, and sorrow, the faith of Bart and Grace led to much happiness.

Rev. and Mrs. Allen moved to Osceola, Illinois to pastor the Baptist church there. The church changed for the better, grew, and was one of the ten outstanding rural churches of all denominations in America. Country Gentleman magazine ran a large feature article, with photographs describing its progress and development. Shurtleff College awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.

In 1923, First Baptist Church of Rockford, Illinois was searching for a pastor. Dr. A. S. Loving, the church treasurer, learned through a friend and pastor of Dr. Allen. He was invited to speak on December 9, 1923 and was given a unanimous call from the pulpit committee to be the next pastor, and he accepted, taking on his duties on March 1, 1924.

His ministry was incredibly fruitful. A church debt of $15,700 was retired. Members of the church taught Mexican wives to read from the New Testament, and Mexican and Chinese men were taught during Sunday school as well. The church grew from 275 to over 800 by 1944, despite the Great Depression in October of 1929 and stagnation of growth in Rockford for the decade to follow. He led the church to separate from the liberal Northern Baptist Convention (now American Baptist Churches USA) in 1947. On Sunday, October 16, 1948, the church broke ground for the Memorial Baptist Chapel.

Though he retired on May 1, 1952, and became the pastor emeritus, the church saw his successor Rev. Will H. Bisgaard and 150 people leave the church on September 16, 1956. He led the church through this time of testing and to call their next pastor.

Dr. Allen and his wife were excellent examples and servants for First Baptist Church. We do well to remember Hebrews 13:7 when thinking of Dr. Allen: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

First Baptist Fridays – In the Beginning

I don’t think I’ll ever have an original idea when it comes to the history of my church. I can only uncover what has already taken place. Moreover, much of what I post will be copy-and-paste from a 120-page history of church entitled First Baptist Church: A History of God’s Good Providence by Louise Knight, a current member of our church. It was written in 2000 when our church was 162 years old. As I put what she writes, so also I’ll fill in my own posts from time to time of what I can read of notes and other materials of days gone by.

Today is from pp. 7–9 of First Baptist Church: A History of God’s Good Providence.

Kent Creek

Early History

The city of Rockford traces its humble beginnings to Sunday, August 24th, 1834. On that day Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake, and others, traveled by wagon from Galena, Illinois to Hamilton’s diggings, and then by canoe to the mouth of what is now Kent Creek. Kent set his sights on building a sawmill while Blake had his heart set on farming.

Before a year past, Kent was joined by his family, and nearly one hundred people regarded this new settlement as their home. Because of its location halfway between the thriving village of Chicago on Lake Michigan and Galena, a bustling mining village on the Mississippi River, Rockford was originally called Midway. Midway quickly became a stable community. In June of 1835, in the newly built home of Germanicus Kent, Aratus Kent preached its first sermon. 1837 saw the establishment of a ferry and the arrival of mail.

Tinker Swiss Cottage on Kent Creek

In September of 1836 five members of the Methodist Episcopal denomination organized class in the home of Samuel Gregory. In May of 1837 eight Congregationalists formally established themselves, before long building a wooden meeting house on the corner of what is presently Church and Green streets.

A small group of Baptists organized in Belvidere in 1836, and their little church, built in 1838, was the first Baptist church in this part of Illinois.

George Haskell, MD Rev. Seth S. Whitman (left) and Deacon Nathaniel Crosby (right)

On December 22, 1838, a meeting was held at the home of Dr. and Mrs. George Haskell, for the purpose of taking into consideration the formation of a Baptist Church in Rockford. There were eighteen people present, among them Rev. S.S. Whitman, and Deacon Nathaniel Crosby of Belvidere who came over to assist in the organization. Rev. Whitman was chosen moderator, and Dr. Haskell clerk.

The group adopted twelve articles of faith. These articles were replaced by the New Hampshire Baptist Confession.

First Baptist Fridays – An Overview of the History of First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL

I am privileged to serve in a church that is 176 years old and counting, the First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, planted in 1838. In order to study out its history for myself and benefit any present or former members of my church as well, I am going to try to do a weekly post on our history each Friday. Today I’ll begin by simply posting an overview from our church website. I’m sure my lack of longevity at FBC will be exposed by informational gaps and unintentional misinterpretation of facts along the way. For any who are interested, please feel free to email me corrections or thoughts as you wish. I hope to eventually compile and edit these posts into a book for the benefit of our church.

From our history page:

On December 22, 1838, eighteen people met in the home of Dr. and Mrs. George Haskell to establish the First Baptist Society.  The eighteen consisted of the Reverend S. S. Whitman and Deacon Nathaniel Crosby of the First Baptist Church of Belvidere who helped the sixteen others organize as charter members of our church:Caleb Blood, Upper Alton, Illinois
Mowry and Lucy Brown, Upper Alton, Illinois
William B. Brainard, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
John and Susan Emerson, Machias Port, Maine
Dr. George and Eunice P. Haskell, Upper Alton, Illinois
James and Martha Jackson, Indianapolis, Indiana
Ransom and Laura Knapp, Upper Alton, Illinois
Isaiah Lyon, Upper Alton, Illinois
Abiram Morgan, Springfield, Massachusetts
Pierce and Evalina Wood, Conneaut, Ohio

Picture

Our church first met in a hall on the second floor of Dr. George Haskell’s store building which used to stand on the northwest corner of West State and North Main streets. In 1840, the church then built what was called “the frame meeting house,” a 30-by-40-foot balloon-frame building near Main Street facing east (a balloon-frame building pictured to the left).

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In the winter of 1848–1849,  a nationally known evangelist named Elder Jacob Knapp preached for several weeks in the city court house, and the church grew to 160 members. As a result, the church built a new stone church building on the corner of Church and Mulberry streets (pictured right). Our church met there from 1850 until 1919, the same year the name of the church was changed from the First Baptist Society to the First Baptist Church of Rockford, Illinois.On July 29, 1920, the church celebrated its first service in a new building located on North Court Street (pictured left). Under the leadership of Reverend Bart E. Allen (served 1928–1952), the church at one point had a membership of over 800 people. He led the church through the Great Depression, and he also led the church to sever its connections with the increasingly liberal Northern Baptist Convention and its affiliated missionary societies.

After Pastor Allen retired, the church had several “chapels” that were organized into independent churches. These churches included Memorial Baptist Church (1955), Windsor Baptist Church (1957), and Faith Baptist Church in Beloit, Wisconsin (1958). Our church organized its Mexican Baptist Mission into an independent church in 1963. The church membership at this time was 886 members.

A number of factors led to a decrease in membership in the years to follow. Many left during a time of struggle after Pastor Allen’s retirement. The church was unable to reach its surrounding neighborhood that became increasingly plagued with crime. Rockford fell on hard times, and many moved away to find work. Many young people went to college but did not return to find work at home. The church investigated the idea of relocation, but the delay in relocating caused many to leave the church. Many of the church’s older members passed away.

Under the leadership of the previous pastor, Scott Williquette (served 1994–2013), the church relocated to its present location in 1996. He led the church in building a new auditorium and connected facilities (pictured right), started the Pillar Christian Bookstore, and he also led the church to host the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory, an annual conference that has blessed hundreds of pastors since 2003.

The highlights above make up what is only the briefest sketch of our 175-year history. At the present, we are a smaller church that extends a warm welcome to all who would be our guests and desire to join our church family. God has blessed us with 175 years of good providence, and we pray that He will continue to bless us until Christ comes again.