LIMA — At the turn of the 20th century, Lima’s Christian and Missionary Alliance was on the move — from tent to hall to church. When a permanent site finally was found, they moved it.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance did things differently.
“In the early days of the Alliance people had a unique way of announcing special evangelistic meetings and missionary conferences,” according to a history of the congregation written by members in the late 1990s. “Two men would take the back seat out of a car and replace it with a large dinner bell. One man would kneel and ring the bell while the other man would hold a large sign announcing the meetings with one hand and steering with the other. People heard the bell, came out of their houses, and thus read the sign.”
The Christian and Missionary Alliance was the dream of the Rev. A.B. Simpson, who gave up a lucrative New York City pastorate to minister to the masses, according to the group’s web site. “Formed as a missionary society and not a denomination, early Alliance congregations were known as ‘branches’ and were made up of members from most major denominations. In 1974, the Christian and Missionary Alliance officially became a denomination, but it still had at its core a heart for overseas missions.”
The Lima branch grew out of the work of Adam and Anna Neiswander. The Neiswanders came to Lima from Bluffton where they had been active in prayer meetings and Bible study. Shortly after the move to Lima, the Neiswanders met Roy C. Arnold of Grace Methodist Church, according to the congregation’s history. Arnold and Mrs. Neiswander heard Simpson speak in Cleveland and were so impressed they returned and formed a small prayer meeting and Bible study group.
“The meetings in the Neiswander home at 760 Broadway attracted more and more interest until, on June 17, 1897, a group of 23 organized a branch of the Christian and Missionary Alliance,” The Lima News wrote in a Feb. 26, 1950, article. “Shortly after its organization the congregation rented a mission hall on the southeast corner of Main and Vine streets. The meeting place was located on the second floor of the Bowdle Block and services were conducted by returned missionaries and later the Rev. Roy C. Arnold, assisted by Mr. and Mrs. Neiswander and Perry Metzger.”
The Main and Vine hall was the congregation’s first stop on a 20-year odyssey. By 1899, they were meeting a block farther south on Main Street. In 1906, they were meeting at the corner of Third Street and Greenlawn Avenue and, in 1911, at 808 and 438 South Main Street. The following year found the congregation at Main and Third streets. In 1915, the congregation met in a hall at Market and Union streets.
“Meetings were held at different halls and churches Sunday afternoons and evenings so as not to conflict with regular church services,” according to the congregation’s history. “Prayer time was so sweet, they sometimes forgot the time, missed the last streetcar and had to walk home carrying their kids.”
Finally, in 1917, under the leadership of full-time pastor Mrs. Isabelle Marvin, “an old church building on South Main Street, formerly occupied by the English Reformed Congregation, was purchased and moved to … 529 S. Elizabeth St,” the News wrote in 1950.
Although the meeting site changed often, the Alliance’s mission did not. The Lima Daily News reported Jan. 24, 1915, the departure of Lida Clark, one of the original 23 Lima members, for Sierra Leone, West Africa, “to take up her duties at the Christian and Missionary Alliance mission.” Miss Clark had been on furlough after three years in Africa.
The Daily News wrote Oct 23, 1917, of the return of the Rev. and Mrs. William Christie on furlough “after being in the land of Thibet (Tibet) for 25 years engaged in missionary work. The Christies were the first missionaries to enter Thibet and the Christian and Missionary Alliance board is yet the only Christian organization in that land. One of the most horrifying experiences ever endured by missionary workers befell Rev. and Mrs. Christie and their colony when their place was raided by a Chinese bandit three years ago. They barely escaped with their lives and only one, a native convert, was killed by the bandit.”
The Rev. George Klein of Lima “was assigned to the Republic of Gabon in 1934 and has spent a total of five terms on this field in extensive ministries such as evangelism, teaching and translation,” the Lima News reported Sept. 28, 1968. Rev. Klein would return from time to time over 30 years to speak to the Lima congregation.
In 1926, the wood-frame church that was moved in 1917 to 529 S. Elizabeth St., was replaced by a “commodious brick structure,” the history noted. The new building was known as the Gospel Tabernacle of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. A three-story annex to the South Elizabeth Street structure was completed in 1956, more than doubling the classroom space, the group’s history said.
During 1964 and 1965, the Lima congregation provided money as well as 32 members to “help build and nurture” the Shawnee Alliance Church.
By the 1970s, the Alliance had another mission — find a new home. In 1970, a parsonage was constructed at 242 Barnsbury Drive with the hopes the church could relocate to that area. However, in 1973 and 1974, two parcels totaling 14 acres became available on North Cable Road and the new church was constructed there.
The Lima News reported Nov. 27, 1976, the “church sanctuary will seat 400 with room for 109 in a balcony. It also includes a fellowship hall, nursery and classrooms with a partial basement for further expansion.” The new church was dedicated Nov. 28, 1976. In February 1997 a family life center with classrooms, office space, restrooms, a kitchen and gymnasium was dedicated.