The Beginning of a New House
One spring day in 1950, a young pastor named Harvey Gabel walked the streets of northwest Rockford with several seminary students, calling at each home to determine the response that a new church in the area might expect. On the basis of the survey, the Illinois Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church decided that this was a promising location for a new church.
The mission board purchased a 2.5 acre tract at the corner of Huffman and Pierce Avenue and erected a house on it to serve as a personage and chapel.
The First Chapel: the parsonage (1952)
Forty-five people attended the first service on march 18, 1951. Sunday School began on April 1.
Membership continue to grow, and by 1952, the need for larger quarters was apparent. That year, planning began for the first unit of the church. The necessary funds were secured through loans, grants, and local subscriptions, and ground was broken for the new church on September 2, 1953, with the laying of the cornerstone on January 24, 1954.
On November 14, 1954, the new sanctuary was used for the first time, and the building was dedicated November 21. By that time, 180 people had become members, and Sunday School enrollment had grown to 272, with a staff of 26.
Beth Eden’s New Home
On April 29, 1962, ground was broken for a new addition to the church. This addition, used primarily for Sunday School enrollment and attendance increased immediately by about 20 percent.
Soon a new building fund was stablished to save for a new, larger sanctuary and fellowship hall, and ground was broken in April 1967.
The New Sanctuary Under Construction (1967)
Upon completion of the new addition, a service of dedication was held May 19, 1968.
The New Sanctuary Almost Completed (1968)
With the union of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches in April 1968, the church became Beth Eden United Methodist Church.
Reaching Out and Joining In
In June 1979, Bishop Paul Washburn appointed the Rev Rodney Dillinger as the new Pastor. Soon, the next renovation to the church was underway, as the original chapel was renovated into a library and lounge area.
The year 1989 brought a momentous occasion in the history of BE. St. John’s United Methodist Church of Rockford had seen a decline and aging of its membership and sought a merger with BE. Pastor Dillinger was then appoint ted to shepherd the merged congregations.
Beth Eden’s 40th anniversary was celebrated in 1991 and another building expansion began. This time to move the church offices upstairs, enlarge the lounge, and add an elevator.
Focus on Community
In 1992, the Rev. Jim Crone was appointed to Beth Eden, serving for four years. In 1996, the Rev. John Wesley Lee was appointed. The next year, Beth Eden adopted an official motto “The House of New Beginnings”, and mission statement “Beth Eden United Methodist Church is a House of New Beginnings where we strive to enlighten, educate, encourage, and evangelize all people for the glory of God.”
In 1998 Pastor John, Marwin McCarty, and David Lee ventured to Africa on mission. Accomplishing most of what they had set out to do, they realized the full intent of our Methodist missions.
Additionally in 1998, Beth Eden staffed its first food booth at the On the Waterfront festival in Rockford. Serving cheese curds and raspberry lemonade, Beth Eden was soon known as the “Curds for Christ” church. This festival became an important annual fund raiser for the church.
In 2000 Beth Eden reached out to the neighborhood with the first annual Love Your Neighbor corner party, offering worship as well as free entertainment, games, food, and other activities. Also in 2000, a new alternative worship service called Crossfire was added apart from Sunday mornings.
On March 18, 2001 Beth Eden marked its 50th anniversary. The celebration began with a 10:00 a.m. combined service, followed by a catered dinner. At 2:00 p.m. a “remembering” service was held, in which former pastors and members again shared their stories of Beth Eden.
On January 2, 2017 to January 14, 2017 Pastor Mario and Pastor Fabiola led a team of 19 volunteers from Beth Eden & Centennial to Loncoche, Chile to work on a mission project. Some of their activates were building Sunday School classrooms, painting the Sanctuary of a church, 70 patients were seen by the medical team, 28 kids were part of the VBS, the medical team took blood pressures for over 50 people in a park, and revival worships in church for 3 nights.
More Church History
In 2003 Beth Eden joined with Harlem United Methodist Church and Evans United Methodist Church and formed “Upon This Rock Cooperative Parish” in which all three congregations remained individual, while sharing the pastor!
In 2005 Eric Blachford joined our congregation as a youth pastor. After some urging of Pastor John, he started seminary to become a full time pastor, which occurred upon his graduation in 2012.
In July 2007, Pastor John Lee was appointed to Faith UMC in Freeport, at which time their current pastor was appointed to Beth Eden, Pastor Douglas Bowden. Pastor Doug served until 2012, until his retirement.
On March 20, 2011 Beth Eden marked its 60th anniversary. The celebration began with a 10:00 a.m. combined service, followed by a potluck lunch. At 2:00 p.m. a “remembering” service was held, in which former pastors and members shared their stories of Beth Eden.
In July 2012, Pastor Doug and Pastor Cheryl Carroll were appointed to Beth Eden. Also in July 2012, Pastor Eric was appointed to start a new church “The Net Church”.
On June 30, 2012 Harlem United Methodist Church withdrew from the co-op and became an individual church again with their own pastor, Pastor Don Dexheimer.
In August 2013, our very own Jarrod Severing accepted his call into ministry and began seminary school at Dubuque Theological Seminary to become a pastor.
On June 30, 2014, Evans United Methodist Church withdrew from the co-op and became an individual church again with their own pastor, Pastor Teri Lafferty.
In July 2014, Pastor Mario Mayer came to us by appointment. His wife, Fabiola, was appointed to Centennial UMC.
In May 2016 Pastor Jarrod Severing graduated from seminary and was appointed to Lanark UMC. The last three years have been busy ones of transitioning, learning, and celebrating. In 2017 he graduated from Seminary.
On April 27, 2016 a new ministry, Fishes & Loaves Community Dinner, was started here at Beth Eden to try and reach out to our community. This is an evening dinner once a month and is free to everyone!!
On January 2, 2017 to January 14, 2017 Pastor Mario and Pastor Fabiola led a team of 19 volunteers from Beth Eden & Centennial to Loncoche, Chile to work on a mission project. Some of their activities were building Sunday School classrooms, painting the Sanctuary of a church; 70 patients were seen by the medical team, 28 kids were part of the VBS, the medical team took blood pressures for over 50 people in a park, and revival worships were held in church for 3 nights.
In July 2018 our very own member, Sieg Schwirblat, also following God’s calling, entered into schooling to become a Local Licensed Pastor. His first appointment was to Orangeville & Alfolkey:Bethel UMC’s. He will be licensed in the summer of 2019.
On December 28, 2018 to January 9, 2019 Pastor Mario and Pastor Fabiola led a team of 17 volunteers from Beth Eden, Centennial, & Rochelle UMC’s to Villarrica Methodist Church, South District. Their jobs were building a wooden structure for the second floor, Vacation Bible School for kids under 12 years old, Women Encounter, Medical Clinic, Blood Pressure Checks in a Church and a City Square.
In June 2019 Pastor Mario retired as a United Methodist Pastor. His wife, Pastor Fabiola Grandon-Mayer, was appointed as the new District Superintendent for the Rockford Disctrict.
In July 2019 Pastor Eric Reniva was appointed to Beth Eden as the new Senior Pastor.
And so stands Beth Eden UMC, after 68 years of growing and reaching out in faith.
CHARTER MEMBERS – OUR FIRST BETH EDEN CHURCH FAMILY
Mrs. Verna Allen, Melvin & Edna Schwartz, Rodney & Darlene Anderson, Charles & Mary Severing-Hinkel, Kenneth & Leona Anderson, Clarence & Irene Simek, Philip & Leta Burke, Mrs. Phyllis Speck, Mrs. Nolla Clayburg, Richard Speck, Gerald and Lorraine Eppenbaugh, Robert and Charlotte Swanson, Leonard and Eleonor Fry, William & Arlette Wayman, Hjalmer Johnson, Mrs. Cora Whitaker, Arne and Alyce Peterson, Paul Witaker, Loren and Dottie Roberts.
Harvey Gabel 91950 – 1959); Carl W. Franke (1959 – 1979); Rodney Dillinger (1979 – 1992); Jim Crone (1992 – 1996); John Wesley Lee (1996- 2007); Bobbie Rudiger (Associate Pastor 1996 – 19..); Ken Krause (Associate Pastor 2005 – 2010); Eric Blachford (Associate Pastor 2005 – 2012); Douglas Q. Bowden (2007 – 2012); Doug and Cheryl Carroll (2012 – 2014); Mario S Mayer (2014 – 2019); Eric Reniva (2019 – …)