A church bell that called the Dundee community to prayer during World War II. The baptismal font used to perform the first baptism in Kane County. Photos, letters and record books dating back to the 19th century.
Since its inception in 1841, First Congregational Church of Dundee has acquired countless memorabilia that paints a picture of its rich history.
The oldest church in the area has served as a school, a library and a place of worship. It has been used as a gathering spot for meetings and its leaders signed a declaration in support of abolition before the Civil War.
Now in its fourth building with 400 active members, the church, known in the community as "The Church on the Hill" for its location on Route 31, is celebrating its 175th anniversary with a series of worship services and an open house event.
"We have a long history of being very engaged in this community from the start," said the Rev. Aaron James, senior pastor. "We've become very grateful for our legacy and very excited for our future."
Artifacts, documents and photographs highlighting key moments in the church's history will be on display in the sanctuary during the open house, which will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the church, 900 S. Eighth St., West Dundee. Former ministers, moderators and members of the congregation are expected to make an appearance, James said, and all community members ages 12 and older -- even those who have no connection to the church -- are invited to attend.
"This is something that might be meaningful to Dundee residents," he said. "It's a chance to celebrate the history, of course, and to celebrate the people who make this place special."
A worship service at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, will serve as a culmination of an in-depth series about the church's history, he added.
Having joined about four years ago, event organizer Lois Bealmear is one of the congregation's more recent additions. Even so, the Huntley resident has become fascinated with learning more about the people and events that helped shape the church she has grown so fond of.
"It's a bit like celebrating your parents' wedding anniversary," she said. "It dates back before you, but you hear all these great stories from other people about what it was like when they were dating. It's exciting to hear those things about something that you know."
The congregation also has several members whose family has been attending services at the church for generations, James said. Especially for those members, he said, the 175th anniversary celebration is expected to become somewhat of a reunion, with old friends reconnecting and reminiscing on their memories of the church.
"The members who have been here a lifetime are, I think, really appreciative that we're doing such work to honor this history," James said. "And then our members who have been here only a short time have found it meaningful to learn how much history is here that they don't know about.
"Our rootedness goes way back," he continued, "and that's a really important thing to celebrate."