For 124 years, it was St. John’s United Church of Christ.

But from now on, it is Baitul Huda, an Islamic congregation that purchased the building a couple of weeks ago.

“We fell in love with the place as soon as we saw it,” said congregation leader Shahnewaz Hussain, about their move from a previous home on Devon in Chicago.

Hussain spoke to a 4th Ward meeting recently, saying work is already underway to turn the former church at 1136 Wesley Ave. into a mosque with an imam, and a children’s education center.

“A lot of neighbors came by” to say hello as the congregation was moving in and starting to get the building ready. Some even brought gifts.

When St. John’s announced that its final service would be on Dec. 5, 2021, the church’s Facebook post said the last event would be held “with great sadness and equal portions of gratitude” … for God giving them the opportunity of “serving our neighborhood and community” in “times of great fellowship and hope, and leaner times as well.”

Biaitul Huda plans to serve the community as well.

Sign now reflects the future and the past.

There are still many Christian artifacts left in the building, which Hussain his congregation is happy to provide to any church that might be interested.

Hussain said mosque members will follow the Islamic practice of praying five times a day towards the holy city of Mecca, birthplace of the prophet Muhammad.

Hussain noted that the first of the traditional “calls to prayer” will happen at 5:30 a.m., starting in a couple of weeks. But that early call will be done inside the building, so as not to wake up the neighbors.

He hopes those neighbors will stop by from time to time, and get to know the new congregation and its members.

“Everybody is welcome.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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