Who We Are?

Our History

The Emmanuel congregation traces its origin to the 1870s in the Scandinavian Districts of the Central Illinois Conference. The Asian ministry began in 1977 under the leadership of Rev. Dr. John Rathod, who started the Gujarati language services. He was joined by the Hindi language fellowship in 1978, under the direction of Rev. Isaac Cornelius.

Today we have a vibrant church with over two hundred members who come to worship at Emmanuel from all over the Chicago-land area. 

Our building, designed by the famous Chicago architectural firm Burnham and Root, was erected in 1891. Built of reddish-brown sandstone in English-Parish style, a modified Gothic, it has low massive walls, a high steep roof, with a tower to the side, and amber windows. The only major architectural changes over the years have been the elimination of skylights extending the length of the sanctuary roof and the removal of the steep tower roof. A pulpit used by Abraham Lincoln during a visit to Evanston is still in use today as is a 19th Century silver communion service. In March 1958 our church was selected by Methodism’s “Together” magazine as one of eight churches in the United States with outstanding architecture and was subsequently highlighted by the Evanston Review and the Chicago Tribune.

The Emmanuel congregation had its beginnings in the 1870s in Scandinavian Districts of the Central Illinois Conference. The current church building was occupied in 1913 and adopted the Emmanuel name shortly thereafter. In the 1960s an aging Scandinavian congregation began to give way to a variety of ethnic groups seeking opportunity in the Evanston community. In 1962, a Cuban family was sponsored and by 1970 other West Indians had joined the congregation. The Asian ministry began in 1977 when John Rathod visited Emmanuel seeking funds for his home church in India. Gujarati language services were started in 1978 under his leadership. He was joined by the Hindi language fellowship under the direction of Rev. Isaac Cornelious. Our present congregation represents a multicultural body with members from Jamaica, India, and the United States. With the strength of our history and tradition, we approach the future embracing a vision of unity and growth.


The organ in Emmanuel Church was built by the Roosevelt firm of New York City and installed in 1892. Although the Roosevelt brothers, Hilborne and Frank (cousins to the Presidential Roosevelts) were in business only from 1875 to 1895, their instruments were of such extraordinary quality that their name is one of the most distinguished in the history of American organ building. The famous Roosevelt windchest used hinged pneumatics for the pipe valves, until the stop action, and channeled bottom boards with primary valves at the ends of the channels to exhaust them. In the Emmanuel organ, the action being tubular-pneumatic, the primary valves were connected to the key valves by cardboard tubes. (In other instruments the builders used electro—magnets or mechanical action to operate the primary valves.)

By the mid—1960‘s the mechanical portions of the organ had deteriorated considerably, thus Mr. Semerad Sr. of Em. Semerad and Son of Chicago were entrusted with the instrument. Despite the dated tonal scheme, the lovely solo stops and the warm and beautifully blending ensemble was unchanged. The old draw-knob console built into the organ case was removed and replaced by a modern, free-standing all-electric console built by the Austin Organ Co. This necessitated the adaptation of the primary action by adding electro-magnets but retaining the original windchests.

In addition to a new Spencer blower, and new Degan Chimes, the manuals were extended from 58 notes to 61, and the pedal from 27 to 32 notes (plus a 12 note octave extension). The renovated instrument was rededicated in December of 1965. It should be noted that except for the top note additions, all of the pipe-work is original, and has not been revoiced. Kurt Roderer of the Roderer Organ Co. in Evanston now services this historic instrument..