A handwritten "Welcome" sign greeted the St. Paul's United Church of Christ community to their new church in unincorporated Elgin Sunday morning. But the 137-year-old congregation focused on welcoming the birth of Jesus during its first gathering in the $1.75 million new church building on Plank Road.
The children of the congregation performed a re-enactment of the story of Jesus' birth, complete with sheep outfits and Three Kings costumes to look the part. When the performance ended, the Rev. Jill Terpstra put the occasion into perspective.
"The church got a big present today, and it was this building," Terpstra said. "We are so excited. I want to pray just to thank God."
The congregation originally began on Division Street in downtown Elgin. A second location was established on the same location, but it was sold three years ago to the Vineyard Church of Elgin as the St. Paul's community explored a new location better suited to the demographic center of the congregation near Randall Road. Church leadership chose the Plank Road location, which is smaller than the original downtown home of the congregation but a better fit than the temporary rental space in Northwest Corporate Park the church occupied during the transition.
On Sunday, every parking space in the lot was full for the first service in the new church. Only a few open seats remained to view the proceedings. Heads bowed and hands linked as Terpstra called for prayer and renewed the communal bond of the approximately 150 attendees.
"All of you have been a part of this," she said. "We've learned what it means to be a church. We know that the church is so much more than a building. It's a community."