Rockford’s First Lutheran to celebrate 160th anniversary

Online Staff Report

This month, First Lutheran Church, 225 S. Third St., in Rockford, begins a yearlong commemoration of its 160 years of ministry in the community with a series of concerts and special events — re-visiting its beginnings, re-connecting with the institutions and organizations that helped form its outreach ministries, forming new relationships in the neighborhood, and inviting the community to participate in a variety of activities.

Officially organized as a congregation Jan. 15, 1854, the founders were a group of emigrants from Sweden who began arriving in Rockford in the fall of 1852. Because of a cholera epidemic in Chicago, they had been encouraged to travel onward as far west as they could go. As they were traveling by train, Rockford was the last stop, since a railroad bridge had not yet been finished across the Rock River.

In 1853 and 1854, even more Swedes settled in the area surrounding the present location of the church. Faithful Lutherans in Sweden, the people longed for a church in their new country. Following the organizational meeting in January 1854, the congregation, initially named the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church, eventually grew to be known as the mother church of Lutheran churches in Rockford, and was, at one time, the largest Swedish Lutheran Church in America.

Located in the heart of historic Haight Village, distinguishable by its distinctive twin spires, First Lutheran has, throughout its 160-year history, utilized its facilities, gifted personnel and church members to serve the community through music. Spanning the years from its active choir school days to the refurbishing of its 92 rank, four-manual double organ with dual consoles, to again opening its doors to what is now known as The Music Academy of Rockford, the ministry heart of First Lutheran carries on its traditions of fine worship and hymnody, both from the early church as well as through new composers, new liturgies and global music.

Upcoming events in February include the following:

Sunday, Feb. 9, 3 p.m. — Organ recital featuring Gregory Gyllsdorff, Minister of Music at First Lutheran Church; and

Monday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m. — Augustana College Choir concert.

For more about First Lutheran, its history and anniversary events, contact the church office at (815) 962-6691.

Posted Jan. 15, 2014

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