Berea Christian Church History

 

GENERAL

We are Berea Christian Church.  We're located on Highway 123 approximately five miles south of Ashland, Illinois and about 5.5 miles north of Interstate 72 at Exit 76.  We have no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, and see ourselves as not the only Christians, but as Christians only.

 

EARLY 1800s:  THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT

Berea Christian Church, as it came to be known later, was founded in the tradition of what is called the Restoration Movement, an indigenous American religious movement with roots reaching back to post-Revolutionary War days and dating specifically to the early 1800s under the leadership of Thomas Campbell, his son Alexander Campbell, Barton Warren Stone, and Walter Scott.  All were Presbyterian ministers.  All longed for the days when the Church could be restored to its first century faith and practice.  As the Campbells made their formal break with the Presbyterians and (after a short-lived affiliation) with the Baptists in Western Pennsylvania, Stone and his colleagues broke with the Presbyterians in Ohio.  Scott had earlier forsaken his connection with the Presbyterians.  In the Stone camp, the group began to call themselves "Christians only."  Upon the discovery of one another's efforts, and in agreement with the movement in Ohio under the leadership of Walter Scott, the four leaders and others agreed to unite for the cause of Christ and the restoration of the Church to its first century faith and practice.  The union of these Christians took place at Georgetown, Kentucky in 1832.  Along with the migration of peoples to the "Far" West of the day, the movement soon made its presence felt in Indiana, Illinois and beyond.  Not to be overlooked, as concerns the growth of the movement, are the indirect contributions of Virginia Methodists under James O'Kelly and New England Baptists, followers of Abner Jones and Elias Smith.

Three major "streams" of this movement now exist and many will recognize the names of (1) The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), (2) The Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, and (3) The Churches of Christ.  The first division among these groups occurred in 1906 with the separate listing, in the federal census, of the Churches of Christ as an autonomous body.  This body is known as the most conservative group, having its beginnings as a separate body based largely on the issues of non-instrumental worship (a capella) and support of missionary societies.  In 1927, The Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ separated from the Disciples of Christ and withdrew officially in the late 1960s.  One is forced, however, to look at this "separation" into three groups with a wary eye. 

"Any student of the Movement will realize that the divisions number more than three.  Within the three major divisions there are at least three minor divisions.  Each group has its 'Right,' 'left,' and 'center' segments.  Some of these segments have what may be termed 'sub-segments' in which the 'right' segment will have its liberal as well as conservative voices and minds.  Any effort, therefore, to categorize the Restoration Movement into three distinct groups represents an exercise in futility."  (The Restoration Plea: An Historic Overview and Analysis of Current Trends, Charles R. Gresham and Edward J. Moretto, Joint Masters Thesis, Cincinnati Christian Seminary, 1982, p.262.) 

We pray that in time, the Church itself will be instrumental in the answer to Jesus' prayer in John 17:20-21, that all believers in Him "may be one; even as Thou, Father art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me." (NASB)

 

1852:  EARLY BEREA HISTORY

Berea Christian Church (which finds itself less conservative than "ultra", less liberal than some, and sometimes as more independent than the independents) was organized on August 15,1852, as the Church of Christ on Indian Creek with the following words.  "We, the body of Christ, agree to organize ourselves after the primitive practice, to watch over one another and to admonish each other, for our good, to take the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, for our rule of faith and practice.... We agree to continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayers...to be known as the church of Christ on Indian Creek, meeting at Morgan Schoolhouse No.2."  (Quote taken from The Restoration Movement in Illinois: Morgan County, online edition 1997, James L. McMillan.  Charles Rowe was chosen elder, and Joel Robinson and Wesley Corrington, deacons.  Mr. Rowe was a product of this church and served it as elder and preacher for six years.  Most of the first members came from the Antioch congregation.  It was ministered to at times by most of the preachers of that time and section.  Four of its leading members were Joel and Isaac Robinson, Dr. John C. Cobb and Benjamin McIntyre.  (Quote taken from Nathaniel Haynes, History of the Disciples in Illinois 1819-1914.)

The church is located "in range 8, Township 16, Morgan County.  The land upon which it is located was bought of Joel Robinson.  The building was built by Joseph Black of Virginia, Illinois.  The timbers were hewn out of the forests on the William Robinson farm.  The sawed lumber and rock for the foundation [was] hauled from Rock Creek, passing over the ground where Ashland now stands, there being no town there then."  (Quote regarding church location is taken from a booklet entitled 1852 "Berea Through The Ages" 1952, celebrating the one hundredth year anniversary of Berea Christian Church.)  In 2002 we celebrated our one hundred fiftieth anniversary. 

Rev. Edward J. Moretto currently serves as the minister to God's kids at Berea and, beginning September 2011, is in his twenty-fifth year of service to Berea Christian Church and his thirty-sixth year in Christian ministry.  He salutes those who nurtured him in the Movement, namely, James C. V. Emond, Charles R. Gresham, James B. North, Leroy Garrett, Robert O. Fife, and countless others, to whom he owes eternal thanks.

In Memoriam: Rev. Diann L. Hoagland who served as the minister of youth.  Her life, in which she served her Lord, her church, and her family to the utmost of her ability, was taken when she interrupted a burglary in her home in August of 2010.   

 

1905 - 2005: A CENTURY OF SERVICE: The Berea Ladies Aid Society
(The following was written by Ruth Lepper, long-time member of Berea Christian Church, member of the Ladies Aid, and our recognized historian.)

The Berea Ladies Aid Society was organized on April 6, 1905.  Their purpose was to gather monthly, conduct a devotional service, and plan for meeting the needs of the church and community in whatever capacity they could.  Their faith was strong and works were widespread.  One member wrote: "We take pride in our society.  We meet as sisters in Christ and receive His blessing as do all who work for the advancement of the Master's Cause."  That same feeling and belief has been ever-present throughout the years.

In the early years, the records show, they were instrumental in planning many fundraisers just to carry on the ministry and preaching services.  Whether it was wallpapering the sanctuary of the old church or installing some carpets in the new, they were always attentive to the maintenance needs of the building. 

One of the more notable aspects of the Aid was its interest in and support of needs in the larger community.  The Ladies Aid of Berea was a frequent contributor to the Barton W. Stone Christian Home in Jacksonville, Illinois, first known as the "Christian Church Old Peoples' Home."  Whether it was holding a worship service for the residents or providing home-canned food, eggs, or baked goods, the Berea Aid members gave generously to this support.  In more recent years, with restrictions placed on those kinds of gifts, the Aid sent money and personal supplies for the residents.

For many years Berea Ladies Aid was an active participant in the Tri-County Christian Women's Fellowship of Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) in Morgan, Cass, and Scott Counties.  The fellowship of other congregations was very dear to the hearts of women at Berea.

Aid members performed sewing service and other assistance to Passavant Area Memorial Hospital, provided bandages and cancer patient needs for the American Red Cross, and answered the call to help with special war efforts.

The Aid projects often required assistance from the entire church.  All the church members so willingly supported fund-raisers and untold special events held for their mutual benefit.

The Ladies Aid was the instigator of certain social affairs, one of which was the Mother-Daughter gathering, involving many friends from the outlying communities.  For several years, the working women of the church who could not attend regular meetings, conducted these affairs.  They have always been Aid members who belonged to other congregations, but who gladly worked alongside their Berea neighbors for the benefit of Berea Christian Church.

Times change.  Society changes.  Today, with a shrinking population in this immediate farm community, and with most of the able-bodied women of Berea being employed outside the home, it has become impossible to maintain the organization as it was for over 100 years.  Thus, on September 1, 2005 the Berea Ladies Aid of Berea Christian Church officially disbanded.

May God bless those who have served in the past, and may God speed those who continue to meet the needs of Berea Christian Church and the greater Berea community.

                         

                                        Berea Christian Church Ladies Aid - 2005

                                                                    Standing (left to right): Virginia, Wanda, Diane, Lois, Thelma
                                                                       Seated (left to right): Jean, Ruth                        

The following is an official announcement from the Berea Christian Church Ladies Aid, and has been made a part of the official church record.

   On Thursday, September 1, 2005, the Berea Christian Church Ladies Aid held their September meeting at the
     church at 1:30 p.m. with Lois Yancy as hostess. 

     After the devotional part of the meeting, the minutes of the last meeting and the treasurer's report were
     accepted.

     During the business meeting, a motion was made and voted unanimously to disband the organization
     known as the Berea Ladies Aid and distribute any remaining uncommitted assets to the Morgan County
     Food Bank. 

     With sorrow in their hearts, this body, founded for the purpose of providing Christian service to Berea Church
     and needy causes in the community, was duly disbanded after 100 years, 4 months, and 26 days. 

     May God bless each and everyone who served so faithfully and for those no longer with us, may God rest
     their souls for all they did for us.

    The organization requests this announcement be made a part of the official church record.

NOTE: Document duly entered into the official Berea Christian Church record on September 4, 2005