History of Niles Christian Assembly
The Lord began the work in Niles, Ohio in 1927. The Lord spoke to Sister Julia Pantalone in Youngstown, Ohio directing her to go to the city of Niles to witness. She said “Lord, how can I go? I don’t know anyone there and besides I don’t even know where Niles is.” But the Lord continued to impress her to go to Niles.
So one morning in the month of March, Sister Julia who was earnestly praying about going to Niles asked the Lord to give her the ability to know when to get off the streetcar. She also asked the lord to instruct her as to where to go from there as she had no address to go to at that time. She got on the streetcar trusting God to lead her even to the right time to ring the bell so she could get off. She got off the streetcar at Robbins Avenue and Erie Street. There she saw Mount Carmel church and realized she was in an Italian neighborhood. She waited for the Lord to give her the proper directions from there and a voice within her directed her to go straight on Erie Street. She walked to the end of the street and felt led to go across the tracks and to one particular house. After getting up her courage, she knocked on the door and sure enough, Italians lived there. Sister Julia did not speak well in English that is why she wanted to go to the Italian section.
During this same time, Sister Nicolene Reigle had the Holy Spirit speak to her to go to this same house on Langley Street. God had told her that she would find two sisters who will talk to her about the Lord. Sister Nicolene, a catholic at that time, thought the two ladies would be Italian Nuns. Following the Holy Spirit’s leading, she went to this particular house. When she got to the house, Sister Julia was telling the lady of the house about the Lord Jesus and the salvation of her soul. After Sister Nicolene entered the house and after a few exchanges of greetings, Sister Julia boldly witnessed to them, reading some scriptures. Sister Nicolene Reigle accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and during the prayer time was touched profoundly by the power of the Holy Spirit.
After the prayer, Sister Nicolene asked Sister Julia to come over to her house so that the next time Sister Julia felt led to come to Niles, she could come to Sister Nicolenes house. The very next day after Sister Nicolene sent the children off to school she went to her bedroom and knelt down to pray asking the Lord to help her to understand. A great power came upon her from the Lord and she began to speak in a new language. During this prayer time as she spoke with God, she saw Heaven open up and angels were singing in the background. She was in prayer and communion with God from 12:00 noon until 4:00 p.m. She felt a glorious presence about her, since she was speaking something she didnt understand, but she felt so good. There was a peace, a joy like she was walking on air that encompassed her and she rejoiced greatly that day.
Sister Nicolene went to her best friend, Sister Raffaela Villio and told her all that had happened to her. When sister Villio heard all that had happened and saw the glow on her face, she wanted to meet this lady visitor from Youngstown. The following week, Sister Julia came to Sister Nicolenes house and Sister Nicolene told her about her spiritual encounter with God. They knelt to pray and Sister Nicolene started to speak in tongues again. Sister Julia realized what it was and told her how the Lord had filled her with His Holy Spirit.
Sister Nicolene proceeded to tell Sister Julia that she had a dream about one month before meeting her. In this dream she was praying and telling God she wanted to know more about Him. She saw a lady talking to her about the Lord. Sister Julia knew that this was the same time the Lord was speaking to her about going to Niles.
Sister Nicolene opened her house never asking her husband (unsaved at that time) whether he approved or not. She took Sister Villio along with her to witness to many people in the city of Niles and a group of them accepted the Lord. They gathered in Sister Nicolenes house to pray and sing and worship God for a period of time. There was much persecution as different people tried to stop them or get them to stop having services. There were threats, firecrackers, firebombs thrown into the house, men coming to physically harm them, stench bombs, etc. Nothing got in the way of them meeting in Sister Nicolenes house for prayer and worship.
The Early Years
The group got larger and could not fit in Sister Nicolenes house so they started meeting at various locations around town. They met in old store fronts, old houses, and anyplace where they could fit and be allowed to worship and pray. During this time Brothers Santelli and Fortunato felt that Brother Carmen Grieco (Reigle), who was Pastor Reigles uncle, was doing well in exhorting the Word and was capable to take over the services under Brother Fortunatos supervision. This went on until 1932 when Brother Carmen decided to return to Italy where he had his family. He was instrumental in starting a church in his home-town there. Brother Fortunato came again to take care of the services, going back and forth from Youngstown where he was the pastor.
The group had grown and moved to a storeroom. At that time a man by the name of Brother Antonio DeGiovanni was saved and Brother Fortunato saw that he was doing quite well in the scriptures and had some discernment. He asked him to help with the leading of this group when he could not be there. He agreed and they had services there for a number of years. Once again Satan threw his darts at Gods people. This Brother DeGiovanni began teaching the doctrine of the Jehovahs Witness. When approached about it, he became very upset and left to join the Jehovahs Witness.
Once again the church was left without a preacher. Brother Jim Conde from Youngstown came to help out and later brought his son-in-law (Brother Angelo Fusco) to preach. Brother Fusco could preach in English and a little in Italian. The church continued to grow especially since Brother Fusco began to witness among the English speaking people. The storeroom they were meeting in became crowded and necessitated moving to a larger storefront on State Street which was located right next to a chicken market where chickens were slain and dressed for retail sales. Growth continued where a nice group of around 100 people were attending. The church prospered but once again Satan interfered. This time he caused a scandalous situation to take place that broke up the church.
During the course of the next few years this fragmented but faithful body of believers moved a number of times to various types of buildings in different parts of the city of Niles. The Italian people eventually ended up holding services back in Sister Nicolenes house where Brother Luigi Fortunato came back to preach once a week on Wednesday nights. He asked a young lady from his Youngstown church to come with him to play the piano since there was nobody able to play the piano in the group. So Sister Eleanor Bernard agreed and in the course of time met, began going steady with, and nine months later married Brother Carmen Reigle.
It was during this time that one of Nicolene Reigle’s eight sons – Carmine Reigle – a teenager at that time, began leading the song service. The Lord divinely moved upon his life with a call to the ministry that he strongly felt. This was corroborated by two brethren of the Christian Churches of North America. First, Pastor Luigi Fortunato approached him and said he felt God was calling him to lead this body of believers. He sensed the hand of God upon his life. Secondly, at a revival meeting that was held in Youngstown Christian Assembly East, the Reverend Frank Fortunato stopped during the course of his message and said to the audience that were on his right-hand side that there were two people being called by God into the ministry. Two people responded that day to the Holy Spirit’s beckoning. Naomi Varanelli Sundberg, who along with her husband went to South America as Missionaries for approximately twenty years, and Brother Carmine Reigle, who responded affirmatively to three moves of God in his life calling him to the ministry. He willingly accepted God’s call on his life and was placed in charge of this handful of believers in September of 1949 where he then continued to function as the very first Full-Time Pastor of Niles Christian Assembly. He became ordained in 1950 by the Christian Churches of North America at their annual convention that was held in Washington, D.C. He continued serving God in this capacity for over forty (40) years preaching and teaching God’s word as the Holy Spirit directed him. From these humble beginnings, God used Pastor Reigle in ways never conceived by man. His wife Sister Eleanor was by his side from the beginning and was a major contributor to all that was accomplished in Niles. She assembled and taught the first Sunday school class; was the first youth leader; organized and ran the Dorcas Fellowship; set up many of the Children’s programs; and played the piano extremely well. Her propensity for learning songs without any music allowed her to pick up new choruses along with the precious hymns already being sung, which she would then teach the congregation. Their son Ronald also became actively involved and was the youth leader for several years; played accordion initially and then the organ for 20 years; set up softball and basketball teams which he coached/played on and used this vehicle as an outreach for young people to attend church. Several came to know the Lord because of getting initially involved in the sports areas of the church. Ron was always ready when needed to keep an area of ministry going.
A New Church
At the beginning of Pastor Reigle’s ministry, services continued to be held on Wednesday evenings only. Pastor Reigle undertook a remodeling of the structure – a house located at 505 Pratt Street – to hold more people and allow for expected growth. He was able to add three more services weekly. A Sunday morning and Sunday evening service and a Friday Night Youth Service to go along with the Wednesday night services still held.
Sunday School Classes were started initially with two classes. One comprised of the toddlers to age twelve and the other was from ages thirteen and up. Eventually the Sunday school grew and expanded to ten (10) classes. The church had a name change from the Italian church of North America to Full Gospel Christian Assembly. Later another change in the name occurred to comply with a decision made at the National General Convention of the C.C.N.A. The name was changed to Niles Christian Assembly which remains the same up until today.
The church continued to see growth to the extent that the current building became inadequate for the congregation. In 1964 a building program was initiated and after a number of frustrating years of buying and then having to sell four pieces of property, the present site was purchased in 1967. Within 60 days construction was begun and with the congregation, under the supervision of Pastor Reigle who served as the Building Chairman Coordinator did 90% of the work. This was done mainly by the men of the church and volunteers who donated their time and talents. Pastor Reigle did the majority of the varnishing and painting of the church; Rudy Yurjevich headed up the carpentry area; Pete Rommel was in charge of the electrical; Dom Stigliano was responsible for the Masonry; Sam Bernard (Sister Eleanor & Sister Eva’s father) did the plumbing; John Reigle assisted in many areas adding his talents to the mix; Dorcas Fellowship provided meals daily for all the workers; Youth Group fulfilled the role of manual laborers; Brother Nick Zezzo did the exterior brickwork on the building. The building was completed in a little over one year’s time. Because of the people from the congregation and outside community, friends, relatives, and other churches members giving of their time and talents, the cost of the building was kept at a minimum. Five years later Pastor Reigle along with the board members and members of the assembly held a mortgage burning service.
Both the congregation and the church continued to grow. Added to the church at various intervals as a Youth Department; Children’s Church; Men’s and Woman’s Fellowship; Dorcas Fellowship; Royal Rangers (boys); Christianettes (young girls); Dorcasettes (girls); Busy Bees (young boys & girls); Space Cubs; Summer Bible School; Whirly Birds; Jet Cadets; cell-group meetings; a music ministry, sports softball and basketball teams. All of this covered the span of forty (40) years and added much to the overall ministries provided by the church.
Due to the growth of the church from a small handful to over 150 people, various positions in the church emerged. The need for a full-time Youth Pastor presented itself when the youth group had grown and on two (2) separate occasions a full-time Youth Pastor was hired to lead the youth group which approached 30-35 young people. Feeling the need to have something for the children of the church, Pastor Reigle appointed a couple to head the first Children’s Church program at the assembly. They served for several years and built the program up to around 40-50 children. When they felt it was time to move on, another couple who felt the call of God in their lives desired to head the children’s program and was appointed to continue this ministry. They continued the children’s program and were blessed to see many of the children accept the Lord as their Savior while in the services downstairs.
In 1990 exactly 41 years after beginning this ministry and doing all that God instructed, Pastor Reigle felt it was time to change direction and accepted a full-time position as District Overseer for the Northwest District. This left a vacancy in the church that was filled by Pastor Dave Duncan who stepped in to continue the church growth and planning that had allowed this assembly to become a well respected church in the community over the years. While ministries and styles might be different, God’s desire for Niles Christian Assembly is and has always been to serve our community. From Pastor Reigle’s slogan of “End your search for a friendly church” to Pastor Dave’s commitment to outreach programs – the goal was the same. Reach out to the hurting and the lost and bring them in to our church family. During Pastor Dave’s 9 years at the assembly – two lots were purchased adjacent to our parking lot in the back of the church to allow for future growth when God’s timing was right for us to expand.
Pastor Dave left the assembly to accept a pastoral position in Syracuse, New York which once again left a void. Pastor John Mizgerd was accepted into the congregation as it’s new pastor and during his tenure has developed some basics of ministry which include discipleship, fellowship, visitation and a strong sense of caring for the congregation. Pastor John and the entire church council prayed and felt that now was the time to expand and renovate the current church building. Through the many contributors of time, money and talents, the church is expected to have its dedication on June 6, 2004. When God is in it – things happen – and once again Niles Christian Assembly is growing physically, spiritually, and financially. To see the church move from Pratt Street when God impressed Pastor Reigle that it was time to build a new church to the current time when God has now shown Pastor John that it is time to renovate and expand the current facilities is a blessing to many people.
The music of Niles Christian Assembly was always one of the strong points and continues to be a big part of the ministry. Niles Christian Assembly was known for their musical talents beginning with Sister Eleanor on the piano and Pastor Reigle on the guitar; and God blessed them with people willing and able to contribute to the worship with their musical abilities. Singing and worshiping was always a big part of each service and people were blessed by the God-given musical abilities of the musicians and singers.
God has blessed many people from our church over the years. Some have gone to different cities and different churches and taken their abilities God has given them to contribute to their current churches. The many years of seed-planting is now shown in the fruit that is evident in many locations around the country. In 2017 Pastor John Mizgerd left the assembly to accept a pastoral position in Allentown, Pa. In 2018 the congregation voted in Pastor Aaron Newell.