We love Alton! God has put in our hearts a deep affection for our city and for our neighbors. So you’ll have to excuse us if we ever come across as a little protective or defensive about our town.
Alton has an incredible history. It’s a river town right on the bank of the Mississippi and right across the river from St. Louis (our younger brother, actually). The departure of manufacturing and the larger social and economic forces at work in our area have led to significant decline in population and economic opportunity. Alton is a depressed city, not just in economic terms, but also spiritually. There is this unspoken question that hangs in the air: “Can anything good come out of Alton?”
To be sure, not everyone thinks this way. There are a lot of people who are committed to Alton and who are working to help the city grow. We offer ourselves as partners to anyone who wants to see Alton experience new life.
The gospel — the good news of the kingdom of God — to Alton is the message of reconciliation, an offer of peace. Our city has a long history related to the civil rights movement. A free city bordering a slave state, Alton was an important entry point into the Underground Railroad. Alton is where the final Lincoln-Douglas debate was held and also where the first casualty of the Civil War was killed. Elijah Lovejoy was an abolitionist preacher and journalist who was shot while defending his printing press. Senator Lyman Trumbull lived in Alton and helped draft the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery. But Alton was also the home town of James Earl Ray, who assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Who are we? The man who gave his life for freedom for slaves, or the mob that killed that man? Are we a city on the leading edge of freedom, peace, and reconciliation, or are we being dragged along? We believe that Alton’s story doesn’t just have a past, but a present and a future. Alton’s story isn’t finished, and we’re eager to see more chapters of peace and reconciliation written here.