For several decades prior to the founding of an Apostolic Christian Church in 1969, persons associated with the church had lived in the Bloomington-Normal area. Ideally located in the center of the state and served by key railroad lines and interstate highways, Bloomington-Normal experienced rapid growth in the 1960’s and 1970’s. General economic growth and the expansion of the state university system contributed to the emergence of this bustling metropolitan area. Because it is also located in the center of a host of Apostolic Christian Churches in central Illinois, it became ripe for the establishment of a church, particularly as more and more people left the farming areas to seek careers in other fields.
The first Apostolic Christians to move to Bloomington were Melvin and Ann Sorg who arrived on September 1, 1941. In 1948, Dorothy Harsh also located in the area. In November, 1954, Carl and Ann Frautschi moved to Bloomington from Indiana. In 1957, Al and Josephine Stoller moved from Gridley to Bloomington. Others who located in the area in the 1950’s were Ruth Lowery, Carlton and Betty Klopfenstein, and Bob and Marilyn Hany.
In 1959 or 1960 a meeting was held among families and students living in Bloomington-Normal to determine their interest in establishing a church. The result was that not enough interest had materialized, probably because many of the students returned to their nearby homes for weekend church services. Nonetheless, a few members living here continued to press for the establishment of a church in Bloomington-Normal. In the early 1960’s efforts were made, unsuccessfully, to purchase a church building on South Fell Avenue.
By the mid 1960’s the number of church families, students, and friends of the church living in the general metropolitan area had risen dramatically. For instance, a survey in 1965 indicated more than one hundred members of the Apostolic Christian Church – both permanent residents and students – lived in Bloomington-Normal, a real “nucleus” for a church.
In the Fall of 1966, Elder Leroy Huber, Eureka, headed a committee which studied the feasibility of starting a church here. Serving on the committee were Elders Henry Kilgus, Forrest; Joshua Broquard, Fairbury; and George Gramm, Gridley. Joseph Schrock served as secretary. Later, Elders Eugene Bertschi, Roanoke, and Edwin Hohulin, Goodfield, filled vacancies created by Elders Henry Kilgus and George Gramm.
In April 1967, the Elders sent survey forms to area members to measure the interest associated with forming a new church. On May 13, 1967, this committee of Elders met personally with the area’s sixteen permanent Apostolic Christian families at the home of Carlton and Betty Klopfenstein to further discuss the possibility of establishing a church. In 1968, a letter from the Bloomington-Normal resident members indicating their support for a local church was presented to the Elder Body at the Brotherhood Conference at Lester, Iowa on October 31, 1968.
On February 10, 1969, a meeting of the Elder committee and local families was held at the Bloomington YMCA. At this meeting official sanction was given to begin a new church in Bloomington-Normal. Arrangements were made to rent the facilities of the First Mennonite Church at 918 South University Street in Normal on Sunday afternoons. First worship services were held April 13, 1969. Ministers from fifteen Illinois churches took turns preaching at Bloomington-Normal on a rotating schedule. The church voted for Everett Hari as their first resident minister on April 18, 1970.
In 1970, the church purchased a five-acre tract of land at the northwestern corner of East Oakland and the Towanda-Barnes . On Sunday, April 15, 1973, ground-breaking ceremonies were held at the church plot for a new house of worship. Melvin Sorg, a Bloomington resident for more than thirty years, turned the first shovel of dirt. First services were held on February 17, 1974. Dan Koch, Tremont, who had assumed the duties of Elder on September 24, 1972, preached the first sermon. Dedication was held June 23, 1974, with Elder Eugene Bertschi officiating.
By 1982, the Bloomington-Normal congregation had grown to over 90 families and 130 members. Forty-four persons had been baptized since services began in the new church.
The Bloomington congregation grew when an occupational transition – which was national across the churches – took place where the decline of family farms resulted in gravitation into cities for employment. This affected the Bloomington congregation.
In 1990, only sixteen years after the dedication of the original church building, steps were taken to accommodate growth. Sunday school classrooms had been used both in the morning and afternoon in order to provide teaching venues for all the students. In November, 1992, construction began on a new addition to the original church which provided much-needed space for the growing Sunday school. At the same time, the main entrance, baby room, and ladies’ restroom were expanded.
Although the new Sunday school addition was intended to be the first phase of a three-phase expansion program, the congregation voted to sell the original facility and build a new church on a larger tract of land. The church building was sold to Resurrection Lutheran Church. The church subsequently purchased 20 acres at 4408 E. Raab Road, Normal – at the corner of Towanda-Barnes Road and Raab Road – to build a new church. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Sunday, October 24, 1999.
Elder Everett Hari delivered the last worship service in the original church on Sunday afternoon, October 29, 2000. The first worship service in the new church was held on the following Wednesday evening, November 1, 2000. The dedication service was held on Sunday, December 3, 2000. Elder Joe Braker, Morton, conducted the morning service and Elder Dale Eisenmann, Chicago, the afternoon service.
In January of 2004, the congregation bought 80 acres adjacent to the church property. This was intended to be used for future expansion of church-related endeavors as God opens the way.
Following the eldership of Dan Koch, Tremont, Bob Grimm of Goodfield assumed the leadership role on
August 29, 1990. His untimely death resulted in Dan Koch again taking the reins until June 18, 1994, when Everett Hari became Elder. Everett was succeeded on September 19, 2004, by Mark Streitmatter, age 37.