As Community Church of Round Lake celebrates its 80th anniversary, Pastor Mark Drinnenberg and members are looking back on its history and toward the future.
Their mission is to build up the congregation again as they remind communities of this hidden gem along Goodnow Boulevard.
"I want them to feel like we've been expecting them," Drinnenberg said.
Church members, past and present will come together at 12:30 p.m. Sunday to celebrate the milestone anniversary with a potluck meal and displays that showcase the church's history.
Community Church began as a Sunday school in 1914 when a group of parents under guidance of E.C. Weber held classes in their homes, said Linda Martin, the church's head of congregational services. The Sunday school raised enough money to buy a parcel and accumulated a building fund of $1,148.
Seeing the need for a church building, ground was broken in early spring 1932. In June, the first service was held, and Round Lake had its first Protestant church. The building was completed at a cost of $7,000. Because it was built during the Great Depression, much labor was donated instead of cash gifts. Improvements came slowly but there was never a mortgage on the building.
The Rev. John P. Gaardsmoe served as the pastor until September 1938. During this time, the adult choir began. The Community Church Club for women, a men's club and youth group also were organized.
Many members joined Community Church but later branched out to start their own church. When the need for a church in Long Lake was great enough, associate members of Community Church established Trinity Lutheran Church of Long Lake in April 1940. In 1952, some members started Calvary Presbyterian Church.
Martin, who has stayed with the church following a move to Spring Grove, said membership has had its highs and lows. In its beginning, the church was filled with hundreds of kids to attend Sunday school. In recent years, the church has faced a membership decline due to financial troubles.
Drinnenberg, who was brought as pastor last April, said his mission as they rebuild membership is to meet people's spiritual needs and spread the word of Community Church's place in the community. Efforts have included participating in the area Fourth of July parade this year and hosting movie nights the fourth Saturday of each month.
"This used to be the area of Round Lake and then it all went to Rollins Road. We are now tucked in there. People often ask where Goodnow is. We are somewhat hidden here," he said.
Drinnenberg said he does not want to trample the rich history but study how the church can fit into the Round Lake community today. His direction is "80 years old and brand new."
"It's a hard line to walk ...," he said. "How can we be relevant in this community now?"
One example has been moving from featuring only traditional piano and organ hymns to taking worship music in a contemporary direction. He hopes to see the church incorporate the lively nature of music, while not eliminating hymns.
Part of its mission has always been to help others. Churches as a whole are never meant to turn inward and forsake everyone else, he said.
During its history, members have assisted Hope Home, a home for destitute children in India founded by former pastor, the Rev. Thomas Curry, and donated to Love Inc.
Martin said this holiday season they will host a sale offering lower price gifts. The church also provides outreach to the Hispanic community by sharing its building with Iglesia de Cristo so they can worship. Drinnenberg said as membership grows, he hopes to reach out further, such as creating a food pantry ministry.
Over the years, the church building at 217 Goodnow Blvd. has seen some changes such as an addition in 1949 for a parsonage. However, efforts that began in 1995 to build another addition that would include a fellowship hall halted due to the financial troubles. A hallway extends between the original building and an incomplete shell. Drinnenberg said his only option is they will finish it.
"We take one step at a time and trust the Lord that one step at a time he is going to provide," he said.
As they celebrate a milestone, Chris Cramer, a member since 1985, said he hopes the church will thrive for years to come.
"The children and families here have been through thick and thin," said Cramer of Round Lake Park. "Seeing how much sacrifice has been made, we owe them -- our predecessors -- to stay around at least 80 more."