Rockton Methodist Church members have not been able to hold services in their sanctuary since October 2019 because of an unstable wall that is being shored up now.

The members of the Rockton United Methodist Church never imagined that when they removed the pews from their Sanctuary back in October of 2019 that they would still be worshiping somewhere else in August.

What would have been even harder to imagine back then is that there would be two reasons they could not be in their sanctuary, a leaning wall and a global pandemic. Rebuilt after a fire leveled the first church back in 1935, the church had undergone some remodeling to extend its Sanctuary in the early 1960’s.

Several years later, congregation members noticed that the south wall of the Sanctuary was leaning outwards. In 1971, rods were added to stop the leaning and things were stable for the next forty40-plus years. Then in 2018 and into the spring of 2019, congregation members noticed the wall was leaning a little further.

Member Ron Zoeller, a retired machinist, took measurements and installed a plumb line to confirm that, indeed, it had slipped a few inches more.

After inspections by structural engineers, it was decided to observe an abundance of caution and move out of the Sanctuary that October. Months of exploratory studies and inspections followed and a structural engineer from Larson and Darby was hired to develop plans and drawings to, once again, stabilize the wall.

The church was fortunate enough to be taken in by their brothers and sisters in Christ through the nearby Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. They shared their Sanctuary and couldn’t have been more welcoming.

Fortunately, the educational wing of the Rockton church was unaffected, so they could still use their office and meeting rooms. And then the unthinkable happened when the COVID-19 came along in March and, once again, the church was looking for a way to worship and do church business.

Months of online worship followed. During this time, the church searched for a contractor, sought approval for the construction from the Methodist Conference and finally hired Sjostrom and Sons, Inc. of Rockford.

Sjostrom will jack up the ceiling, which will bring the wall somewhat back into place and then they will firmly stabilize it. Most recently, the church has been enjoying the beautiful weather by worshiping in “Drive-In Services” in the church parking lot using a small radio transmitter that allows people to listen to Pastor Howie Snyder preach and sing hymns on his guitar through their car radios.

Services are still live-streamed for those who can’t attend the drive-in service. Construction began the week of Aug. 17 and (if COVID-19 restrictions cooperate) they hope to be back in their newly reinforced Sanctuary by Halloween but no later than Thanksgiving.

It will long be remembered that they were out of their Sanctuary due to a leaning wall for over a year but also that they would have been out for over half of a year anyway due to a pandemic. As with many other things in our lives today, 2020 will leave its mark on the life of Rockton United Methodist Church.

The church is having a funding campaign to help pay for the construction and would appreciate any support the community could provide. Persons wishing to help can send their contributions to the Rockton United Methodist Church, PO Box 293, Rockton, IL 61072.

They can also contribute online by going to the church website at: and clicking on the donation button for the Building Fund on the home page.

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