MORRIS – Pastor Steve Cook gave his last sermon at Living Water Church of the Nazarene in Morris on June 3. There have not been any services at the church this summer, but there will be come fall in a different building with a different name.
The church is transitioning to combine with Crossbridge Community Church of the Nazarene, which has locations in Ottawa and Peru, and the new congregation will begin meeting Sept. 9 at White Oak Elementary School in Morris.
The church will be called Crossbridge Community Church of the Nazarene – Morris Campus.
“We’re not closing,” Cook said. “We’re transitioning.”
Lately, the numbers at Living Water were not rising as much as members hoped. Cook began the church in 2008 and members met at Morris Community High School. As more members joined, they moved in 2009 to the space used by the Christian Youth Center at CanalPort Plaza in Morris.
In 2013, they purchased the building at 118 E. Jefferson St., which formerly housed My Father’s House of Prayer and a movie theater before that.
Living Water thrived for a while, and the church made significant upgrades to the building, including removing the movie theater seats, leveling the floor and raising the stage. A nursery, Sunday school rooms, a kitchen and a pastor’s office were built, and the bathrooms were remodeled.
The church kept much of the charm of the 1930s building in the lobby, including the original crown molding, rippled walls and inner wooden doors.
Before Cook began ministering in Morris, he was a pastor at Crossbridge when it was called Ottawa First Nazarene. He kept ties there, and when he recently realized something would need to be done about Living Water’s attendance, he prayed for a solution, and Crossbridge came to his mind.
“We’ll become a campus of Crossbridge,” he said. “We are partnering with them.”
It will be good for many of Crossbridge’s members, as well, he said. Several of them make the long drive to Ottawa or Peru from Braidwood, Joliet, Seneca and Coal City. In the fall, they can come to Morris for services, if they wish.
At first, Cook said the thought was to have the two churches merge and meet at the old theater building, but then they realized they needed a bigger capacity. The combined churches expect initial membership to be 200 to 300 adults and 60 children.
“We knew we couldn’t effectively minister to 60 children here,” he said.
Longtime member of Living Water Kelly Valentine said she loves the church and plans on moving with it as it joins with Crossbridge. At one point, more than 25 members of her family and her extended family attended.
Recently, some of her family members have gone to other Morris churches, and others are seeking a church to attend. She knows some will go to Crossbridge when it opens.
Valentine said she feels a bit remorseful to be leaving the building.
“The numbers just kept going down,” she said, “and they couldn’t sustain being able to afford everything. ... It’s really sad. There are so many people who live in the community that are unchurched – that don’t have a church home.”
Their job, she said, was to reach souls for the Kingdom.
“It’s really a great church,” Valentine said. “It’s a great community of people.”
Cook will not be a pastor at the combined churches and currently is ministering temporarily in a church in Paxton. He said he will help with the transition and will continue to be involved in the church’s district. He and his wife, MaryAnn, also own and work at Alliance Counseling and Coaching in Morris, Channahon, Ottawa and Joliet.
“I go as the Lord leads,” Cook said. “Living Water has had a tremendous impact in the community and a tremendous impact as a church. ... I’m always looking for change that will bring more to the Kingdom. Releasing it to Crossbridge is the right thing.”