Written by Karolyn Lambert, Revised Nov 16, 2018
Bourbonnais was a small village. Belle-Aire was its newest subdivision. Highway 50 was the main state highway, as I-57 had not yet been completed. The future site of Northfield Mall consisted of acres of farmland. But the potential for growth was obvious. The Central Illinois Conference of the UMC began planning to meet this growth.
Bourbonnais was rapidly growing. Briarcliff was the new subdivision. K-Mart was under construction on what would become a busy corner created by the new Armour Road extension connecting Route 45 with Route 102. Only one Protestant church existed to serve the growing population. On June 15, the Central Illinois Conference implemented plans for a new church by appointing Rev. Randy VanFossan to oversee the birth of a new Methodist congregation. Rev. Randy
knocked on doors and made phone calls connecting with both the unchurched and those searching for an alternative. He met with community leaders and groups, hoping for support to nurture the infant church. A core group of families soon formed. By July, organized services began meeting in the basement of the Bourbonnais Municipal Center. Grace Community was born! Word spread about the new congregation. Curious families investigated and joined, attracted by the emphasis on serving others. Grace soon required a larger location for services and by November, they moved to the Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center. But living out of a suitcase was difficult and scheduling other church activities was a challenge. It was soon apparent that the toddler Grace needed a space of its own to thrive.
In January, land was purchased to build a church. Located in a prime spot on Route 102, the 5 acres would be at the proposed intersection of Latham Drive and Main NW. Situated on the land were 3 farm buildings, several mobile homes, and a 2-story brick house. With this evidence that Grace Community was prospering, the Central Illinois Conference officially welcomed the new congregation. On February 18, thirty eight families were chartered as Grace Community United Methodist Church. The congregation swung into high gear. Over the next two months, the barns and mobile homes on the newly acquired land were demolished or moved. The farm house was retained and repurposed to house offices and meeting rooms. The second floor of the house was designated for the first location of the Bourbonnais Public Library and the Community All Arts Center.
Named “Grace House,” the building reflected our original motto: “Serving God by Serving Others.” Church services were still held at the Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center, but it was apparent that we needed a church building. In May, a building committee began work. Bonds were sold to raise monies. An architect was commissioned and drawings developed. Dreams were discussed.
Finally, in July, ground was broken and building began. Grace House, which had served us and the community well, was demolished. The kitchen cabinets, however, were salvaged, and put in the newly completed church kitchen.
Our church building was consecrated during a special worship service in January. The original building ended at the bell tower entrance. A conference room/library occupied the space now used for the music room and storage. The sanctuary had 2 narrow vertical windows on the east side and a rank of clerestory windows facing north. The original building had no stained glass, no organ, no flag poles, and metal folding chairs.
Since that time, we’ve added more exterior windows and installed stained glass. The metal folding chairs were replaced with our present green flexible
seating. The organ was installed in 1988. Mobile classrooms were brought in to house the ever expanding Sunday School. The addition of
We broke ground – in the snow – on March 17 for the Great Room and classrooms. And soon our building existed as you see it today. Along the way, Grace has had 7 pastors, a Sunday School, Bible studies, music of all kinds, discussion groups, Vacation Bible School, mission projects, prayer groups, sewers and quilters, youth groups, rummage sales, scout troupes, preschools and day-cares, weddings, funerals, picnics, retreats, chili suppers, community Halloween parties, pancake breakfasts, fishing trips, campfires, bouncy houses, Santa Claus, and fellowship. Worship services were added as the years progressed. The Saturday evening worship was started in September, 1992.
The contemporary praise service was added in September, 2007. Grace Community began as a dream. We organized as a congregation focused on serving God by serving others. We remain a congregational family, striving to bring the light and love of Christ to all. Today, we celebrate and reflect on our first 30-years. Tomorrow we take the first steps toward the future and look to God to guide us along our journey.