By Kevin Kelley
The Rev. Dan Sewell believes a church should be more than the venue for a weekly hourlong religious service.
During his 23 years as pastor of New Hope Church, Sewell has placed an emphasis on serving the community. For that, the Fairview Park Community Council named him the 2012 Fairview Park Citizen of the Year.
When New Hope began looking for a new home two years ago, Sewell said a major factor was the need for more space for the church’s outreach programs. New Hope is “intentionally outward-focused,” the pastor told West Life.
Even before the congregation moved into its new property at the former Arhaus furniture store on Lorain Road, the church agreed to provide rent-free space there to the Fairview Park Hunger Center.
The Hunger Center was founded 28 years ago by the Fairview Park Ministerial Association, which counts Sewell as its longest-serving member. As a leader of that group, Sewell helped organize local services in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
“Whatever else we may do to assure our security, we must hold together and be a people worthy of the principles of our founding articles,” Sewell said at the remembrance ceremony last September in front of the Fairview Park Fire Station. He quoted the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Sewell also helps organize the community’s annual National Day of Prayer services.
Sewell, the first member of the clergy to ever be named Fairview Park Citizen of the Year, said his congregation supports his involvement in the community and sees it as representative of its values.
“The church gives me the support and the freedom to serve the community,” Sewell told West Life.
When a racist symbol was placed in front of the home of an African-American resident several years ago, Sewell was part of the “Everyone Is Our Neighbor” community response that denounced the crime.
Sewell has been an enthusiastic supporter of Summerfest, the annual summer festival at Bohlken Park. In addition to serving numerous times as a judge for baking contests and talent shows, Sewell has played guitar as part of a classic rock band at Summerfest.
“Dan is an unwavering proponent of Fairview Park and its unique character and is an outspoken advocate for its schools, its government and its citizens,” stated the Community Council press release announcing Sewell’s title.
The New Hope pastor told West Life it has been a privilege to see so many good people serving Fairview Park.
“It’s gratifying to be shown love and respect by people you love and respect,” he said. “That’s how I feel about this (recognition).”
A Fairview Park native, Sewell’s family joined New Hope Church in 1962 when it was called the Parkview Community Reformed Church. A 1973 graduate of Fairview High School, Sewell earned a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. He serves on the board of directors of Mission to the Fatherless, which operates three orphanages in Kenya. Sewell and his wife, Karen, have four daughters.
Sewell will be honored at a dinner at 6:30 p.m. May 2 at the Fairview Park Senior Center, 20769 Lorain Road. Tickets for the dinner cost $25 and can be purchased through May 1 at Fairview Park City Hall or the Senior Center, or by calling Ward 2 Councilman Bill Minek at 440-331-2017.