The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rock Valley had its beginnings in 2000 with a meeting of 5 people who wanted to talk about the possibility of starting a new Unitarian Universalist church in the northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin area. A demographic study was completed showing that the population of the area was large enough to support an additional UU church. Biweekly meetings ensued to complete the work of envisioning the type of church that was wanted, formulating a mission statement, writing bylaws and completing the paperwork required by the Unitarian Universalist Association. The meetings began to also serve as worship services, with the first service being held in someone’s home including bagpipes calling the gathering of the clan.
Interviews followed with several area churches to find a location to rent. The Harlem United Methodist Church in Machesney Park welcomed the group to use their facility. Lay-led services were provided by members of the group. In 2001, they received a Chalice Lighter’s grant to hire a part-time minister, Jacquie Meli, to provide leadership and outreach. Rev. Meli led the first service on September 16 which set the pattern of including Joys and Concerns, and the Closing Circle and Song, traditions which continue to this day. By 2001, the group had more than doubled from 12 to 26 pledging units (individuals or couples).
In 2002, Dr. Matt Tittle, a student of Meadville Lombard Seminary School, joined the group and they officially became a church with the Unitarian Universalist Association. The Charter service was held February 16, 2003 with the Presentation of Charter by Angela Merkert, UUA District, and Acceptance of Charter by Penny Shaw, UUCRV President.
Around the same time, the congregation began looking for a new location to meet and in October 2004 the group moved into the current location at 329 School Street (the old Stephen Mack Elementary School) in Rockton with a rental contract for a year. The building was owned by the Rockton School District which put the building up for sale. The contract was extended when no buyer was immediately identified.
A new search was conducted to look for another location, but when it was heard that the school district might be willing to come down on the selling price of the old school, a proposal was made to consider the possibility of purchasing the building. Members were asked to make pledges toward the down payment on the building – a 20% down payment was required, but in the end, members pledged 33% of the cost of the building making the purchase possible. Members worked hard throughout the summer painting the building, washing windows and generally cleaning up.
On October 19, 2008, Rev. Scott Talbot Lewis led the Building Dedication Service with Dori Davenport from the UUA District providing Recognition.