Oldest Northbrook church celebrates 175th anniversary
Rev. Steve (Soong-In) Moon is in his 4th year as Pastor at North Northfield United Methodist Church. The Church just celebrated its 175th anniversary. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2012 6:31AM
NORTHBROOK — Members of a community church that began in the Stanger family’s log cabin in 1837 are thrilled to be celebrating the house of worship’s 175th anniversary.
The North Northfield United Methodist Church, the oldest house of worship in Northbrook, began in the log cabin of Daniel and Mary Esther Stanger. Rev. Jacob Boas preached the first sermon there in an area known as North Northfield, said Rev. Steve Soong-In Moon, the church’s pastor.
Its members officially commemorated the anniversary Nov. 18 with a special Sunday service followed by an open house attended by many of the close to 110 families who belong to the church.
During the get-together, its members viewed items of historical interest related to the church, including a German Bible that has been used there many years, congregational rosters and records, 1837 articles of incorporation translated from German and historic photographs.
Asked how the church has been able to sustain such longevity, Soong-In Moon said the church still exists because of the congregation’s concern about each other, as well as their love of God.
“Every church and congregation exists because of the love of God,” he added. “But these people really care about each other and are very enthusiastic to carry on what they believe in.”
Stanger’s home was near the Des Plaines River just south of Wheeling in Northfield Township on land now a part of the Cook County Forest Preserve. His positive reports about the area encouraged more German-speaking settlers to follow, and they attended religious meetings in the Stanger home, as well as in others, until the numbers grew so large a permanent place of worship was needed.
So by June 30, 1839, the pioneers finished building the first of the congregation’s six church structures – a 21-by-30 foot log cabin on Plagge’s Hill, a half mile east of Sanders and Dundee near Northfield Cemetery – and named it the Emmanuel Church.
And as the congregation grew in numbers, so did its churches. The second building, which was 50-by-70 feet with an 18-foot ceiling, went up in 1847 on the Nicholas Miller farm at the northwest corner of Sanders and Dundee. The third was the North Northfield O’Plaine Church built in 1880 with room to seat 300. Services were held in German until 1884, when English services were added, Moon said.
When a temporary schism disrupted the national religious group in 1890, some members built the fourth church building, the Evangelical (Salem) Church at the northeast corner of Sanders and Dundee Roads, while the other members remained at the O’Plaine Church. However, after the numbers in both congregations declined, the remaining members reunited in 1924 and used the newer building.
They used the building’s sanctuary for almost 50 years until Jan. 4, 1942, when it burned down. Then, they built the fifth church building, which was dedicated in 1945 as North Northfield Evangelical United Brethren Church, and now houses the church’s office and nursery care, Moon added.
Growing enrollment in the Sunday School during the 1950s created the need for a sixth building, which was dedicated in 1959, and is now the congregation’s Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall. A new parsonage was built in 1962.
Moon also noted that in 1968 the Evangelical United Brethren denomination merged with the Methodists to form the United Methodist Church, so the local church became known as North Northfield United Methodist Church. In 1969, the congregation added the education building, and in 1982 they added 100 more seats to the sanctuary.
Now the church is known for offering traditional Bible studies, Sunday School and Worship services, as well as fellowship activities. It also has a number of small groups that are active in a variety of projects aiding the less fortunate both locally and worldwide, said Sharon Luce, the pastor’s administrative assistant.
“I have worked at other churches, but there is something different about the people in this one. They are very caring and seem to have a stronger sense of community,” Luce said. “We have a lot of shakers and movers who do a lot for others. We are small but mighty.”