by Carol Kussart
Our congregation is a vital, caring community of believers in Jesus Christ with a long history in this area. What follows is a summary of our beginnings here. Our hope is that readers will be interested in our life in this congregation. We think we have a great deal to offer all who wish to be a part of us.
In May, 1856, a group of German Baptist Brethren (now known as the Church of the Brethren) met in the home of Daniel Kuns and organized the first German Baptist Brethren church in this area. The name at the time was Cerro Gordo, Macon County. By 1866 a three-way division was made within the territory: Milmine, Okaw (now La Place), and Cerro Gordo Macon County. The congregation continued to grow with many members living within the village of Cerro Gordo. In 1878 John Metzger decided to construct a church building at his own expense on the site of the present church. That structure was a white clapboard building with double entries separated by a tall bell tower. The first communion was held on Christmas, 1878. Although the congregation was growing and vigorous, the church was not officially organized until 1884. A year-round Sunday School program was also established at this time. This congregation became known as Cerro Gordo while the original congregation became known as Oakley. A rostrum in 1900 and a baptismal pool in 1902 were built in the church. Both of these were fairly new to our denomination at that time. In 1905 a new pulpit Bible and an invalid chair were purchased.
In 1908, during construction of a new church building on the same site, the congregation met in a tent immediately to the east of the building. Thirteen large Sunday School classes met on the morning of the new building’s dedication, April 18, 1909. The main address that day was given by the Rev. I.B. Trout of Lanark, Illinois. The razing of the old building and the construction of the new one cost $13,600, most of which had been paid by the morning of the dedication.
A parsonage was built on the lot next to the church in 1915.
The women of the church, on April 26, 1894, organized the Benevolent Society, meeting on Wednesday afternoons in various homes. Sallie Cart was its first president. The purpose of this society was “the assistance of the needy at home and at church.” The women made many articles of clothing, quilts, and blankets to send to various missions such as those in Chicago and in India and also helped people in need in our area. By 1905 the Society had become the Sisters’ Aid Society. In 1929 a full Women’s Work program was organized. For many years, women met at church each Tuesday to quilt. Women's Fellowship continues to help the local church and other outreach projects through fundraising efforts during the year.
The men considered farming some ground for mission work, and in 1932 they farmed 20 acres south of town that belonged to the District of Illinois and Wisconsin. By 1934 they were farming 40 acres. The men organized as Men’s Work in that year also. O.F. Cripe was the first chairperson. The men regularly gave money to support the local church program as well as to Heifer Project, which they also supported by raising several heifers, and to relief work in India and China. The men farmed the district ground until 1987 when it was sold. The men cooperate with the women in various fundraising efforts throughout the year.
Cerro Gordo, like the entire denomination, was served by a free (unpaid) ministry until the early 1900s. Ministers elected from this congregation were J.M. Shively, W.A. Gary, Walter Barnhart, J. Hugh Heckman, B.F. Heckman (who went to China as a missionary), Levi Shively, Andrew Blickenstaff, Harry Leedy, and Adam Bingaman. The first paid pastor of this congregation and in the District of Southern Illinois was J.W. Lear who served from 1902 to 1911. Ministers since that time include D.M. Adams, O.P. Haines, M.C. Brumbaugh, Bruce Whitmore, George Stutsman, Walter Coffman, William Tinkle, Clarence Albright, W. Harlan Smith, Roy Teach, David Albright, Dale Hylton, Ralph Skaggs, Howard Keim, Donald Shankster, Donald Flory, Richard Nyboer, Robert Tevis, Russell Betz, Timothy Laird, and Larry Traxler.
Members of this church have been involved with district and denominational activities, active in the life of Camp Emmanuel, volunteers in Brethren Volunteer Service, missionaries, and pastors. They have hosted district conference and provided volunteers for disaster relief work. For many years they have helped conduct community Vacation Bible School and have been active in Christians United in Christ, a local organization. They participate in combined Lenten services with other area Churches of the Brethren. They host and organize the annual community Christmas Vespers. The members make up an active congregation in the history of Cerro Gordo.
- Buckingham, Minnie S., PhD., Church of the Brethren in Southern Illinois, Brethren Publishing House, Elgin, IL, 1950.
- Minutes of council meetings and women’s work meetings of the Cerro Gordo Church of the Brethren.
What Our Congregation Believes
- IN GOD—God is the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three Persons, but one God. – 2 Corinthians 13:14 & Titus 3:4-6
- IN HUMANKIND—Humans are created, but they have fallen (are sinful) from a relationship with God. – Genesis 1:27 &Romans 3:23
- IN GOD THE SON, JESUS CHRIST—Jesus was fully God and fully human. He had a virgin birth and lived a perfect life without sin—John 1:1-3 & Hebrews 2:14-15
- IN SALVATION:
- IN FAITH - Our faith-walk must include:
- Believing in the cross and resurrection. – Mark 1:15
- Confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. – Romans 10:9-10
- Repenting (turning away from sin and turning towards God). – Acts 3:19
- Being Baptized (immersed) into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. – 1 Peter 3:21
- Living the Transformed Life of Worship and Peace as shown throughout Scripture. – Romans 12:1-2
- IN GOD THE SPIRIT—The Holy Spirit is God. He is also the source of the Bible, and the giver of spiritual gifts. – John 14:16-17 & Romans 12:6-8
- IN THE BIBLE—The Bible (both the Old Testament & the New Testament) is relevant truth from God and contains no errors. – 2 Timothy 3:16
- IN THE CHURCH—the body of Christ made up of believers whose primary mission is to love God, grow with others, serve faithfully, reach the lost, and find peace.— Ephesians 2:19-22
- IN THE END TIMES—Jesus is coming back to judge the lost and to take Christians to heaven. – Revelation 16:15