We had a wonderful time on vacation back in my home area of the Mohican State Forest in Ohio. The highlight, of course, was visiting with family and friends as I attended both a family reunion and a high school class reunion.
And my two Sundays in Loudonville, Ohio, were especially interesting to me. I attended a church where hardly anyone remembers me – but which I had a hand in starting 38 years ago this month.
I have been a Baptist for more than 30 years, but in August of 1977 under the leadership of the late Rev. William E. Allen of First Alliance Church of Mansfield, I was the first pastor in starting the Alliance church in Loudonville – a mission of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. For five years in those days Pastor Allen had conducted a bi-weekly home Bible study in Loudonville, about 20 miles from Mansfield. The Bible study was held at the home of Henry and Gwen Helbert on North Union Street. Out of the 35 regulars from the Bible study, 25 of them stayed with us to start a new church. I only stayed 2 ½ years, but in that time we were running over 60 in attendance.
At age 25, I found these growing years for me personally. I performed my first wedding and conducted my first funeral. My first baptism was held outdoors in the Clear Fork Creek at Mohican State Park. Among the several who were baptized were three ladies, all of whom were former Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to Christ at our church.
After I left Loudonville to take Peoples Baptist Church in Bay City, MI, where I stayed 15 years, the Loudonville Alliance Church bought the old Nazarene church building on North Market Street in Loudonville when the Nazarene church built new on North Union (Route 60) – where they are to this day.
Over the years the Loudonville Alliance church did not have great growth, but they did pay off their building. My understanding is that an Ashland Theological Seminary student, from about 18 miles away, started a new fellowship in Loudonville. With a contemporary philosophy, that church group had great growth and became known as New Hope. In 2000 they merged with the Alliance church in the building on North Market Street – New Hope providing most of the people and the Alliance church providing the building.
Today New Hope Community Church on North Market in Loudonville is the strongest evangelical church in the area, running around 400 in worship during the school year. I was there in August when they had more than 300. It is a great church! Thoroughly contemporary, they are connecting with all ages. I met a couple of old friends who remembered me. I briefly met the lead pastor, Rob Paterson. He is an excellent preacher and doing an outstanding job of ministry!
My grandsons enjoyed being there as much as I did. The church was filled with young people. It was rewarding to see!