CHAMPAIGN — After five years of meeting as a satellite congregation, Copper Creek Church will celebrate its first service as an independent congregation Sunday.
The church, established as an offshoot of First Presbyterian Church of Champaign, meets for worship Sunday mornings at Barkstall Elementary School, 2201 Hallbeck Drive, in southwest Champaign.
When the congregation gathers at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday, it's expected that the church will be chartered, new members received, leaders elected and a pastor called.
Afterward, it'll be time for fun, with a "bounce house" and face painting for kids, and a catered barbecue lunch for those on hand.
The Rev. Scott Keeble has been leading the satellite congregation and anticipates being pastor of the new church.
He said the Copper Creek name is derived from the Copper Slough, the creek that flows through the Lincolnshire Fields and Ironwood subdivisions in southwest Champaign.
But Keeble said Copper Slough "didn't roll off the tongue as well" as Copper Creek.
One of the congregation's high school students noted that copper's symbol on the periodic table of elements is "Cu" — appropriate since the congregation serves Champaign-Urbana.
"Presbyterian" won't be part of the church's formal name, but the congregation will keep its ties to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Keeble said.
"We don't emphasize the denominational connection, but we don't hide it," he said.
Copper Creek Church has about 100 families and employs a "contemporary and casual" worship service and culture, Keeble said.
The church's vision is for changing lives, he added.
"What we're hoping for is 100 stories of lives changed by what we're doing," he said, adding that each family is encouraged to bring about those changes.
Already, the congregation has a partnership with the village of Lisanjala in the east African nation of Malawi.
Church members from Champaign-Urbana have helped construct a church building in Lisanjala, dig wells there and provide scholarships for children to go to secondary school in Malawi, Keeble said.
"About 50 of us have gone over there," Keeble said, and a group from Malawi has also visited here.
The congregation in southwest Champaign held its first worship service at Barkstall on Sept. 7, 2007 — almost exactly five years ago — with 22 families initially involved.
Tim Larson, a church elder who was among the original group, said the last five years have been "an interesting, fun ride."
"We intended to be an outreach from First Presbyterian Church and were led to go off and do it on our own," he said.
Larson said there's "a stark contrast" between the "very traditional" worship space at First Presbyterian in downtown Champaign and the school cafeteria where Copper Creek meets.
"It's a completely different feeling," Larson said, contrasting a "holy space" with a "public space."
The cafeteria is "only holy when we gather there to make it so," he said.
But that helps worshippers take that spiritual dimension into the rest of their lives, he said.
Larson said the congregation hopes to be move to another space soon — perhaps the Champaign County YMCA — but arrangements have yet to be finalized.