LIMA — The folks at Calvary Bible Church, following their Bible, came out of one church and founded another. In doing so, they left a Christian denomination behind as well as the comforts of establishment it offered.
This was no squabble about the color of the choir robes. This was following God’s will.
“That the whole reason this church exists. The people in the church felt there was apostasy going on in the denomination,” said member Judy Crowe, explaining a group of 10 men joined together to leave the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1960.
They felt the denomination of the time had become too liberal, and they acted on their beliefs.
Calvary Bible Church will celebrate its beginnings and its future with a 50th anniversary celebration, beginning Sunday at the church beside the American Mall. Events continue until March 21, the actual anniversary of the first service held.
Led by the Rev. Frank Hamblen, the group began meeting at the Clemens Building at Elizabeth and Elm streets for Sunday morning worship. Wednesday evening services were held at Horace Mann School. The church bought 8¼ acres at its current location and started building. In 1962, the church opened its doors for about 70 families.
The property was $40,000 and the church building was $150,000, and Crowe said church members paid for all of it without requiring a mortgage.
In 1970, the church opened Lima Christian Academy. The kindergarten through grade 12 school is a member of the Buckeye Christian School Association and competes in volleyball, soccer and basketball as well as academically. The gym was built in 1972 to give more sports opportunities for the children.
There are two main classrooms at the school. Both work spaces adjoin the sanctuary. One classroom is for kindergarten and first grade and is a traditional learning environment. The second space, called the learning center, is lined with study carrels. Students here work individually and at their own pace to complete workbooks from Accelerated Christian Education. Their days are punctuated with music appreciation class, Spanish class, computer class and other breaks from seat work.
Principal Dave Stratton’s schooling trained him that this type of learning had problems, but he said he sees now how it works. Because each student must complete his own work and is tested often, there is no sliding along outside classroom norms — either at the special needs end or the gifted end.
“We’re able to help a student wherever they are,” he said. “The great thing about this is in this kind of school you can run but you can’t hide.”
To him, that demonstrates the Christian parable of the talents — doing the best you can with what you’ve been given.
“We’re serious about our Christian mission,” Stratton said.
A major change in the church came in 1995. Hamblen decided 35 years as senior pastor was enough and passed on the role to his son, the Rev. Keith Hamblen. The younger Hamblen, now 57, continues to lead the congregation. He was first involved in the church as school principal.
“Then it was laid on my heart to consider continuing on as pastor,” he said. “I didn’t really see myself as a pastor type. But it just developed, and I loved the new role.”
He first served as assistant pastor under the leadership of his father, who died five years ago.
“It’s a great heritage,” said Hamblen, explaining how the church has pushed him to keep growing in faith. “There’s a line that I heard that we need to be self-conscious, self-critical and self-correcting. Where did we come from, and let’s kind of be critical of where we are ... to build on what’s there.”
In 2003, the church started a radio station, WCBV 105.9 FM. This outreach broadcasts 24 hours a day. That same year, the church started Bible Club. The Wednesday night meeting is for unchurched elementary-age children in the community.
Crowe started attending the church in 1968 after a co-worker at United Telecom witnessed to her. She has been devoted ever since.
“I like the fact that it preaches God’s word,” Crowe said. “It’s not a bunch of stories, it’s God’s word. We believe it tells us how to live and what we should do, and that’s what I want to base my life on.”
Who: Calvary Bible Church
What: 50th anniversary events
Where: 3180 W. Elm St., Lima
Details: www.cbclima.org or 419-991-5781
Special anniversary schedule
Sunday: Special speaker Rev. George Bailey on church history at both Sunday school and morning service, with carry-in dinner after the service
4 p.m. Feb. 6: Pianist Stephen Eager
10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Feb. 7: Pianist Stephen Eager
10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. March 21: Special speaker Dr. Mark Minnick, pastor and professor at Bob Jones University
Regular service schedule
9:30 a.m.: Sunday school
10:30 a.m.: Worship service
5 p.m.: Youth meeting
6 p.m.: Worship service
7 p.m.: Worship service
7 p.m.: Bible Club, an outreach for neighborhood elementary-age children