February 26, 2024
Local News

Wheaton church transforms old factory into new home

WHEATON — After more than 20 years without a building of their own, members of Church of the Resurrection have a place to call home, and they’re ready to invite the rest of the Wheaton community to stop by for a visit.

Their home is a reclaimed plastics factory in Wheaton near Lincoln Marsh, but two years of planning and construction have transformed the factory into a house of worship. Some of the original features of the factory, including its high ceilings and glass windows, have helped to give the church an especially open and welcoming feel.

“We wanted to be a place where people can walk in and go, ‘I don’t know why, I feel right at home already,’” said Rev. Stewart Ruch III, church rector.

Church of the Resurrection will host its grand opening this weekend with an open house from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, including tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., and services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday at 935 W. Union Ave. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place 1 p.m. Sunday.

When Church of the Resurrection was founded in 1954, its members met at an American Legion Hall in West Chicago, Ruch said. The church built its first building in the early 1960s at Route 59 and Gary’s Mill Road in West Chicago, eventually outgrowing the building in 1990 and moving to West Chicago Community High School to hold its services.

For the last 17 years, the church has held its Sunday services at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn while housing its offices and daily services at the former Scripture Press Building on College Avenue in Wheaton.

The church had been hoping and praying for a new space of its own for the last 10 years but began taking serious steps in 2007, Ruch said. The church had hoped to purchase 20 acres near Roosevelt Road, but the DuPage County Board voted against zoning the area for religious use.

“At the time, it was an incredible disappointment, but now I couldn’t be happier that they voted our zoning request down,” Ruch said.

A new opportunity arose in fall 2010 when a leader in the church saw an advertisement for the factory land, and on Nov. 1, staff walked through the space and were blown away, Ruch said.

The auction for the property took place Nov. 2, and while it was originally appraised between $4 and $5 million, the leader was able to purchase it for $400,000 and in turn, sell the property to the church.

“That began this unbelievable journey of one miracle after another,” Ruch said.

The original factory was designed by David Haid, the architect behind the glass house in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Haid was part of an architectural school that focused on simplicity, favoring large open spaces and simple columns, said Dave Skiffington, lead architect behind the redesign.

“It was designed with much larger, open spaces than a typical manufacturing space,” said Skiffington, owner of Skiffington Architects, Ltd., in Hawthorn Woods.

Haid also used natural materials, such as wood, iron and glass, and left them exposed to show how the building was constructed, something the church tried to honor in the redesign, Ruch said.

The east side of the church is made of glass, giving both the church’s narthex — an architectural term for lobby — and second floor offices a very open feel.

Windows also form part of the south wall of the sanctuary, letting in natural sunlight during the church’s morning services.

The sanctuary has seating for about 950 people, and it includes a large area for members of the church’s music ministry, as many people in the parish are artistically inclined, Ruch said.

All seating faces forward to focus on the cross and an 85-foot altar area that can double as a stage, complete with curtains and a backstage area, allowing for more theatrical services than what may typically be found at other Anglican churches, he said. The stage also leaves the possibility open for outside performing groups to use the area.

Skiffington said some of the biggest issues with the space was a leaky roof and the presence of asbestos in the building, both of which actually allowed the church to take green steps in its design.

The new roof is especially insulated, making it more energy efficient, he said. The insulation limits the need for heating and air conditioning use.

The company that removed asbestos from the building also removed old machinery wiring that could be reused or recycled, cutting down the church’s costs for the asbestos removal since the company would be able to profit from the wiring, Skiffington said.

The new Church of the Resurrection also includes special youth areas and places to display art from members of the church and potentially outside community artists as well, Ruch said.

A cafe will be open on Sunday mornings at the church, and the hope is to eventually have it open more often to create a place where the entire community can spend time, he said.

“The Rez Cafe was for our parish family’s community life but also for the Wheaton community to feel a part of what we’re doing and feel like they could come and be engaged here,” Ruch said. “We love community, we love hanging out together as a people, and we love when new folks can be a part of that community.”

The church sees between 900 and 1,000 attendees every Sunday, and 80 percent of adults are younger than 40 years old. The presence of so many young people and families in the church community led to a grassroots fundraising effort, where everyone contributed what they could, he said.

While the entire building is about 91,600 square feet, only about 50,800 square feet of it has been redesigned so far, Skiffington said. This will allow the church to continue to build internally in its existing space in the future.

Ruch said the redesign that turned a factory into a church is just part of the transformation story that takes place at Church of the Resurrection. Ruch himself came to the church as an anxious, angry Wheaton College student in 1988, and 10 years later, he was ordained a priest.

“Hundreds have had that story here,” Ruch said. “Hundreds of lives have been transformed so that God would give us a building we got to transform, from vacated factory to house of God, that’s pretty stunning."