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were prepared and on November 24th the contract for its erection was let.
In the meantime the church had grown until the carpenter-shop would no longer accommodate its meetings and through the kindness of Mr. Frank W. Tracy and Mr. Howard K. Weber the use of a portion of the Plow Factory at the southwest corner of Ninth Street and South Grand Avenue was donated for the purpose and arrangements made for its heating and lighting
The following, quoted from the Illinois State Journal of Nov. 1, 1887, is evidence of the rapid growth of the Church and of its generally recognized value not alone to the community in which it is located but to the entire city. “The Second Congregational Church had a difficult task last Sabbath afternoon. The building in which the services are at present held, seats at most 100 but at three o'clock 115 presented themselves to organize a Sunday-school. Some had to stand during the entire hour occupied in effecting the organization. Of those who presented themselves as members but twelve had attended other schools.
“If a suitable building could be secured the membership would double very soon. The need of a suitable church building in the southeast is becoming more pressing every day and presents a loud call for practical sympathy from all those interested in the moral welfare of that district of our city. A church building must be erected there before the winter stops outside labor".
The Illinois Home Missionary Society, realizing the importance of the work done and still to be done, consented that Mr. Wallace should remain in charge at the Society's expense until April 1st.
The new church was dedicated March 4, 1888. It was unpretentious but handsome and commodious, with an auditorium and two Sunday-school rooms so arranged that opened together, they would seat about 400 persons.
The exact cash outlay had been $5,015.25 of which $500 was donated by the American Congregational Union, who also made a loan on the property of one thousand dollars to be repaid in ten equal annual installments, without interest. One
thousand was given by members of First Church (which, by the way, was then $20,000 in debt on account of the remodeling of its own building), and $1,075.50 had been raised by general subscription, leaving but $424.50 still unpaid. The congregation present at the dedicatory services were asked to make up this amount and responded by pledging $503.61 so that (aside from the mortgage above mentioned) the church was dedicated not only free of debt but with a balance of $76.00 in its treasury.
Besides these cash contributions the church was the recipient of many tokens of good will from various sources: The communion service was presented by the Sunday School of First Church, the pulpit bible, by its Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, the communion linen and pulpit hymn book were the gifts of the Rev. R. O. Post.
A handsome memorial window was the offering of the girl-hood friends of Mrs. Nellie Tracy Ryan whose beautiful character and charming personality had endeared her, not alone to the membership of the First Church but to all whose privilege it was to know her, and Mr. Tingley Wood made the homely but useful gift of a furnace.
But the story would be incomplete that did not record the sacrifices made and the hours of labor contributed by the men and women who were members of the new church, whose faith, energy and preserverence made possible the building of so valuable a plant at so small a cost, the more especially when it is taken into consideration that but one of them was the owner of his own home.
On the day of its dedication the church had a membership of eighty and a Sunday-school of one hundred and fifty.
On Sunday, December 1st, 1889, just nine months after its dedication it was destroyed by fire, everything being consumed but the organ and a few seats. Just as the minister was announcing the first hymn of the morning service, a laily who was passing by, saw the blaze and entering the church gave warning so quietly that all were out without accident before the seriousness of the situation was realized.
A meeting of the Board, held on the following Monday, took steps preliminary to its rebuilding and the church at a general meeting on Tuesday evening ratified its action.
Again Dr. Post lent his able assistance and again the First Church came to its aid with a generous donation. It is of interest that the first contribution came from Mr. H. S. Dickerman, a member of First Church then on a business trip in Leadville, Colorado, who read a newspaper account of the disaster and immediately sent Dr. Post his check for one hundred and seventy-five dollars.
It is of no less interest that a small boy, a member of its Sunday School gave the pastor a dollar he had been saving for Christmas, saying that the church needed it more than he did.
During the re-building of the church, services were held in the Presbyterian mission at the corner of Fourteenth and Douglas (now Lawrence Avenue).
The restored church was re-dedicated April 13, 1890. Again the Rev. James Thompkins Superintendent of the Congregational Home Missionary Society of Illinois, preached the dedicatory sermon.
At its close, the statement was made that three thousand dollars insurance had been collected and $1,000 donated by First Church; that many of the men and women of the Church had given their time and labor; that the restored building was worth at least $1,000 more than the former structure, that all bills had been paid and that the only debt owed by the church was $875, being the amount still unpaid on the note held by the American Congregational Union, $100. of which was then due. Subscriptions to the amount of $332. were taken and the church was again dedicated, practically free of incumbrance and with a balance of $232 in its treasury.
At a meeting held Nov. 16, 1894, at the suggestion of the Rev. F. E. Hall, then its Pastor, the name of the church was changed from Second to the much more appropriate and euphonious "Plymouth Congregational Church” which it retained until 1916. In May of that year the Rev. Frank Merrithew became pastor and at a meeting held August 1st his proposal was adopted that the name be again changed and an effort made to raise $60,000 with which to erect a new church to be called the Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church, in honor of the martyred president.
This idea, born of over enthusiasm and an entire lack of any psychological understanding of the community, was not
only predestined to failure but the inevitable reaction was so discouraging that at a meeting held Sept. 23, 1917, a motion was entertained to close the church and discontinue its services but, fortunately, this motion did not prevail. At the same meeting Mr. Merrithew presented his resignation which was accepted and became effective November first.
During the years from its organization in 1887 to 1920 fourteen pastors had occupied its pulpit. Of these one served but two months, one three, one four and one eleven months, four others less than one year each and there were eight periods, ranging in duration from two to eight months, amounting in all to three years, when the church was without leadership. Under such circumstances it is not strange that there were periods of great depression but the latent vitality of the church is strongly evidenced by the fact that at various times during these interims, classes numbering as high as fifteen and sixteen were received into its membership.
During these recurring periods of depression overtures for the purchase of the Church property by other denominations had several times been declined and at a meeting, July 23, 1919, the church directed its board of trustees to deed its property to the Congregational Conference of Illinois. This should have definitely settled the matter but the question was again revived by certain disaffected members of its Board of Trustees nor was it definitely settled until Nov. 8, 1920.
At a meeting held May 5, 1920 the Church petitioned the Congregational Conference, through its Superintendent, the Rev. George T. McCollum, who was present at the meeting, for his aid in the selection of a pastor, the maintenance of an uninterrupted pastorate and in securing funds to make needed improvements of its property and he was authorized to appoint a committee to inquire into the condition and needs of the church, the findings of which committee the church pledged itself to accept as final.
This Committee: (the Rev. Walter Spooner, acting Superintendent of the state conference, the Rev. H. Irving Parrott, minister of First Church, Springfield, and member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the State Conference and W. Ernest Collins, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Springfield Association), was present at a
called meeting of the church held Oct. 27, 1920, at which Mr. John II. Piper, a member of First Church, who chanced to be present was unanimously chosen to preside. Mr. Spooner stated that the committee was present at the invitation of the church to confer with it concerning the possible settlement of a pastor; but that he had in his possession overtures from the Christian and the Methodist churches for the purchase of its property, which should first be definitely and finally disposed of. After frank and full discussion Messrs. Collins, Parrott and Piper were requested to prepare recommendations to be submitted to the church at an early date for its action "as to whether the church is to proceed as a Congregational Church or negotiate with one of the other denominations which have made overtures to it". The Committee reported that it considcred that the very overtures in question emphasized the fact that the position of Plymouth Church in the city and community is strategic; that it believed if the whole force of the church was marshalled, its differences and difficulties might easily be overcome and advised the church to decline these overtures and proceed in its present denominational affiliations-reminding them that it is Congregational as well as American usage that the minority should always bow to the will of the majority. It was ordered that a meeting be called for November 8, 1920 to consider these recommendations. At the meeting held in pursuance of this call the Committee's report and recommendations were adopted. Thereupon seventeen persons, the representatives of six families (the back-bone of the disturbing element) at their own request were granted letters of dismissal. Thus came to an end the long controversy and on May 1st, 1921, the Rev. J. W. MacCallum, who came recommended by the state conference, entered upon his ministry.
Money was advanced by the building society to assist in making necessary improvements to the church property and on October 23, 1921, the thirty-fourth anniversary of its founding, the remodeled church was dedicated.
The chronicler takes pleasure in again calling attention to the vitality of the church as evidenced by the fact that although seven months had intervened between the pastorate of Mr. MacCallum and that of his predecessor and the further fact of the resignation of the seventeen members at the November