Rocklane Christian Church opens new worship space for 175th anniversary


In 1846, a small community of 44 people in the northwest corner of Johnson County first came together to practice their faith.

The 15 small families living in what was known as Clarksburg wanted a place of worship together. Thus, a preacher would take turns visiting family homes or the local school for services, gathering more and more members over time.

From these humble beginnings, a legacy was born.

“This church has been around for 175 years and depends on nothing but the Lord,” said Seth Amerine, senior pastor of Rocklane Christian Church. “There is no ordinance, no grant, nothing to keep him alive except his congregation.”

This year, Rocklane Christian Church celebrated its 175th anniversary. The occasion turned out to be an opportunity for current members of the ever-flourishing church to look at its history and the impact it has had in the northern part of Johnson County over all these years.

At the same time, it is a chance to look to the future. Rocklane will host the first service on Sunday at its newly constructed worship space, which will accommodate the existing congregation while allowing the church to grow with new families.

“This has been our church our whole life, and we’re never going to leave it,” said Steve Dougherty, longtime church member. “We are very well located and this area is constantly evolving. So we are in a very good place.

Dougherty’s family has been with the church since the early 1900s. His mother carried him to his first services as a baby, and he, his siblings and cousins ​​grew up in the church. .

He and his wife, Elaine, have been married for 50 years and have attended church the entire time. Their daughter has been involved in youth classes throughout her life. Dougherty was an elder, a Sunday school teacher, and he and Elaine served as church youth ministers.

The focus on young people is one of the defining aspects of the church, he said.

“Our youth program is one of the best we have had,” he said. “A lot of older churches now don’t really have a youth program. But every time we built, it was for young people.

The Rocklane Christian Church was born on April 4, 1846 and was known at the time as the Clarksburg Christian Church. Although members gathered in homes and at the Leatherwood School early on, the leadership focused on creating a dedicated worship space for the church.

A member named JJ Dugan donated land for this first church building – the same spot where the current church building stands. The first service in the new building took place in 1850.

The Christian Church in Clarksburg continued to grow, and in 1879 a larger chapel project was completed. This chapel remains and members use it for special events. The community of Clarksburg changed its name to Rocklane in 1867, but the church did not become the Rocklane Christian Church until 1914.

In the 1920s, the congregation agreed that the church needed space for Sunday school classes. Thus, under the chapel, the workers dug the basement to create a space for the classrooms, as well as a kitchen.

An annex was built in the early 1950s when the congregation donated money and sold lima beans for $ 1,200 at the county fair to generate money for the addition of about 15 $ 000. About a decade later, the church was interested in building a children’s wing to educate the youth of the congregation. To raise funds, Rocklane created the Farmers’ Auction.

“They would give farmers the opportunity to bring in equipment and auction it off. They would get money for it, but part of it would go to church, ”Amerine said. “Before I had to cancel it last year, it had been going on every year for 48 years.”

A gymnasium, known as the Family Life Center, was the church’s most recent construction project. For years, the church hosted recreational sports and other activities in the gymnasium.

Sara Banholzer started attending church when she was only 7 years old, right after the Family Life Center opened. She remembers it was a huge event for the congregation.

“It was a small country church, but they had just built the center. It was a big deal to have that extra space, the gymnasium and all these classrooms, ”she said.

Now 28, she has spent most of her life in the church. She met her husband, Dustin, in a youth group, and her children are now attending services with them.

When the Banholzers’ son was born prematurely with serious health issues, the Rocklane community stepped forward to support them with everything they needed – food, prayers, financial aid, and just recording.

“It’s a family affair,” she says. “It means a lot to us. This is our home, our second family. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Banholzer saw great growth in the church during their time there. As the congregation grew it grew too large for the original Rocklane Chapel. The services were therefore moved to the Family Life Center, which could better accommodate the hundreds of people who attend the services each Sunday.

Church leaders took stock of the space available in Rocklane and the needs they saw now and in the future. Their children’s wing was already too small and it would be nice to convert the Family Life Center back into a recreation area, Amerine said.

After much discussion, it was decided to embark on a project for both a new children’s wing and a worship space.

“Not that I thought we had to create a new worship center at that point, but because I didn’t want what we were doing for the children’s wing to interfere with a future worship center,” he said. -he declares.

Amerine is the 66th preacher to lead the Rocklane Christian Church, having come to church six years ago. Even during this relatively short period, he saw first-hand the values ​​that define the institution.

“Every build and extension was for the kids. They dug this basement for Sunday school lessons. They added a wing for the kids, they added a gymnasium. They are still focused on the next generation. This church has always had a very vibrant ministry for children, ”said Amerine.

Initially, a consultant the church was working with estimated they could raise around $ 800,000 for the project over three years. The congregation exceeded that projection, generating $ 2 million for the project.

“It was breathtaking while not slowing down and doing more in the community and abroad in missionary work,” said Amerine. “We didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

The new worship center is a spacious and adaptable space that can comfortably accommodate up to 700 people. Church leaders believe that the whole congregation could worship together, instead of going their separate ways for separate services.

“We can have everyone together for a while,” Amerine said.

The project, which started in 2018, will have its first service on Sunday. The final cost of construction was $ 6,262,000.

The new addition also includes a café, where members can meet and chat before and after services, classrooms for the church’s various ministries and education classes, and a new space for its preschool.

The church held an open house between services on November 7, marking its 175th anniversary. Church historians had put old photographs, church directories, meeting minutes, and other items of interest on tables for members to browse.

They watched a video – originally an 8-millimeter film – created during Rocklane’s 125th anniversary.

“A lot of the members saw each other when they were kids 50 years ago,” Amerine said. “It was really just a chance to do something that we really haven’t been able to do in a year and a half: sit down and eat a cake and visit each other. It was special.


Comments are closed.