Building on Faith
In July 1936, on Ebenezer Reformed Church of Morrison’s fortieth anniversary, Reverend Justin Hottman predicted there would be a need for a second Reformed Church in Morrison. In 1943, The Classis of Illinois recommended that in view of Ebenezer’s growth and the growth of the community, the Kingdom of God could best be served by an additional church.
On January 13, 1947, five men of Ebenezer requested a canvass of the congregation. The canvass resulted in a meeting at Hiddleson School on February 26, 1947, for all interested people. Fifty-seven people attended that meeting where a motion was unanimously carried to request permission from the Classis of Illinois to start the new church. A planning committee was appointed. Soon the committee reported that the Morrison Coliseum was available for Sunday Services at a cost of $15 when heated and $10 otherwise. The Coliseum was used for both Sunday morning and evening services for 22 months. During that time, Consistory and Circle meetings and choir practice were held in the homes of members.
The first church service was held on April 13, 1947, with 125 in attendance and 94 in Sunday School. A volunteer choir sang at both services. A Christian Endeavor youth group was formed, which was the forerunner of today’s Youth Fellowship.
At a congregational meeting on April 18th, the name Emmanuel was chosen over the names of Bethany, Calvary, Hope, Covenant, and Grace. The first drive for building funds resulted with the sum of $8,550 received in cash. It was decided to build a basement unit first. The area where the church was to be built consisted of two lots and a house. It was decided to appoint a building committee. At this time, the first Consistory was also chosen.
On May 8th, a group of ladies met in the afternoon to form the Mission Society. Six days later, a group met in the evening to form the Fellowship and Study Circle. A Girls’ League was also formed.
The official organization of Emmanuel Reformed Church took place at a public meeting in the mother church on the evening of May 27th, with a membership of 48 families, 102 communicants, and 62 baptized members.
The Reverend John A. Klaren, Regional Missionary, was in charge of the first service and continued to serve for 12 weeks. Classical appointments and guest speakers then served until March 29, 1948, when the Reverend R. J. Ongna, of Orange City, Iowa, was installed as Emmanuel’s first pastor. The groundbreaking ceremony for the basement unit was held on April 12th, 1948. The corner-stone laying ceremony was August 14th, 1948, with the dedication of the basement unit taking place on March 24, 1949.
Rev. Ongna chose the carvings on the five special stones on the church building front. He often reminded his congregation that our building must be “A Sermon in Stone.” The carvings are five shields and scrolls representing: “Faith in the Word of God produces Hope for the Crown of Glory, while bearing The Cross in the Spirit of Love.”
Both the children’s nursery and the church library were started in 1954. After a building fund drive of $8,070, it was decided to build the super-structure of the church. It was dedicated on September 2 and 3, 1959.
Stained Glass Beauty
There are 9 triple sets of windows on the east and west walls of the sanctuary. The windows portray Bible events from the New Testament, and are in chronological order, beginning on the right as we face the altar of the church, and continue around, 5 on the east side and 4 on the west side, until they end with us again facing the altar. The events are the Nativity of Jesus, the Baptism of Jesus, the Miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Feeding of the 5,000, the Sermon on the Mount, the Good Shepherd, Gethsemane, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
Emmanuel Church was formed in 1947, and the church building was begun in 1948. The first windows put in were clear glass; the stained glass windows were put in place in 1971. They were produced by City Glass Specialty, Inc. from FOrt Wayne, Indiana. The artist who designed our windows died in 1998. The window depicting the Ascension that is above the balcony is imported antique stained glass. The three sets of square rose-colored windows of the chancel (behind the altar) were donated by Josephine Smith, in memory of her husband, Garrett Smith.
As we prepared a series of children’s sermons on the windows, we were awed each time we found the profound reminders of God’s plan and power in each set of windows. Not only are the events of the Bible passages important to our understanding of God’s power, but the individual symbols found in the windows have meanings that refer to his sovereignty. These symbols have survived the ages; some began when Christians could not dare to communicate openly of their beliefs, and others were developed in other cathedral windows throughout the centuries. The stained glass windows were known as “the poor man’s Bible” early in the church, before the Guttenberg Press made the written word accessible, and reading a common ability.
Each time we look toward these stained glass windows, we are reminded in a beautiful way that “God is with us”, truly.
~Norma Boeck and Laurie Adolph (March 1999)
Map & Directions
From the North: State Route 78 south to where it joins Route 30 and runs with Route 30 into Morrison. At Cherry Street, Route 78 turns right (south) and crosses railroad tracks. The church that is visible straight ahead is Emmanuel.
From the South: State Route 78 north into Morrison, turning left onto Morris Street. Go one block west to
From the West: Route 30 east into Morrison. Continue to Cherry Street (Route 78 south) and turn right. Cross railroad tracks and church is visible straight ahead.
From the East: Route 30 west into Morrison. Continue to Cherry Street (Route 78 south) and turn left. Cross railroad tracks and church is visible straight ahead.