January 14, 1958, Pastor Lloyd Shipley of New Lebanon Baptist Church in Kilbourne, Illinois, and Reverend R. L. Lockerby, missionary of the Illinois Valley Baptist Association, conducted a survey of Macomb. Fellowship meetings were held throughout the remainder of 1958 and into 1959 in the home of Don and Sara Heberling, 540 N. Albert Street, Macomb. Temple Baptist Church in Canton, Illinois was now sponsoring the mission endeavor in Macomb.
On July 15, 1959, Temple Baptist Church voted to sponsor a mission chapel in Macomb. The first Sunday service was held in the Heberling home on August 2, 1959. Brother Gene Stookey of Canton spoke. Don and Sarah Heberling became the first members of Grace Temple Baptist Church. The next Sunday Brother and Mrs. W. H. Burch and their son Calvin joined the mission.
In January 1960, Reverend Lloyd Spencer was appointed area missionary in Macomb by the Illinois Baptist State Association. He and his family united with the mission February 28, 1960. He stayed until March 1964, when he left to become the missionary for the Sinnissippi and Blackhawk Associations of northern Illinois. A small home on South Ward Street was rented for services and was replaced in just a few weeks when a larger house at 341 South Johnson was rented. June 20 through July 1, 1960, the first Vacation Bible School was held at this location.
Later in 1960, the building at 725 West Jefferson was secured and served the congregation until 1965. December 21, 1960, a call was extended by the church to Reverend Rey Pady of Mt. Vernon, Illinois to become the pastor of the Macomb Mission. He accepted and served until December 17, 1961.
After all attempts to find a successor failed, in 1963, the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention offered to underwrite a pastoral missionary program in Macomb. On February r2, 1964, a call was extended to Reverend Carl Watkins of Ridgway, Illinois to become pastoral missionary in Macomb and he accepted.
On February 12, 1964, the Temple Baptist Church of Canton approved the recommendation that Grace Temple Baptist Chapel be constituted into a New Testament church. This occurred on April 19, 1964, and the name was changed to First Southern Baptist of Macomb. In November 1964, the church purchased the house at 325 North Sherman Avenue. Services began to be held there in February 1965, at which time the name of the church was changed to University Baptist Church.
In April 1965, the property at 319 North Sherman Avenue was purchased for a parsonage. In October, 1967, it was converted into a day care center led by Dorothy Butler as director. In June 1965, the property at 313 North Sherman Avenue was purchased as a site for a new building. At this same time the church united with the Greater Metropolitan Peoria Association.
In February 1970, the church called Dr. Gary Halbrook from Ft. Worth, Texas, as pastor. He began his ministry in June of that year. May 23, 1971, ground breaking ceremonies were held for the new church building. With two separate bond issues totaling approximately $100,000, the church was constructed, though never completely finished as the plans had been drawn. Services began in the new building in February 1973.
March 1977, after being led for several months by an interim pastor, Reverend Alan Hendrickson accepted the call to become pastor of the church. He served until 1979. Following a short period with an interim pastor, Reverend John Wilkinson began his service in May 1980. Also in 1980 Sam White arrived, employed by the Illinois Baptist State Association, to minister to university students at Western Illinois University as the Baptist Student Union Director. Work with WIU students had begun in the late 1970s.
Pastor Wilkinson served until his retirement from the ministry in 1992. In August of that year Reverend Richard Hurtgen was called to the pastorate. Feeling the need for more educational space, a fellowship hall, office space and greater accessibility, the congregation embarked upon a Challenge to Build program. With the aid of volunteer groups from Illinois, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, extensive demolition and reconstruction of the existing church building was begun in 1993 and completed in 1995. Services were held in the Macomb YMCA Senior Center following Easter of 1993 and during major construction until the new building completion in 1994. A celebration social and open house was held November 3, 1996 in the newly completed building at 315 N. Sherman Avenue, Macomb Illinois. The parking lot was paved in Spring 2003.
Following BSU Director Sam White’s move in 1994, the Illinois Baptist State Association and the church entered into an agreement calling for the church to begin proving ministry to WIU with partial financial support from IBSA. Early in 1995, Phil Bell was called to become Director of the WIU Baptist Student Union and Youth Pastor for the church. Michael Toller became the youth pastor in August 2002; after 3 years he left on July 31, 2005. Patrick Bailey assumed the Student Pastor role from November 2006 to November 2008.
After eleven years of service, Pastor Hurtgen accepted a call to another pastorate beginning in September of 2003. Brent Baxley was called to serve and accepted. The church experienced slight growth during this pastorate, but personal leadership problems necessitated Pastor Baxley’s requested resignation on April 27, 2005. Phil Bell was asked to serve as interim pastor for up to 6 months. On May 2, 2005 Pastor Kelly Reed accepted the call to UBC. The church began to realize a decline in membership. He stayed for three years before turning in his resignation on July 6, 2008 when Phil Bell, again, resumed the interim position.
In January 2009, Phil Bell, a current interim pastor and member of University Baptist Church, accepted the call to become pastor for this fellowship. The church experienced a rebirth under Pastor Bells’ leadership and once again became vibrant with slow growth. In January 2011, Pastor Phil suffered a major stroke. When it became clear he would not be able to immediately regain the pulpit, David Auxier was called as an interim pastor in June 2012 as it was hoped Pastor Phil would eventually be able to resume his leadership role. In August 2013, Pastor Dave made the decision to return to seminary to complete his ministerial degree. It was also determined Pastor Phil would not be able to return as pastor. Pastor Phil gave his retirement sermon on August 4, 2013 and a search committee was established to seek out God’s next leader for University Baptist Church.
On January 26, 2014, the church called Brother Rich Barnett from Brighton, Illinois, as pastor. Brother Rich is our current pastor and we look forward to the history we will continue to make from this day forward.
Since that time we have rebooted our collegiate ministry with a new name, 159 Baptist Collegiate Ministry and are currently working at becoming an official on-campus ministry once again. We have also modified our Wednesday evening programs to include a men’s and women’s bible study. In October, Pastor Rich was in an ATV accident and severely broke his leg, however, while slowing him down, we continue to move forward, just with a different viewpoint. Even in spite of this God is opening doors. In April of 2015 we hosted the Illinois Baptist All-State Youth Choir and in June of 2015 we have been invited by the city of Macomb to lead a worship service in the park as part of Heritage Days.
University Baptist Church is proud to be affiliated and identified with the Southern Baptist Convention and holds to the statement of faith found in the Baptist Faith Message, year 2000. We are also affiliated with the Metro Peoria Baptist Association as well as Illinois Baptist State Association. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper quarterly. Our church body, through both the good times and the struggle, always remains a faithful, loving Christian family – doctrinally sound, and always ready for revival. According to Acts 1:8, we look forward to many years of serving God in and around Macomb, Illinois, and throughout the rest of our world.