V. Up From the Ashes
Immediately after the Bethel Church burned on Dec. 25, 1945, Westville and Reading churches offered the Bethel congregation the use of their buildings. However, it was decided to rent the Mile Branch Grange Hall as it was available on Sunday mornings. Services were held in the Grange Hall for over two years.
Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6, 1946, a congregational meeting was held. Twenty- four persons were nominated and twelve elected to the Planning Committee. Jan 10, 1946, six members of the Planning Committee attended a meeting on church architecture in Cleveland. They met Mr. H. Walter Damon, an architect from Youngstown. A short time later Bethel’s needs and resources were discussed with him. He then prepared and presented to the congregation plans for a new church. These plans were approved and the planning Committee became the Building Committee, Anderson Brothers of Alliance did the masonry work and Lawrence Clark was charged with the work of getting the roof on.
In 1946 over $16,000.00 was raised for the building fund. A farm sale of donated machinery and live stock brought in $3,400.00. Donations from members averaged $250.00 each.
May 18, 1947 the cornerstone was laid. Rev. J. Kenneth Kohler, a former pastor gave the address.
With the Construction of the new church, the need for more parking became apparent. For a consideration of $1.00 Kenneth and Wilhelmina Zeller gave .208 acres west of the church. This 60’ x 151.5’ plot was deeded to the church Apr. 15, 1946 and recorded Jun 4, 1946 (vol. 693, P. 347)
On Aug 7, 1946 the congregation borrowed $20,000.00 from the Alliance First National Bank. Construction continued until the basement was ready to use. The first service in the new building was held in the basement on Feb. 15, 1948. For a time all adult classes were held in the fellowship hall and the Junior Sunday School in the kitchen and the room adjacent to it. The Sunday school conducted a number of money raising projects to pay for finishing the classrooms. During the summer of 1948 the Junior Sunday School rooms were used without plaster or partitions. The classrooms and sanctuary were plastered in December 1948.
About $4,000 was paid on the $20,000.00 debt and a number of members loaned a total of $8,000.00 interest free, to be paid to the bank. Thus, the amount of interest required annually was reduced.
On Nov. 26, 1949 the congregation authorized the Building Committee to finish the church. The Building Committee set Easter, Apr. 9, 1950 as dedication day.
Rev. Hartman was named chairman of the Dedication Committee and other members of the committee were selected by the Sunday school classes.
Members of the Dedication Committee were: Rev. Stanley Hartman, chairman; Lorin Smith, men’s class; Mrs. Lorin Smith, I.F.W. class; Robert Barnett, Progressive class; Richard Denny, Progressive class; Mrs. Franklin Fryfogle, Bethel Builders.
The dedication of Bethel’s new church lasted six days. On Easter, Apr. 9, 1950 the old bell rang out again. Dr. F. W. Schroeder, the President of Eden Seminary preached on “Dedication of Ourselves” at the 10:30 service. At 2:30 Rev. Otto Gerber, President of Southeast Synod preached and dedicated memorials and special gifts of Dr. F. W. Schroeder.
From Monday through Friday pastors of area churches conducted services at 8:15 each evening to complete the dedication. On Monday it was Rev. Thomas Holms, pastor of Homeworth Presbyterian Church. Tuesday it was Rev. Rue Burnell form the Westville Congregational Christian Church. Wednesday it was Rev. Robert Diller form Immanuel Evangelical and Reformed Church in Alliance. Thursday Rev. H. G. Schairbaum pastor of the First Evangelical and Reformed Church in Alliance. Friday at the last of the dedications services Rev. Robert Beck, pastor of the Lakewood Evangelical and Reformed Church, Lakewood, Ohio preached the sermon.
Due to constantly rising costs the original figure of $35,000.00 to $40,000.00 increased to nearly $65,000.00. At the time of the Dedication there was $11,000.00 owed to Alliance First National Bank; $5,000.00 to members and, unpaid bills for labor and material of about $3,350.00.
Rev. Stanley Hartman was chairman of the Building Committee 1946-1949. Mrs. Lorin Smith was chairman Feb. 1949-1950. Robert Barnett was secretary and John Yaggi Jr. the treasurer. Others on the Building Committee were: John Barnett, Fred Schoeni, Lawrence Clark, Ernest Wuthrick Sr., Lester R. Ramsayer, Edward Braid, Frank Stanley, Mrs. Kenneth Hahlen, Mrs. Lorin Smith and Frank Harlan.
The last notes were paid in 1953. John S. Yaggi, treasurer reported $74,000.00 had been spent on the building and its furnishings.