“I feel its family ties,” said the Norwalk woman, who enjoys making other parishioners feel comfortable and welcomed. “My children were raised in this church.”
Norwalk Alliance Church is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. A day of celebration begins with worship at 10 a.m. Oct. 21 with a potluck lunch afterward and many activities going into the afternoon. Included in the fun will be face-painting, hay rides, a bounce house and cornhole tournament.
The Rev. Kevin Seager, when asked about the importance of the church in the community, said its mission is helping people “know God in a deeper way, here and around the world.”
The church is a hub of activity, offering a food bank every fourth Saturday of the month. Norwalk Alliance participates in a mulitple-church event known as Love Norwalk and hosts meetings for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). MOPS meets at 9:15 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.
Maple City Christian Preschool started at Norwalk Alliance in 1969 and is currently directed by Heidi Strong. There are 60 children enrolled currently, which is about the annual average.
“We are getting third-generation kids here, which is pretty amazing,” Seager said.
Norwalk Alliance Church began in 1928 in the home at 108 W. Main St. It was incorporated as the Gospel Tabernacle of The Christian and Missionary Alliance of Norwalk, Ohio, which remains its legal name. The church is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, which traces its beginnings to 1881.
The local church met in several rented locations and had many short-term pastors. Norwalk Alliance considered disbanding in 1939 when a low membership and a debt of $84 made it seem impossible to continue. After encouragement from the district superintendent, members voted 13-3 to stay open.
In 1942, the struggling congregation was able to purchase the former First Congregational Church building, 79 E. Main St., for $11,000. Assisting with the purchase was businessman John Ernsthausen, co-founder Norwalk Truck Line, which became the largest independently-owned trucking company in the world. In 1979 the present Norwalk Alliance facility was erected on a 16 1/2-acre lot at 2755 U.S. 250 south of Norwalk.
A couple decades ago, the church started doing mission trips to Guinea through a partnership with Alliance missionaries. Church historian and elder Larry Lepard said members have gone on seven trips there in the last 10 years. Parishioners also have participated in trips to New Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Papau, New Guinea; Kenya and Honduras.
“Mission is our middle name,” said Seager, the pastor for three years.
Ten to 15 church members have volunteered to help clean up after the annual Fourth of July parade in Norwalk for the last four years.
“We go down the route of the parade,” said elder Marc Collins, who appreciates Norwalk Alliance being a “loving place” and its Bible-based teaching. “The church has always been Christ first.”
Norwalk Alliance has started churches in Bellevue, New London and Willard over the years. Recently, members have launched New Day Family Resource Center, which is affiliated with Sandusky Life Church at the intersection of Warren and Finch streets in Sandusky. New Day is a place for families to have access to food, clothing, diapers and receive assistance for resumes and job interviews.
Also, the Norwalk church is preparing to launch classes for English as a second language.
Recently, a new member randomly informed the pastor she was seeking four things in a church: “Vibrant worship singing,” preaching based on the word of God, active children and youth programs and feeling welcome.
“’I felt all four of those on my first Sunday,’” said Seager, quoting the woman.
“That’s a nice compliment of what we’re all about,” Collins added.
For more information about the food bank, call the church office at 419-668-9208. For more about Maple City Christian Preschool, call 419-668-9207.