Chinese church seeks growth in new Naperville location

  • Jim Ma, chairman of the church council for Truth Lutheran Church in Naperville, shows off the congregation's new worship space at 503 W. Bauer Road.

    Jim Ma, chairman of the church council for Truth Lutheran Church in Naperville, shows off the congregation's new worship space at 503 W. Bauer Road. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Pastor Peter Wang and his wife, Assistant Pastor Marian Wang, celebrate with city leaders and others during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the new worship space of Truth Lutheran Church in Naperville.

    Pastor Peter Wang and his wife, Assistant Pastor Marian Wang, celebrate with city leaders and others during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the new worship space of Truth Lutheran Church in Naperville. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Visitors tour the English worship space Friday at Truth Lutheran Church's new location in Naperville, where the Chinese congregation has separate areas for services in Mandarin and English.

    Visitors tour the English worship space Friday at Truth Lutheran Church's new location in Naperville, where the Chinese congregation has separate areas for services in Mandarin and English. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/13/2018 7:56 PM

The day marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the first a Chinese congregation worshipped inside its new space in Naperville.

Away from the leaky roof, flood-prone basement and expensive maintenance needs of the church's previous home at the 120-year-old former Nichols Library in downtown Naperville, Truth Lutheran Church members praised God on Easter for a new life in a new setting.

 

"We have a place of our own to worship our God," Pastor Peter Wang said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.

In a $5 million, 15,000-square-foot building that dwarfs its old meeting space, the 100-member congregation now has room for its Chinese and English services, Sunday school classes and weekly lunches, said Jim Ma, church council chairman.

The building at 503 W. Bauer Road features two worship spaces, the larger for services in Mandarin, and the smaller for services in English, led by Samuel Schleif, pastor of English ministries. It includes offices, a nursery, six classrooms, a kitchen and a large eating hall to seat 450.

The church paid for its new home with land, not money, by giving the property of its former home at 110 S. Washington St. to developers Dwight Avram of Avram Builders and Jeff Brown of T2 Capital Management. Brown said he and Avram are working to demolish portions of the former library and design a mixed-use development to be built on the site.

The church and the developers started discussions in October 2013. The builders identified a vacant 3-acre plot at Mill Street and Bauer Road, annexed it into Naperville and got city approval to build there in September 2016.

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But Brown said things almost hit a roadblock when preservationists persuaded the city to approve landmark status for the old Nichols Library last September. The unanticipated protection constituted a "material change" to the downtown property, so contractually, Brown said he and Avram could have chosen to halt the project. They pressed on.

"I don't believe there's a more worthwhile cause than construction of a church," Brown said.

Marian Wang, assistant pastor and Pastor Wang's wife, said she expects church membership to grow at the new location as the congregation welcomes more of Naperville's large Chinese population. A better setup inside and out makes that possible.

"Especially at the parking lot," she said. "At the old library, we only had six parking spaces."

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