Broadway Assembly Church History
The roots of the Broadway Assembly Church go all the way back to the early 1920’s when home prayer meetings and revival fires were bringing birth to Pentecostal churches and opening insights into the deeper life. Among those seeking God in those days were several Hungarian people from Lorain who were meeting in the home of Michael Urban in the 20th block of East 29th Street in Lorain.
The services were conducted in the Hungarian language and Bro. Urban became the first pastor and remained so for several years. Around 1926 Pastor Urban and the Hungarian Pentecostals, built the first church building between Wood and Vine Avenue in the 1500 block of East 31st Street. This small building is referred to by some as the “Old Mission”. Within 6 months from its completion God filled the mission. The First Pentecostal Church had been established.
During this time the Faith Home in Elyria, (a home for the sick and elderly) was one of the meeting places for those seeking God for Holy Ghost power and revival. The Elyria Faith Home conducted the Gospel Mission Sunday School that affected the founding of the Pentecostal churches of the area. Bro. & Sis. Gordon ran the Faith Home in Elyria and played a significant role in founding both the church in Lorain and the Elyria assembly. New converts were sometimes taken to the Faith Home for training and the Faith Home sent “English” bible teachers over to the Hungarian mission in Lorain. In time there came need for more English speaking ministries, as the Hungarian youth spoke English while the parents primarily spoke Hungarian. During this time the Sunday morning services were in the“old language” while the evening services were conducted in English and primarily led by the young people. English speaking ministries were often brought in for these services from Cleveland or elsewhere. Beginning in the earliest days of its history youth played a prominent role in the church ministries. In the early 30’s several of the young people went away to Bible school, and one of them, Daniel Bayliss, eventually became pastor.
THE EARLY YEARS
In 1933 the Hungarians purchased the Methodist church on 31st Street off Pearl Avenue and moved to that location. Also in 1933 Bro. Glen Hurst, a 22-year-old minister who had attended the A/G Bible School, then in Dayton, came to First Pentecostal Church to be the first English pastor. Rev. Urban continued to pastor the Hungarian people preaching in the native language each Sunday afternoon.
On November 20, 1933, the congregation held a business meeting and shoes to join in “co-operative fellowship” with the General Council of the Assemblies of God. One of the oldest documents in the church records is a General Council letter dated November 29, 1933, recognizing the First Pentecostal Church as a co-operative assembly.
In the fall of 1934 a great revival one of the first Holy Ghost revivals in the Lorain area, was held by two young ladies, Evangelists Ida Mae and Clarise DeVries. The revival lasted for over 6 consecutive weeks with large crowds attending each night. Many received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The revival was closed in the 31st Street church and reopened in Amherst. Out of this continuation of revival the Amherst Foursquare Church was born.
After Rev. Hurst’s pastorate, Rev. Claude Weaver became pastor, followed by Rev. Whiteside. Then in 1938 Rev. Daniel Bayliss became the pastor. His wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of Rev. Urban, the founding pastor.
Throughout these years Rev. Urban continued to preach in the Hungarian services that were held weekly on Sunday afternoon. All of the regular services were in English and the Hungarian people attended those services as well.
Around 1939, there was an amicable separation agreed to by both the English and Hungarian. The English speaking congregation, under Rev. Bayliss, built a new tabernacle on Broadway and 25th Street. The new church was called Lorain Gospel Tabernacle, and Rev. Bayliss remained as its pastor until the fall of 1945.
The next pastor was Ivar Frick. During his time of service, the Lorain Gospel Tabernacle sold the building and moved back to the old Methodist church on 31st Street. In the meantime, the Hungarian services, due to the death of Rev. Urban in 1947, had ceased, marking the passing of an era. The founding fathers were gone, but the work remained.
While Bro. Frick was pastor, a parsonage was built at 1028 Highland Park. The first person to live in the new parsonage was Bro. Frick’s successor, Maurice Lamb, an excellent young preacher in his 20’s. Rev. Lamb stayed as pastor approximately one year.
FOUNDATION FOR GROWTH
In 1948, Earl J. Hance came as pastor. Bro. & Sis. Hance had pastored in Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio, and had served as missionaries to West Nigeria, Africa, in 1942-44. They had two children, Grace and Jimmy, who were 15 and 13 respectively at the time of their coming to Lorain. Their first Sunday, there were 50 in attendance.
There was a vision for growth and expansion under Bro. Hance’s ministry. One of the first bus ministries in the Lorain County area was started by Lorain Gospel Tabernacle. At the church business meeting in 1950, goals were set for: 50 saved, 25 baptized in the Holy Ghost, 25 baptized in water, and 25 united in membership, $750 missions giving, and 150 Sunday School average. At year’s end the results were: 56 saved, 27 filled with Spirit, 23 baptized in water, 24 joining the church, and 176 for the annual Sunday School average as well as record missions giving.
A number of Spanish speaking people began attending the services and a Hispanic department was started. Due to the language barrier, Bro. & Sis. Reyes Nodal of California were contacted to come and work with this area of the Sunday School. Their work was fruitful and with visitation, and grew until it was necessary to hold their services on Sunday afternoons.
Bro. & Sis. Hance placed great emphasis on prayer and visitation. This, along with the burden for the bus ministry and Hispanic people, contributed to the spirit of revival and growth. The Sunday School continued to grow and average 302 from October 1952 to September 1953, and 346 the last quarter of 1953. The Sunday School Superintendent during these years was Harold Smith. The church was advertised as a friendly, praying, growing church-and that it was indeed.
In his Pastor’s Report to the membership on January 19, 1954, Bro. Hance said, “The continued growth of our Sunday School will depend on how quickly we can build a new church to take care of 500 in Sunday School”. Bro. Hance had a great vision for God and knew that a building program was necessary for additional growth. The Building Fund was started under Bro. Hance and by the next membership’s meeting on January 17, 1955, the Building Fund Treasurer reported $13,600 on hand. The foundation for growth was laid by Pastor Hance. He closed his last Pastor’s Report with, “May 1954 be our best year!” It was his best year…he went to be with the Lord on October 28, 1954.
On November 29, 1954, Rev. Keith A. Smith was elected pastor of the Lorain Gospel Tabernacle. Rev. Smith was the son-in-law of Rev. Hance. He & Sis. Grace (Hance) Smith had met while attending Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri.
At the time of his coming, the congregation expressed their desire to build to the new pastor. The English-speaking Sunday School was running in the 200’s at the time. Growth continued under the new pastor and in 1955 land was purchased on the corner of Highway 254 and Broadway. Even though $10,000 was still owed on the lot at the time of the groundbreaking, the church was prompted to build by faith.
With only $7000 in the Building Fund, construction began on the new church in the fall of 1955. The people of the congregation worked long and hard hours during the winter of 1955-56 in very cold temperatures. Many of them would come straight from their jobs each day and put in several hours before going home. The 4” decking of the main sanctuary was laid during a cold snow storm. The neighbors and community were very impressed by the determination of the congregation.
God’s blessings upon the building program were evident even before the first service in the new church. During construction the Pastor, Raymond & Jean Fordyce, Maybelle Hance, Margaret McMillen, Rose Cherney, and Edith Lagenour gathered in the unfinished pastor’s office (where the main foyer is today) and began to thank God for His blessings. A message in tongues and interpretation came forth through Sis. Cherney in which God said that this place would be a “lighthouse” to the community.
The cornerstone for the new church was laid April 22, 1956. The special speaker for the cornerstone laying service was Rev. Glen Hurst, the first English-speaking pastor. Assisting with the cornerstone laying was Pastor Smith and the five members of board: Gregor Birjac, Austin Danforth, Raymond Fordyce, Charles Kody, and Harold Smith.
Lorain’s first Pentecostal church now had a new home. Only seven months from the start the congregation moved in…without pews, carpet, or platform. The grand opening service to the new church was held May 13, 1956, with special speaker James Brown, a camp meeting evangelist from Prichard, Alabama. The special opening revival continued till May 27th. Reporting on the year of 1956 Pastor Smith said, “Two of the most difficult mountains of progress which any assembly can meet have been surmounted in the past year—the erection of a new church building and the compiling of a constitution and by-laws.”
The interior was later completed and the new building was dedicated on November 3, 1957. The value of the new property was $150,000 with only $30,000 indebtedness. The old 31st Street building was sold to the Spanish church that was prospering under the ministry of Rev. Reyes Nodal who continued to pastor the Spanish church for a total of 24 years.
In a business meeting on April 8, 1956, the membership officially voted to change the name of the church to First Assembly of God. Later it was called Broadway Assembly and the name was officially changed to Broadway Assembly in a business meeting held November 8, 1961. The church was incorporated in June 1960 with Winston Bare, Lillard Johnson, and Patsy Goss as the original signee. The ministry emphasis during these years was prayer, revival, holiness, evangelism and soul winning, causing the old attendance records to be broken in the earliest years of the new church. New Sunday School records of 506 and 520 were set during 1956. In January 1957, a revival with Clifton Erickson set new night attendance records with over 400 in attendance each night. The annual Sunday School average for 1957 was 426 and a new height day record of 627 was set Easter 1958. A record of 758 children was enrolled in the 1958 Children’s Crusade.
Two additional parcels of land were purchased at two different times (the last in 1961) from Norm Mueller who owned the property adjoining the original Gault parcel on the north and the east. Additional facilities were needed and a wing which included the prayer room, evangelist apartment, and offices was added. The new wing was dedicated November of 1960. Within only two years from the completion of the second unit, the church was ready to build again, and on October 20, 1963, ground was broken for a new wing, housing five new Sunday School departments and classrooms. The Sunday School continued to grow as the pastor and staff placed emphasis on the Bus Ministry, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School.
A record Sunday School attendance of 1,078 is recorded for Easter Sunday 1966. Beginning in 1958 Pastor Smith began going on 3-4 week missionary trips to foreign lands, taking his first trip to the Bahama Islands. The congregation made these missionary trips possible. During their years as pastors the Smith’s ministered in the Bahama Islands, Newfoundland, Spain, Portugal Yugoslavia, British Honduras, Mexico, and Columbia, South America.
In addition to the emphasis on foreign evangelism, the church bought a tent and conducted several tent crusades in the area with a salvation and healing emphasis. Another Pentecostal work was begun in Lorain in 1960 with services conducted each Sunday afternoon in the “old Youth Center”, a building standing on the first parcel purchased from Norm Mueller.
Also in 1960, Broadway Assembly started a branch church in Sandusky, and in 1971 became “mother” to a work that had begun in Canton, Ohio, in 1965. In 1961 the first Call to Holiness paper was published by the Broadway Assembly church. Soon after that Pastor Smith along with other concerned leaders began conducting Call to Holiness conventions across the country. The purpose of these meetings was to call people to the deeper life and renew the principles of purity essential for revival and preparation of the Lord’s coming.
In the 1960’s the need for a full gospel camp was felt. The Michael Locust Park was used beginning in 1963 and the first “Camp Blessing” for ages 13-21 was held August 5-9, with 68 campers enrolled. Camp Blessing number 2 and number 3 were also held at Michael Locust Park. A 25-acre farm on East River Road in Sheffield Village was purchased in September, 1965 for $17,000. Camp Blessing now had its permanent home. The people worked hard tearing down barns and building bunk houses with the used lumber. A restroom facility was constructed out of cement blocks and the “Gospel Tent” was erected for the services. Meals were cooked in the old farm house. Though it had seemed an impossible task, Camp Blessing was ready for its July 17, 1966, grand opening with Evangelist William Caldwell. The night services continued until August 7th. The day program contained three “Old Fashioned Pentecostal Camp meetings” Boys and Girls (ages 9-12), July 18-22: Teen Camp (ages 13-19), July 25-29, and Family Camp (whole family) August 1-6. There were many great camp meetings, revivals and spiritual outpourings in the years following at Camp Blessing, with a variety of outstanding evangelists. On July 9, 1968, a devoted and longtime member of the church, Maria Birjac passed away. Her husband, Gregory Birjac, who had been a church board member, had passed away in the early 1960’s. Upon Sis. Birjac’s death, the entire estate was left to the Broadway Assembly Church. When the estate was settled, the church received $2,917.65 and the property located at 2120 E. 29th Street. The money was used to pay off the mortgage on Camp Blessing. Later Sis. Birjac’s house was sold and the proceeds of $8,204 were placed in savings. In 1974, the bus garage was erected on the property West of Broadway using the Birjac estate money. The beautiful two-bay bus garage and tool room stands as an appropriate memorial to Bro. & Sis. Birjac whose love for the church and Sunday School was made evident in both their lives and deaths.
After 20 years of pastoring, Bro. Smith and family resigned the Broadway Assembly Church to carry the Call to Holiness and missionary ministry full time into Latin America. Pastor Smith ended his pastorate on Easter Sunday, March 30, 1975.
On April 17, 1975, Rev. Johnny Wade Sloan was elected pastor of Broadway Assembly. He and his wife, Dianne, along with their sons, Sean and Martyn, had been traveling evangelists for several years. Bro. Sloan had begun preaching as a boy in his home church in Colorado and had entered full time ministry in 1967. This was their first pastorate. Pastor Sloan was 25 years old at the time of his coming to pastor.
The congregation solidified supportively behind the new pastors. A strong sense that “God sent Bro. Sloan” prevailed from the first, causing a spirit of revival to enhance each service.
The Sunday School took a renewed surge of growth, and record Christmas Sunday attendances were set at 865 (1976), and 876 (1979). Easter Sundays brought high days of 1,050 (1976), 978 (1977), 904 (1979), and 913 (1980).
A turning point came for Camp Blessing with the building of a western style 56’ x 104’ dining hall. Funds were first raised for the project at camp services in 1975 and the construction began March 29, 1976. The completed building was dedicated July 4. 1976. In 1979 a 68’ x 104” x 32’ tabernacle, seating 750, was constructed. The new tabernacle was dedicated Sunday, July 15, 1979, ending the “Gospel Tent” era.
In 1980, a new pavilion was added to the camp facilities and plans were made for additional housing in 1981. Record attendances were set at Camp Blessing in 1978, 1979 and 1981. In October, 1981, an additional 2 acres adjoining the south of camp was purchased from John Walls for $12,000. The new parcel had an 80’ frontage on East River Road and ran nearly 1100’ deep.
Due to the age and needs of the building, a Building Fund was started with a special offering Christmas, 1976. Several internal improvements were made and the balance in the fund on August 31, 1980, was $22,600. In a special miracle service that Sunday night the congregation was challenged by the moving of spiritual gifts, and $25,000 additional was pledged to the fund. The 1981 balance was nearly $60,000 and the board was studying the building needs and options for the future. From the time of his coming, Pastor Sloan placed emphasis on the Christian family, character development, Bible doctrine, lay leadership, staff training and church administration. The church was challenged to be a “salt” and “light” to our community and to rise to higher spiritual plateaus while renewing our historical strengths of prayer, purity, and the power of the Holy Ghost.
In 1987, Bro. Sloan resigned and became Senior Pastor of Hamilton Christian Center, and in 1988, Bro. Gerald Hood became pastor, and ministered with vision and anointing as he placed emphasis on family values and the importance of God’s purposes for a New Testament Church. In 1996, Bro. Hood resigned, and returned to pastor in his home state of Texas.
In 1998, Bro. Kenneth Brand & Sis. Vera Brand became our pastors. From the very beginning it was evident that God had directed them here to bring restoration and encouragement. In 1999, they resigned the pastorate to continue in their work of encouraging other churches.
After this, Bro. Mike Blue came to pastor for about a year, emphasizing our Pentecostal heritage and distinction. He later resigned to continue the calling to the evangelistic field.
Bro. Mark Lantz, who had been the Assistant Pastor under both Bro. Brand and Bro. Blue, then became the new pastor and served for the next five years. Bro. Lantz ministered with undying vision and vitality, and under his administration, many new ministries were developed and organized. He resigned in 2005, and returned to pastor in South Bend, Indiana.
In September of 2005, Bro. Matt Jones was appointed as the new pastor of Broadway Assembly, having served as Assistant Pastor under Bro. Lantz for 18 months. He and his family continue to serve while faithfully fulfilling the call of God on their lives.
TILL HE COMES
Broadway Assembly is a church with both a history and a future. The founding principles of prayer and revival have been perpetuated to the succeeding generations. The many ministries and outreaches testify of the faithfulness and commitment of its people and the power of the Holy Spirit. To God be all the glory for any accomplishments of real worth and may we ever be praying, loving, soul winning, holy people unified together in the Lord’s work…till He comes.