The Wadsworth First Mennonite Church, Trease Road had its conception in the late 50's. On May 30, 1960 the furnishings were moved from the College St. church. The first service with A.J. Neuenschwander in charge was June 5. Willard D. Hunsberger placed the Bible on the pulpit. The cost of the church building was $169,000. ($142,000 pledged by membership).
With new facilities came a feeling for new leadership, as A.J. was up in years. On July 2, 1961 Neuenschwander preached his last sermon. He and Bessie moved to a new charge in Columbiana. Church membership had reached 263.
Roy W. Henry was called to pastor and preached his first sermom 8/19/62. He was a naturalist and in demand for youth camps and nature studies, and taught Jr. High in Akron briefly. Was acquainted with Medgar Evers, civil rights leader. Vietnam war was raging and sides were taken. Rumblings! His ministry concluded on Aug. 31, 1966 and he moved to Bluffton.
Veteran churchman Lester Hostetler was called to serve in the interim. Preached well and directed the choir! Presided over installation of 8-rank Moller Pipe Organ and new Knight piano. An endowment from the Krehbuill family made the instruments possible, along with many improvements. The debt on physical plant was retired. As is almost always the case in congregations where sizeable amounts of money are involved, there were some strong feelings as to the disposition of the residual balance of the inheritance. Ultimately, the money was put with Mennonite Mutual Aid, Goshen and, with dividends, has served us well over the years, enabling many contributions to Missions, community involvement, and other good works. However, membership declined over disagreements about the gift. Strong voices heard! Mr. Krehbuill wanted the money be used "For Jesus", so, as one could imagine, many interpretations were possible. Congregation leadership prevailed but at a steep cost of members.
Donald R. Steelberg and physician wife Elsie (and their four sons) were called. Preached his first sermon on Sept. 1,1968. Almost singlehandedly engineered building of MENWA, the retirement housing project on High St. A page of information about Menwa can be found elsewhere on this website. This was a big milestone in the life of the church and much needed in our community. Also at this time the Trease Road Child Care Center was established - see the report on this website.
Don brought Princetonian logic and intellectual savvy to his discourses. He knew his way around town and was at home with the town's elite. He was an innovator and was not afraid to try new things. Perhaps this was his undoing. "We ain't never done it that way before" made the rounds among some, although others were delighted with the intellectual and spritual stimulation. We periodically extended his contract until almost 15 years had elapsed. By the summer of 1983 the Steelbergs moved back to Wichita where he became the senior minister at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church and Elsie continued in her psychiatric practice.
Bill Keeney (William Echard Keeney), an assistant professor of Peace Studies at Kent State University, was asked and accepted a one year interim assignment. Bill had his doctorate from Hartford Theological Seminary and was a student of Anabaptist history and thought. Dr. Keeney served from mid-June, 1983 to June, 1984. He is one of our three living former pastors. Russell Mast and Don Steelberg are the others.
James Ray Mohr - Jim had been pastor to students at Bluffton College and he and his wife Bobbi have three children. Joe, living in Montana, David, in Florida and Jan, married to local Warren L. Croyle. Activities under Pastor Mohr include Mennonite Relief Sale, Mennonite Central Committee beef canning. Jim is a member of several Conference committees. He is the only pastor in memory who is an ardent golfer and member of the bowling team. Vacation Bible School (at the Bethel Church) finds Jim in an active role. His children's stories and lessons in the worship service are outstanding. He has dealt with some membership problems with an aplomb not often seen in our pastors. He is in second place in longevity at 18 years behind Hunsberger's 41 years. Pastor Mohr is having to deal with many of the problems and trends mentioned in the larger history of our Trease Road Church.
But I say to you, that in this place is one greater than the temple. Matthew 12:6