On March 5, 1963, a special meeting was held of the Board
of Trustees. The Trustees are responsible for maintenance of the building
and grounds and church finance. The meeting was held to discuss plans
for the renovation and the improvement of the current sanctuary. The
Trustees drew up some preliminary plans and a tentative spending goal
was set at $67,050. The Trustees decided that a meeting with the Session
(also called the Board of Elders) was needed before any further plans
for renovation commenced. The Session is the governing body of the church.
The primary reason for the 1963-64 renovations was the
organ. The old organ donated by Jane McAllister in 1902 just gave out
and died. The sanctuary also needed other major repairs. The Trustees
bought an organ from the Gress-Miles Organ Co. at a cost of $28,000.
The Trustees decided that Eckstrand, Schad & West would design the
new sanctuary, with Eugene Schad again being the architect. Originally,
the rear of the sanctuary was not part of the plan. Mr. Schad pointed
out that renovating the rear of the sanctuary would provide more room,
but it would cost an additional $25,000.
The renovation was supposed to begin on August 16, 1963.
Work was delayed, however, because a construction company to do the work
had not yet been chosen. Finally, the Board of Trustees decided that
Peterson Co. would do the renovation. As of October 16, 1963, the renovation
cost approximately $133,000. The renovation work began in December of
1963, with work progressing very slowly at first.
A tentative date for the dedication of the new sanctuary
was set for May 17, 1964. Work was not even nearing completion by that
date. A new dedication date for the sanctuary was set for May 31, 1964.
It was again delayed because the new carpeting and the new organ had
not yet been installed. In fact, the organ was supposed to arrive in
mid-April, and it had not arrived yet. The Peterson Co. told the church
that it would take three weeks to install the organ. Finally, the organ
arrived and a new dedication date was set for June 24, 1964. The sanctuary
was finally dedicated on June 24, 1964, with the new pastor, Reverend
Thomas Melton, presiding. While the sanctuary was being renovated, services
were held in Fellowship Hall.
The building is only part of the church. The most important
part of the church is the congregation. There is an official body responsible
for church evangelism. They are called the Board of Deacons. The leader
of the church is called the pastor. From 1857 to 1893, First Presbyterian
Church had eleven pastors, beginning with George L. Little. From 1893
to the present, First Presbyterian Church has had only six pastors, with
two pastors serving seventy of the one hundred years. The pastor who
was at First Presbyterian Church longest was Reverend Samuel W. Chidester.
He was pastor from 1894 to 1939. The second longest-serving pastor to
date was Reverend R. Norman Herbert, who was at First Presbyterian from
1965 to 1990. Reverend David A. Eikenberry came to First Presbyterian
Church in 1992 and is the current pastor.
Before he came to First Presbyterian, Reverend Chidester
served as pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee for fourteen
years. Reverend Chidester was very active in the Waukegan community.
He was very instrumental in founding the Waukegan Public Library. It
is important that Reverend Chidester came to Waukegan because it has
been said that had he not come to Waukegan, there might not be a public
library. He was also very instrumental in founding the Jane McAllister
Hospital, which was later renamed Victory Memorial Hospital. Reverend
Chidester served on the Board of Directors at Victory Memorial Hospital
until his death in 1939. He also served as President of the Waukegan
Humane Society and promoted the Waukegan University Club, which was not
well known at the time.
There have been both men’s and women’s social groups at
First Presbyterian Church since its founding in 1858. There are, however,
no existing records of their early activities. The most notable social
groups at First Presbyterian Church were the ones for women. There used
to be three social groups for women at First Presbyterian Church. One,
for younger women, was called The Junior Guild, one for older women was
called The Women’s Guild, and a group for working women was called The
Westminster Guild (Shonfelt 2). In 1949, those three groups were combined
into one Women’s Association. The Women’s Association was organized by
Mrs. Shonfelt, the current pastor’s wife, and Mrs. Whitacre, a member
of the congregation. The Women’s Association was originally called Presbyterian
Women in the First Presbyterian Church of Waukegan, Illinois. The purpose
of the Women’s Association is stated as, “Forgiven and freed by God in
Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves; to nurture our faith through prayer
and Bible study, to support the mission of the church world wide, to
work for justice and peace, and to build an inclusive, caring community
of women that strengthens the Presbyterian Church (USA) and witnesses
to the promise of God’s kingdom” (Bylaws 1). The Women’s Association
was primarily responsible for decorating the church and providing receptions
during activities. They also were involved in missionary activities.
Membership in the Women’s Association is divided into circles.
Circles have regular members and auxiliary members. The regular members
attend circle meetings and the auxiliary members do not attend meetings
because they are not able to. The Women’s Association originally had
nine circles, but now there is only one, the Afternoon Circle.
The Women’s Association originally had over two hundred
members, but over the years membership has dwindled to sixty-four. In
the 1960’s there were several morning circles for women with small
children, for which daycare was provided, and there were also a couple
circles for working women.
There are several groups associated with the Women’s Association.
One is the Sewing Group. They sew clothes and other things for needy
people. One year the Sewing Group sewed skirts and dresses for girls
being held in the Juvenile Detention Center on Grand Street in Waukegan.
This is important because those girls really did not have nice clothes
to wear. Plus, no other church on record has done anything like this
for kids in Juvenile Detention. Another group associated with the Women’s
Association is the Prayer Chain. A prayer request is started at the top
of the chain and a member calls the next one in line and passes on the
request. A third group associated with the Women’s Association is Project
Love. Project Love supplied homemade meals to needy families of the
congregation once a month.
In the years since its founding in 1857, First Presbyterian
Church of Waukegan, Illinois has indeed had an important and interesting
history. The building is important to the congregation and the actions
of the congregation make First Presbyterian Church important to Waukegan.
In the future, First Presbyterian Church of Waukegan, Illinois will
continue to have an impact on the city of Waukegan by fulfilling Jesus’ command
in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy