After many months of discussion and work, the three congregations in Beecher, Illinois have merged into one. The new name for their ministry is Peace Lutheran Church and the Charter Service was held on May 21, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. The service was held at what was Zion’s church building, 540 Oak Park Ave., Beecher, IL 60401. Rev. Dr. Allan R. Buss, President, LCMS Northern Illinois District, preached. A light reception was held after the service. All were invited to attend this celebration.
This wasn't just a celebratory event, but a cumulation of months of conversations, work, and prayer together by the three congregations. St. Paul Lutheran Church, Zion Lutheran Church, and St. John Lutheran Church have been working together since September 2021. Their Circuit (19) was one of the first circuits in the LCMS Northern Illinois District where lay and pastoral leadership were brought together by the District office to discuss challenges and opportunities for the common community.
The purpose of these circuit partnership gatherings is to provide congregational leadership with the opportunity for learning, fellowship, and mutual edification. And, Circuit 19 has had both unique challenges and opportunities presented to them, especially in the Beecher community.
Specific events have brought the Beecher congregations together. Pastor Julian LaMie, St. John Lutheran Church (ordained in 2019), and Pastor Michael Stein, St. Paul Lutheran Church (ordained in 2020), could not have known what God had planned for them on their first calls to Beecher, Illinois.
At Zion Lutheran Church, the school closed and there is currently a pastor vacancy due to a retirement. Across the country, LCMS congregations are facing a shortage of pastors and so Zion is not alone in this challenge.
St. Paul Lutheran Church did however face a unique challenge. On the afternoon of September 19, 2021, their church was destroyed by fire. “The building is gone, but the church remains. The building served the church of St. Paul’s well for our first 150 years. The church, the people of St. Paul’s still stand. We proclaim the comfort, the forgiveness, the peace, and the joy of Jesus. We are reminded that even when things seem darkest, Christ’s light shines brighter,” said Rev. Michael Stein.
The Beecher congregations are also connecting with each other to share resources, to be better stewards of resources, and work together as the Church. Such things blessed their congregations and laid groundwork for the future partnership. Together, and working with Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF), they could clarify how their work together could utilize their combined resources.