Norwood church’s history tied to community

MARIETTA – Daily at noon the sound of chimes playing traditional Christian music drifts through the neighborhood surrounding the Norwood United Methodist Church in Marietta.

“People in this community say they love hearing it every day, and we also play them on Sunday mornings,” said church secretary Matricia Striblin.

The music is generated through a digital recording system, a piece of modern technology in the church that celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

“The church has a really interesting history, considering it was started from a Congregational Church Sunday school,” said Stacy Evans, who has pastored Norwood UMC for the last four years.

According to a historic marker in front of the church at 23 Colegate Drive, the Congregational Association of Marietta established a Sunday school known as Norwood Chapel in 1913.

The Sunday school originally met in the rear of the Gray Brothers building at 935 Greene St., but in 1914 control of the school was given to Marietta’s three Methodist churches who, a month later, organized the Sunday school into the Norwood Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Rev. D.D. Canfield was appointed first pastor of the church, and by 1917 a new building was constructed at the corner of Poplar Street (now Colegate Drive) and Oakwood Avenue. The facility cost $17,315.68 and was dedicated in December of that year during sub-zero weather, in spite of the fact that the furnace was not yet operating.

A gym addition was constructed in 1928, and church families contributed colorful stained-glass windows for the sanctuary. Behind the choir loft a huge mural, “Christ Blessing Little Children,” was painted in 1938 by church member Dorothy Moore Camden, who was the mother of Marietta Councilman Mike McCauley.

The mural has been carefully preserved and continues to be the focus at the front of the sanctuary.

In 1938 the church name changed to Norwood Methodist Church, and in 1968 it became known as Norwood United Methodist Church.

A congregation of 412 was recorded in 1942, and the growth resulted in an education building addition in 1955. In 1967 a new parsonage was constructed next to the church building.

“The Norwood community basically formed around industries like Remington Rand that located in the district, and families connected to those industries filled the church,” Evans noted. “And there are many people still living in the community who tell me they grew up in this church or their mom and dad attended here.”

He said the church is seeing some of those folks, now in their 40s or 50s, returning.

The congregation at Norwood UMC has dwindled from the record memberships in the 1940s, but it remains a vital part of the community, said longtime member Sue Mehlberg.

“I’ve been a member for over 70 years now, since I was a little girl after our family moved here from Michigan,” she said. “And this has always been a very active church.”

Mehlberg said Norwood UMC was one of the first to hold dinners to which the entire community was invited.

“Other churches have since picked up on it, but Norwood started that,” she said.

The church continues to be a popular location for community dinners, hosting the meals on the third Friday of every month from 5-6:30 p.m.

“We have 60 to 80 people who come to these dinners, and we’re seeing a lot of new faces every month,” said Matricia Striblin. “Many just come to enjoy the fellowship.”

Her husband, Tim Striblin, noted the church also holds an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for the community.

“I help prepare those dinners, and we probably get 300 to 400 people who are served every year,” he said.

Evans said although the church membership is smaller these days, the outreach to the community continues as an important part of Norwood UMC’s identity.

“Our members say people they meet in the community comment that this is the church that’s always doing something for the surrounding community,” he said, noting those efforts are continuing through programs like a veterans outreach.

“The Mid Ohio Valley Veterans Outreach had its origin from a committee within our church,” Evans said. “The initiative came from our ABIDE group at the church, a visionary group that discovered there was a need to serve veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Norwood UMC has a very dedicated membership, and there’s always room for more.

“This is a very welcoming congregation, and people who come to our services say they feel at home here,” Evans said.

The church will celebrate its 100th anniversary at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 21.

“The district superintendent will be here to help us mark the anniversary, and we’re hoping for a good crowd that morning,” Evans said.