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Origins & History

Ivanhoe Congregational Church - A Storied History, Enthusiastic Present, and a Vibrant Future.

In 1838, Illinois was home to less than 500,000 inhabitants, with a scant 2,000 of them residing in very rural Lake County. Ivanhoe Congregational Church was the first church in the county, being founded on February 20, 1838, at a meeting of 16 people in the home of Alfred Payne. It was another 18 years before the current sanctuary was built in 1856 in the style of New England churches to which the settlers were accustomed. Our humble church home would come to be listed on Illinois’ Registry of Historic Places.

Illinois and Lake County were very divided by the issue of slavery. Alfred Payne spoke against slavery throughout the area. Church members undertook activities to support the ideas of Lincoln’s Emancipation of the slaves, likely even participating in the “Underground Railroad.” Church members, as well as other Lake County residents, served the Union Army, only to return home maimed to live out the rest of their typically agricultural lives. Through the centennial and subsequent decades, Ivanhoe Congregational Church and its members continued to serve the community and the world at large, participating not only in local causes but traveling to other areas to help others in need.  

The church experienced a period of growth by its centennial, and to meet increased needs, its foundation was raised to create classrooms and a fellowship hall in the 1920s. An educational wing was added in 1957, and a parsonage in 1952. The sanctuary was extensively remodeled in 2001.

Subsequent decades brought different challenges, to which Ivanhoe Congregational Church has continued to rise. Most recently, the worldwide Covid pandemic caused many changes in the way we worship and serve our church community.  In addition to congregating once again in person, we have increased our reach by sharing our worship service and other events via live streaming through a YouTube channel, as well as creating a series of podcasts.  Our mission service to both congregational members and the community in which we reside grew along with the corresponding need.

Throughout our history, amid continual change, one constant has been to share God’s love with all. Please click here to open an interesting and detailed history of Ivanhoe Congregational Church

History Timeline of Ivanhoe Congregational United Church of Christ

Dec 3, 1818

Illinois becomes the 21st state to enter the Union

1830 – 1838

Following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Potowatami, Ojbibwe, Odawa & other Indian tribes are forced out of Illinois.

Mar 4, 1837

The city of Chicago is incorporated.

Feb 20, 1838

Mechanics Grove Presbyterian Church is organized by 16 pioneers under the guidance of Reverend Doctor John Blatchford at the home of Mrs. Mercy Payne.

Apr 20, 1840

Mechanics Grove church secedes from the Presbytery and joins the Elgin Congregational Association.

Spring 1845

Church members begin to "raise a church" in Vardin's Grove (Libertyville) but sell the building within 18 months (the building later became the village hall).

Aug 23, 1845

The members of the Congregational Church of Libertyville unanimously approve its first Resolution Against Slavery; slaveholding ministers and members are prohibited.


Members of Congregational Church begin meeting at the Mechanics Grove schoolhouse (NW corner of Route 176 and Midlothian Road).

Nov 25, 1852

Ladies Sewing Society for Benevolent Enterprise and Social Feeling is formed with 11 ladies present.

Dec 10, 1856

The new church building is dedicated in its permanent location at Dean's Corners on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Dean.

Apr 12, 1861

The Civil War Begins.

Apr 9, 1865

Robert E. Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox courthouse, essentially ending the Civil War.

Spring 1865

The Joice Family (James, wife Jenna, son Asa, and daughter Sarah), former slaves, are brought to Ivanhoe by First Lieutenant Addison Partridge following the Civil War.

Oct 8, 1871

The Great Chicago Fire kills 300.

May 4, 1886

A labor rally at Chicago’s Haymarket Square protesting the killing and wounding of several workers by Chicago police sparks a riot and bombing that kills at least 8 and wounds many more.

Feb 20, 1888

The Semi-centennial Anniversary is held at the Fremont Congregational Church.

Apr 2, 1889

Asa Joice, the first African American elected to public office in Lake County, is elected Town Constable and serves for 9 years

Jun 11, 1890

The Young Peoples' Christian Endeavor Society is organized at Ivanhoe church.


Gas lines are installed by the Christian Endeavor group for kerosene lighting in the Sanctuary.

Jun, 1897

Asa Joice, son of freedman James Joice, is elected local Christian Endeavor Society president.


Christian Endeavor members raise money for the excavation of the church basement raising the church foundation for the Kitchen and Fellowship Hall.


The stained-glass Bethlehem Window is installed in place of rear Sanctuary window - donated by the H D Wells family.


Horse sheds are constructed behind the church on the north side of the property.


Women's Society raises funds for the church, pastor's salary and for the World Missionary Society, hosts large turkey dinners at Woodman Hall in Ivanhoe.

Apr 6, 1917

The United States enters World War I.


Rev E. A. Carnes goes to Great Lakes Naval Station and later becomes Chaplain for soldiers in France.

Jun 1918 – Dec 1920

The 'Spanish Flu' pandemic strikes mostly healthy young adults and ultimately kills at least 3% of the world's population.


Jenna Scruggs Joice, widow of James Joice, dies after becoming ill while tending to influenza patients. She likely contracted the flu from her close proximity to the sick.


Rev C E Wolsted is ordained at Ivanhoe Church - serves as Ivanhoe pastor for 2 years and then travels to India as a missionary.


Rev C Arthur Jevne becomes the 35th Pastor of Ivanhoe church - he is the first of only 4 pastors to lead the church over the next 100 years.

1929 – 1939

The Great Depression creates global economic turmoil.


Ivanhoe Congregational Church celebrates its first 100 years.

Dec 1941 – Sep 1945

The United States enters World War II - church attendance plummets as men are sent overseas and families are relocated.

1946 – 1949

A small group of families sustain Ivanhoe church.

1950 – 1951

Reverend Delbert Schrag is sent by the Illinois Conference office to evaluate whether to close the church but instead leads the church into a period of revival.


The Ivanhoe Women's Guild is founded.


The Good News Singers are founded.


The Parsonage for the pastor and family is completed.

1956 – 1957

Fundraisers are held to build an educational wing at the church.


The new Ivanhoe Church educational wing is dedicated.

Jun 25, 1957

The United Church of Christ is formed by the merger of the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.


Ivanhoe church becomes involved in the civil rights movement and in the March to Washington.

1964 – 1973

The United States becomes involved in the Vietnam War - Vietnam war vets are welcomed back home by Ivanhoe member dinners and celebrations.

Sep 19, 1971

Reverend Del Schrag decides to leave Ivanhoe Church to become the United Church of Christ Conference Minister for the state of Illinois.

Apr 15, 1972

Reverend M. Wayne Nowack becomes the new minister of Ivanhoe church.


Ivanhoe Church celebrates its 135th Anniversary.


Ivanhoe Church celebrates its Sesquicentennial.

2000 – 2001

The Ivanhoe parsonage is converted to a pre-school and becomes shared space for Mundelein Cooperative Pre-School. Minister & family are provided housing allowance in lieu of parsonage.

2001 – 2002

The Sanctuary is completely remodeled ("Faith Lift"), and a handicap-accessible lift is installed between Fellowship Hall and the main floor.

Sep 11, 2001

Al-Qaeda Terrorists attack the U.S.

Oct 2, 2005

Reverend Kris Hewitt becomes the newest pastor of Ivanhoe Church.

Dec 10, 2006

Ivanhoe Congregational Church celebrates its Building Sesquicentennial 1856 – 2006.

Feb 24, 2013

Ivanhoe Church celebrates its 175th Anniversary

2021 – 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic forces remote worship and Zoom gatherings for a time but also spurs opportunity to expand online worship and outreach.