Pastor David Russell
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Central/Southern Illinois Synod, ELCA
American Lutheran Church is a congregation of imperfect people sharing God's Grace by "reaching out...reaching in...and reaching up." Our church was started in 1949 by a group of people with a vision, that vision became a reality do to insight, hard work and a strong belief in God. Now we are a faithful E.L.C.A. congregation, with a strong active membership. We grow a little more each day with spiritual fellowship for all ages to enjoy. If you have been searching for a place to hear about and learn God's word; "Look No Further!" At American Lutheran Church we are truly blessed to be led by a wonderful, exciting, heartwarming and faithful Shepherd.
COME AND JOIN US!
Pastor David Russell is the new interim pastor at American Lutheran Church. He has come here from Advent Lutheran Church in
Morton, IL, where he served for twenty months in interim ministry.
Pastor David grew up in the south, the youngest of four children, and very involved in Baptist and Evangelical worlds. While studying engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he committed to becoming a pastor through the influence
of his campus pastor.
He then went to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where whole new worlds were opened to him. During this time, he gained an appreciation for liturgy and spirituality, and he realized that he was not very Baptist. At the end of his studies, he chose to become part of the fledgling Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Pastor David moved to Pittsburgh to study spirituality at Duquesne University, and he joined First Lutheran Church in downtown Pittsburgh. He also became a big Steelers fan there.
After several years in the Steel City, Pastor David did a little bit of everything, including studying liturgy at the University of Notre Dame and becoming a fan of the Fighting Irish. In time, Pastor David received his Lutheran credentials after studying at the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia and doing his internship on Long Island.
His first call, lasting for almost ten years, was at Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Hartsburg, IL, between Peoria and Springfield. In nearby Lincoln, he met his wife—he was the visiting pastor for a wedding at her church, she was the organist. They wedded at…. ummmm… a more mature age. They have an almost-thirteen-year-old daughter, Karlee, who is the delight of their life.
Pastor David then served Hilltop Lutheran Church in South Bend, IN, for seven years. From there, he has enjoyed doing interim ministry. His house and family are still in South Bend, and, while in Bourbonnais, he will travel home about three times each month on Thursday nights, coming back Saturday mornings.
Your new interim pastor enjoys doing the traditional pastoral things—preaching, teaching, leading worship, visiting those who are homebound, and more. Additionally, one of his hobbies is photographing churches; he has photographed probably 3,000 churches around the nation. He also collects hymnals and prayers and bulletins, having written the only history of church bulletins, which was published in 2006. And, when you step into his office, you’ll likely notice quite a few penguins. Why? Because he simply likes them and has since at least high school. He enjoys talking about his daughter, too.
Pastor David Russell
A little of our History...
In 2019 as we celebrate 70 years as a congregation, we members of American Lutheran Church are indeed able to rejoice in God’s gracious love. As we learn from the history notes of our humble beginnings in 1949, there is no way we could have been gathered together and to have flourished as we have but by the grace our the Triune God. He nourished and sustained us from our start and continues to do so to this day. It is to His glory that we continue to call upon His name and give thanks to Him for the marvelous opportunity He has given us to bond together for worship and service for these past 70 years.
Celebrating Our Roots: 1948-1954
The Following is a historical account written for the dedication of the first unit of the original church building at 1284 S. Fourth Ave. in Kankakee, IL in June 1950. The account was written by the first pastor of our congregation, Rev. Bernhard Loeschen.
It was a cold day in February 1948, that a group of pastors from Iroquois and Ford counties along with faithful members of their respective parishes came to canvass the south and west side of Kankakee to see whether or not there was a need for a Lutheran Church. After they had completed their canvass and sent in the statistics to the mission board of the Illinois District, the board felt that a Lutheran Church should be established.
Pastor Bernhard Loeschen, then pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Ashkum, IL, was asked to take over the work of starting a mission and find a place of worship. He was assisted by a student from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Mr. Elroy E. Buhr, then pastor in Le Center, Minnesota. He arrived in July 1948 and after two months of canvassing and trying to locate a worship space, he found no success.
It was during the last week of work that the mission board informed the pastors that they would be down to Kankakee for a conference regarding the work in Kankakee. The mission board arrived and while they were driving south on S. Main St. they noticed a “For Rent” sign. After consultation with the owner, Mr. H. Arnove, rented us the hall for $77.75 per month. A lease was signed for a year. We worshipped at 854 S. Main St. in Kankakee from August 29, 1948 to May 21, 1950.
The building was in poor condition. Pastor Loeschen had a carpenter build an altar and lectern. Along with this we had an old reed organ. Several young people went along from with the pastor from Ashkum and spent the entire day cleaning and painting the hall. Our first service was held on August 20, 1948.
It was a happy occasion for all who had worked to get the mission started. After mailing out cards to prospective members and putting church notes in the paper, it was interesting to see just how many would be in church. Pastor Loeschen preached the first sermon to 29 people who gathered together for worship. Many of these people were visitors from other churches. Nevertheless, preaching services continued. The attendance usually was around 15 and some Sundays it was as low as 8. In March of 1949 the mission board sent Ms. Alice Bast, the district parish worker. She stayed several months and contacted new members. In May of 1949 the parish decided to officially organize as a congregation and to adopt the pattern of progress that the mission board of the Americal Lutheran Church had set up for us.
The parish also purchased three lots and a house. In the fall of 1949 the parish felt that they should have a full time pastor and Rev. Loeschen was called as pastor. He accepted the call and was installed October 9, 1949, by pastor C. F. Hafermann of Denver, Iowa. He was greatly interested in the work at Kankakee and was in charge of the first canvass while he was pastor in Danforth.
Since the parish now had a full time pastor the attendance increased. It was decided that the first unit of the future church should be built. Mr. A. J. Kruegel of Joliet was consulted as architect. He drew plans and on Ocotber 20, 1949, ground was broken. Mr. Henry Saathoff was placed in charge of construction.
The first unit, which later became known as Luther Hall, was dedicated on June 4, 1950. This gave the congregation much more room than before along with more of a sense of permanence. Consequently, attendance began to increase. The Sunday School grew to 29 students and 5 staff members. Close to 100 people were present at the Sunday School Christmas program. Between January 1 and October 1, total member ship grew to 68. A year later, Sunday School had grown to 41 members and 6 staff members.
In May of 1953, $30,000 was be borrowed from the ALC Mission Board in order to build the second unit of the church- the sanctuary, above the first unit- Luther Hall. Work began in June and continued through the winter. Dedication Services were held on January 17, 1954. Three days later, attendance on average was 45 people on Sunday – up from 38 the previous year. Membership had grown to 84 baptized, 47 of which were confirmed, and the Sunday School had grown to 54 students.
Growing in Faith Together: 1955-1999
Although the original parsonage was sizeable, it was old and in poor condition. By the end of 1958, it was decided that a new parsonage and educational building would be built. Groundbreaking was held on October 9, 1960 and the buildings were dedicated 5 months later in March of 1961.
In 1961, new hymnals were purchased for the pews. During 1965 a much-needed parking lot was established behind the church and the church kitchen was remodeled. In 1972, the house to the north of the church was purchased and torn down so the parking lot could be expanded. A lot was purchased at 1361 S. 4thAve. – half a block south of the church where a new parsonage was built and dedicated on May 28, 1972. The old parsonage was converted to offices, meeting rooms, and educational space. In July 1973, Air conditioning was added to the church.
The 25th anniversary was celebrated on April 28th, 1974. In November 1974, a new Allen ADC 301 organ was purchased at a cost of $13,150. The organ was dedicated on November 10th. In 1979, New Green Hymnals (LBW) were purchased and new liturgies were introduced with the help of the Adult Choir. In 1980, the Chancel was remodeled and the stained glass Christ window removed. Instead, a 11 ½ ft. Oak cross would be displayed above the altar. Other stained glass windows were repaired and re-glazed the same year.
In 1982, ceiling fans were added to the sanctuary, new exterior doors were donated, and a new floor was laid in Luther Hall. In 1986, the congregation voted for the merger of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The Lutheran Church of America, and The American Lutheran Church. The newly formed synod would become known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (ELCA)
In 1988 the mortgage was paid off and a special service was held on June 26th. The 40th anniversary of the church was celebrated on May 21, 1989. In 1993, new windows were installed in Luther Hall and the grounds were re-landscaped. The same year, the Chancel was remodeled again: the altar was brought away from the wall, the communion rail was moved closer to the congregation, and the Pulpit and Lectern were moved to the outside of the communion rail. This allowed communion without stepping up from the main floor and altogether bringing the word and Sacrament of Holy Communion closer to the people.
In 1995, a new Carillon system was purchased and placed in the spire. A Church computer were donated the same year and placed in the church office. Soon after, additional computers were donated and a computer lab was established. Videotaping and recording of services began for the benefit of homebound and shut-in members. In 1999, we celebrated our 50thanniversary. Average attendance was 117, with 331 baptized members, 251 of which were confirmed.
Branching Out into the World: 2000-2019
The turn of the century brought many changes to American Lutheran Church. In 2004, it was decided that a new, 11,300 sq. ft. church building would be built at a cost of $2.2 million in nearby Bourbonnais. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on August 21, 2005, and construction began in the fall of 2005. The new building was completed in June of 2006. The new church building is located at 1560 Career Center Road and includes a large stained glass window behind the Chancel Area,
Glue-laminated wood beams in the sanctuary, and exterior brick veneer.
In 2007, new cranberry hymnals (ELW) were purchased for the pews to replace the aging Green (LBW) hymnals. The church celebrated its 60thanniversary over the summer of 2009. In 2012, a fundraising campaign was held and a new baby-grand piano was purchased. In 2017, Pastor’s office was remodeled with new carpet tiles and fresh paint.
Over the summer of 2018, carpet tiles were also installed in the nursery, conference room, and youth room. A closet was built to store quilting supplies. New music stands were donated for use during worship services, and the choral music library was inventoried for the first time. A new advent wreath was donated in December in honor of our upcoming 70th anniversary.
A most Gracious God has truly blessed this congregation. As we look to the future may we accept the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“As you go on your way, may God go with you. May He go before you to show you the way, May He go behind you to encourage you, Beside you to befriend you, Above you to watch over, Within you to give you peace. In the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.” – John Ylvisaker