Photos: Freedom Church holds first Sunday service in redeemed Illiana building

first Sunday service
Pastor Thaddeus (standing) delivers a message contrasting Faith with Fear. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Pre-registration allows socially distant seating, ample parking

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (March 21, 2021) – Pastor Thaddeus Searcy was near tears several times on Sunday morning, March 21. Having bought the old Illiana building (2261 Indiana Ave.) more than a year ago, with plans for an Easter 2020 opening, it was a relief and a joy and a victory for Freedom Church to finally be able to hold a worship service within its walls.

The church needed a Special Use permit to allow a church in a residential district. And a variance was required because Freedom Church would be located within 750’ of Oak Glen United Reformed Church. Lansing’s Planning and Zoning Board had agreed last March to recommend Village Board approval, but the pandemic altered Freedom Church’s timeline for occupancy. On March 16 of this year, both the Special Use permit and the variance were officially granted by the Village Board, in time for the March 21 service—Freedom’s first in-person meeting in more than a year, and their first Sunday service in their new facility.

first Sunday service
In the Sunday sunshine, members of Freedom Church approach their new worship center for the first Sunday service. The church is using the south, “back” door as the main entrance because the former “girls gym” is now being used as the main worship center. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
first Sunday service
Near the door, volunteers do temperature checks on everyone who enters the building. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
first Sunday service
In order to meet health requirements, worshippers were asked to pre-register (inset) for the first Sunday service. Volunteers then checked names before allowing guests to enter the sanctuary. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
first Sunday service
New flooring, circles of sanctuary seating, an expanded stage, and dramatic lighting are all part of the transformation from worn-out gym to contemporary worship center. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
A high-tech audio and video control center has been built into the back of the room. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The praise team began leading the saints in worship at 10:30am, but three minutes in, Pastor Thaddeus interrupted. He reminded members of what has become a tradition for Freedom Church—when they began meeting in a theater in Country Club Hills, they knelt. When they began sharing space with Woodlands Community Church, they knelt. And now, in the first building they own themselves, Searcy reminded the congregation to kneel again. “As a sign of what this house represents,” he said, “as a sign of our constant posture before our heavenly…” he paused for a moment, choking up. And then he prayed over his kneeling church and their new building. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
A church member kneels while Pastor Thaddeus prays. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
“From the start to the finish, we will bow with reverence to the King of kings and Lord of lords,” prayed Pastor Thaddeus from the stage while congregants bowed or knelt at the beginning of Sunday’s service. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Following the prayer, he worship team took the stage again to lead the people in song. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Banner bearers and dancers at the perimeter of the worship space lift flags in exaltation. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
After 30 minutes of singing, Pastor Eric Hampton (red stripe) takes the stage to say a prayer and share a few announcements. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Pastor Thaddeus (standing, left) delivers his message from the center of the seating circles. Freedom Church has members who still prefer not to gather in large crowds, so the technology team will continue to shoot high-quality videos of the services and post them on the church’s social sites. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Pastor Thaddeus (standing) delivers a message contrasting Faith with Fear. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The message included cultural, sports, and political references as examples of the stresses of 2020, a year when churches could not meet to offer peace in person. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Around 11:40am, Pastor Thaddeus offers a benediction before dismissing the worshippers: “As you leave this place today…may God bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and give you a hope and a future in Him.” (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
As the lights come up and the worship music continues to play, some church members file out, while others remain to fellowship. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
first Sunday service
The lobby offers additional space for socializing post-service. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
As health restrictions ease, Freedom Church hopes visitors will be able to use the providentially provided furniture in the lobby before and after services. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
first Sunday service
In the parking lot following the service, Freedom Church members chat for a few extra minutes before heading home. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Freedom Church’s address is 2261 Indiana Avenue, though the worship center parking lot on the south side of the building is accessible from Ridge Road, just west of Torrence Avenue. Worship services are planned for 10:30am on Sunday mornings and are also available for viewing online:





  1. I’m so very pleased with the wonderful article about the use of Illiana by the church! From the day the school moved out, I began praying that it would be used by young people as a place to grow in their faith. I’m so relieved that it is not just an abanded building but rather is being used to continue to glorify God in this place in our town! Hallelujah!!

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