Church of the Brethren is a small congregation that meets near the intersection of Neil and Bradley in Champaign. The national Church of the Brethren is purported to have been established in 1708. The Champaign congregation was founded in 1901 with the arrival of the minister Charles A. Lewis, who had moved his family here with precisely that goal in mind (Buckingham 1950, 138). With the help of a religious Brother and others a well-attended meeting was held in a building on West Main Street in Urbana, and soon after in a schoolhouse.
Eleven years later Lewis, aided by the district’s mission board, sought to establish a place of worship in north Champaign, where a tent was erected towards that purpose on Market Street, a structure which still stands (Buckingham 1950, p. 139). This church was completed in 1914, and saw Rolland Leatherman become the new minister. The church continued to grow rapidly in membership, and is reported to have had 75 “charter members” within a year of completion (Buckingham 1950, p. 140).
In 1918 J. W. Kitson took up the mantle of pastor, and under his care “a new eight room parsonage was built,” and “Sunday-school rooms and new seats in the sanctuary [were] been added” as well (Buckingham 1950, p. 140). When he retired the church went without a fixed pastor for a year, much as its contemporary Neil Street manifestation is doing today. It came to take on new pastors every odd year or so until 1934, when Merlin Garber settled down for 15 years of ministry. After his retirement the new pastor Neils Esben saw “ground ... broken for the new church at the corner of Neil and Garwood” where the Church of the Brethren still meets today (Buckingham 1950, p.142). It was completed in 1953.
The Church of the Brethren recognizes history keeping as an important aspect of their faith. The main faction’s website even maintains a guide to collecting historical materials, reminding members that “[i]t is understood that the records of the various agencies of the Church of the Brethren are to be preserved. In fact, records generated while in the employ of the church are the property of the Church of the Brethren and not of the person who created them” (Guide for Local Church Historians 2011, p. 5). Parties interested in the church’s history may visit the Brethren Historical Library and Archives where at least three copies of available publication are kept, or they may seek out information in a library, as this researcher did, where their literature may be viewed upon request.
The church uses information technology regularly, for example to record services for those who are not able to attend, to project hymn lyrics on a screen, and in their existing public computer lab, which is open to the public and was built by students at the University of Illinois.
This CU wiki entry began as a UIUC research project. For more on that see Study of UC2B Anchor Institutions' Technology Use
Buckingham, Minnie Susan. "Champaign." Church of the Brethren in Southern Illinois: Background, Congregations, the District Biographies, Statistics. Elgin, IL: Brethren Pub. House, 1950. 138-42.
"Guide for Local Church Historians." Church of the Brethren : Home. Church of the Brethren. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://www.brethren.org/about/history.html>