From a grain of mustard seed: Church grows from humble beginnings

The new worship room at Upper Room Church, Paxton, where services were held for the first time Sunday.

PAXTON — A handful of members of Upper Room Bible Church stood in the small gym of what was then known as West Lawn Community Center at 425 W. Orleans St. and listened to the auctioneer’s chant.

The Paxton school district closed the building due to declining enrollment, and it was used by the park district for a period before the school board opted to sell it.

The church members, who had been meeting in the Paxton Majestic Theatre building, wanted a new home.

“Sold,” came the auctioneer’s final call as the church turned in the winning bid.

The year was 1980. For years afterward, the small group of believers met in one room of the large former grade school while using the rest of the building for other functions — one room was used to house used clothing that periodically would be trucked to Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.

The church, started by the Rev. Dan and Lora Kupferschmid of rural Paxton, began to grow.  Kevin Heiser took over pastoral duties upon Dan Kupferschmid’s retirement. Like Kupferschmid, Heiser served as pastor on a part-time basis while keeping his day job.

Kupferschmid cuts ribbon

Lora Kupferschmid, who founded Upper Room Church with her late husband, cuts a ribbon to one doorway into the new worship room at the church while her son, Ken, watches.

Two rooms in the center of the complex were converted into a new worship room in 2002.

As the church grew, it became obvious a full-time pastor was needed. The Rev. Dave Hohulin of rural Fisher became that person in 2013, and the growth has continued — necessitating construction of a 2,600-square-foot worship facility on the church grounds.

It was the Kupferschmids’ dream to one day build a large worship room on part of the grounds of the church complex.

Hohulin credited the founders for what Upper Room has become.

“Dan and Lora Kupferschmid had this vision back when they started the church,” Hohulin said. “I think their dream was to build something like this.

It’s just kind of a continuation of their hope and dream.”

Lora Kupferschmid said over the years many people suggested building a facility in what the church called “The U” — a grassy area on the south lawn of the church.

“We always thought it would be a wonderful thing, but the timing wasn’t right,” she said. “We were so small and couldn’t afford it and didn’t need it.”

She agrees the timing is now right but downplays the role of herself and her late husband, who died in 2013.

“When people say, ‘You started the church,’ I say, ‘(God) only used us.’ If He could use us, He could use anybody.”

Lora Kupferschmid said she mentioned to Hohulin that she and her husband had no formal training when they started the church, although they did attend numerous seminars. Hohulin pointed out none of Christ’s apostles had a day of seminary either.

“God started the church — Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone. Without Him we’re just going through the motions,” she said.

The new facility was used for services for the first time Sunday morning. Brad Eichelberger and Lora Kupferschmid did the honors in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Eichelberger cuts ribbon

Brad Eichelberger, who spearheaded construction of the worship room at Upper Room, cuts a ribbon as part of a ceremony for the unveiling of the new facility while his wife, Tabitha, and their children watch.

Hohulin said Eichelberger cut the ribbon because he put so much time in the project.

“He is a gifted young man,” Hohulin said. “He took a minimal amount of money and made something beautiful out of it. He oversaw it and did a lot of the (work) himself.”

Hohulin said the biggest hurdle in accomplishing the building goal was raising the funds. But that came faster than the church thought it would. The project was spurred on by one individual who donated $50,000 and challenged the church to match it.

“God is good,” Hohulin said. “We give all the credit to the Lord on this. We appreciate the faithfulness of the people.”

Hohulin estimated about 100 people helped to work on the new worship room in some capacity.

Lora Kupferschmid said people tell her it’s too bad her late husband isn’t around to see the new addition. But she believes he is.

“He sees what we’re doing,” she said.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com