By Kevin Kelley
New Hope Church’s new building will be a center from which its members continue to serve others as much as it will be a place of worship, its pastor said at a Sunday evening commissioning service.
“Our vision for this property is not that it will be a showpiece, or that ‘If you build it, they will come,’”
Pastor Dan Sewell told church members and guests. “This is the headquarters, this is the launching pad for us to go out and continue to serve the community.
“This is where we will serve from, not serve in,” he said.
Sewell recalled how in 1989 he accepted a one-year contract to lead what was then called Parkview Church, selling his family’s winter clothes at a garage sale because they were planning to move to Florida for a pastoral job there.
Sewell, who had worshiped at Parkview Church as a child with his family since the 1960s, stayed on, however, overseeing a merger of that congregation with Riverside Community Church in 1992 to form New Hope Church. The newly named congregation came to define itself through service to the community, he said.
“That’s what we did well,” Sewell recalled. “All the things that we excelled at and gravitated toward were serving the people outside the church.”
Building relationships with people is the best way to convey the Christian message, Sewell said.
But the congregation’s vision for a larger space never came to fruition at its former location on West 220th Street, he recalled. When the search for a new location proved unfruitful, members turned to prayer. New Hope’s acquisition of the former Arhaus furniture store on Lorain Road was finalized in the fall of 2011, even though another party outbid the church. The competing deal fell through, however.
“This was always the place God wanted us,” Sewell said.
In remarks congratulating the New Hope congregation, Mayor Eileen Patton praised Sewell’s contributions as a Fairview Park leader.
“He has always reached out to help everyone in the community, no matter what the cause,” the mayor said. She specifically credited him with leading the local service organized in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Patton also praised Sewell and New Hope for providing a home to the Fairview Park Hunger Center, now housed in the rear of the congregation’s new building.
“You’re always reaching out into the community to help,” the mayor said.
Two visiting pastors also spoke at the service. Pastor Don Poest, of Brunswick Reformed Church, compared the work preparing New Hope’s new home to the Biblical rebuilding of Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C. described in the Book of Nehemiah, in which people are called upon to utilize their talents in a common effort.
Pastor Dean VanFarowe, of Calvary Reformed Church in Cleveland, expressed congratulations and encouragement from the Reformed Church in America’s classis, or regional group of congregations. Noting that the word “classis” is Latin for fleet, he said New Hope is one of many in a fleet of churches.