The first Sunday service of Calvary Bible Church was held on March 20, 1960, in the facilities of the Clemans Catering Service building on the corner of West Elm and South Elizabeth Streets (across from the current YMCA). No hymnals were available, but one of our ladies typed the words of suitable hymns so that we had something in our hands from which to sing the praises of the Lord. The first sermon by Pastor Frank Hamblen was based upon Psalm 27:1-14, and the title of the morning sermon was “Whom Shall I Fear?” An evening service also was held at 7:00 p.m. under the same arrangements. (Pastor Frank Hamblen’s last sermon, May 28, 1995, was out of Jude 3 as he exhorted the church to continue contending for the faith once-for-all-delivered!)
The history of the church can be traced to the separation of Pastor Hamblen from the Evangelical United Brethren Church in which he served for over twenty-two years. Late in February of 1960, Pastor Hamblen announced to the governing body of his church (with the conference superintendent present) that he would be leaving the denomination at the June Annual Conference. He gave as his reasons for leaving: 1) the modernism of the church and its colleges and seminaries, 2) the failure of the missionary program, and 3) the affiliation of the denomination with the National and World Council of Churches.
This decision with its reasons was made known to the news media of the area, and was carried on the front pages of the two newspapers that were being published at that time. As a result of this announcement, the conference officials came to the church on March 13 and dismissed Pastor Hamblen from his pulpit, giving him thirty days to get out of the church parsonage.
There was an immediate revulsion on the part of some of the church leadership at the high-handed tactics of the conference officials, and consequently, six men met at the Clemans Building, pledging $10,000 toward starting a new independent, Bible-believing church. That same week there were seventeen men who met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Rone, and in the absence of the pastor, they voted to begin an independent, Bible-centered ministry. A few days later in the basement of Mr. Warren Clemans’ home, fifty-five people met, voted to start a new independent, Bible-believing church, and called Pastor Frank Hamblen to serve as their minister.
One of the first acts of the congregation, after properly organizing, was to purchase 8.25 acres of ground on West Elm Street from Mr. Orville Koop for the sum of $40,000. Mr. Koop was very kind in his arrangements and permitted the church to begin building as soon as $25,000 had been paid, agreeing to carry the balance at 3% interest.
Construction of the church building began in the spring of 1961 with Mr. W. R. Guenter of Dayton, Ohio, as the designer and builder. The first service held in the unfinished building was an Easter Sunrise Service in the vestibule, with a good fire in the fireplace to warm it. The building was sufficiently finished to hold public services the first Sunday of December, 1962, and was dedicated in the spring of 1963 with Dr. John R. Rice as the special speaker.
Throughout the years Calvary Bible Church has been not only a Bible-teaching church, but has been strongly evangelistic. Scores have confessed Christ as Savior in the regular services, in the Vacation Bible Schools and athletic outreaches, through the bus and Bible Club ministries, and through the Lima Christian Academy.
In 1970 the Lima Christian Academy opened with thirty-five students in three grades plus kindergarten. The following year the school doubled in size, but a major split in the congregation over school policies reduced the school to the original thirty-five students for the third year. In the fourth year the school began using Accelerated Christian Education. The Lima Christian Academy is known across the state of Ohio as a school with high academic and spiritual standards.
Pastor Frank Hamblen became Pastor Emeritus on June 3, 1995, at which time his assistant pastor-son, Keith Hamblen, became senior pastor. (Pastor Frank Hamblen passed away on 5-2-05.) Pastor Keith, who came to this ministry in the fall of 1974, has “continued in the things [he] has learned…” (II Tim. 3:14). His special burden is that our church family be filled with all the fullness of God and that the entire Lima community be saved and growing in the Lord. Dave Stratton came in the fall of 1975 as a high school learning center supervisor. He (and Pastor Keith) were licensed as assistant pastors in 1977, and they were both ordained in 1983.
The Lord added to the ministry of Calvary Bible Church radio station WCBV-FM on June 3, 2003. This low-power FM station broadcasts excellent Christian music and biblical preaching to the Lima area (approximately 12-18 mile radius), including music from BJU, the Wilds, and LCA quartets!
In October 2003 a weekly Bible Club sponsored and directed by our own young people (under the leadership of Jim Cave and Sarah Whited) was added to our program. Approximately ten-fifteen children are picked up at 6:30 each Thursday night and brought to our gym where they enjoy games, songs, Scripture memory, and Bible lessons.
God has blessed CBC with a good and fervent fellowship, a strong music program, a local and worldwide evangelistic outreach of Gospel-centered and “separated” missionaries, an emphasis on Sunday as being “the best day of the week,” a group wanting to “search the scriptures daily,” a “body of Christ” organizational structure, a support for active participation in the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, and many with a desire for growing in Christlikeness, being “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).