â€śâ€¦as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God:â€ť
I Chronicles 22:7
This verse expresses the desire in the hearts of a group of young people and their leader in November 1956. Each one had recently accepted Christ as their personal Savior and they were attending Peoples Church on Texas Avenue in Norfolk where Brother Gorman was pastor. Aubrey Lewis, who was one of the teenagers in that group, accepted Christ first and because of his witnessing to friends and family was instrumental in each of the others coming to know the Lord.
Mr. E. C. Blend, who was then song leader at Peoples Church, and this group of teenagers decided they would like to start their own church. Hence the group began holding meetings in the home of Aubrey Lewis and his parents on Pall Mall Street in Norfolk. In January 1957, the group was able to rent the Norview Community Center on Texas Avenue and met there until March. Mr. and Mrs. Albert Ross, who lived on Windermere Avenue, then allowed the group to hold their services in the garage behind their house until they could build a church.
A lot on the corner of Elmhurst Avenue and Thomas Street was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Stump. Immediately a petition to deny a building permit was circulated throughout the community. This delayed the start of construction, as it became necessary to go before City Council, with a petition bearing four times the number of signatures favoring construction of the church.
On March 6, 1957, at a meeting in the City Council office, the opposing group of neighbors was told that the church met all the building code regulations and that a permit to build would be granted. Three preachers; E. C. Blend, pastor of the church, Stanley G. Knick, and D. M. Hardison, took part in a special ground-breaking service. Work began immediately with the members furnishing the labor. By Easter Sunday, the foundation had been poured and the members held an Easter Sunrise service on the foundation.
The group had named their church Interdenominational Country Church and on July 7, 1957 held their first worship service in the new building even though construction was not completed. The original building was a thirty-foot by fifty-foot cinder block structure. The lot was purchased for $2,200.00 with the building construction costing $8,800.00, totaling $11,000.00.
Pastor Blend resigned as pastor in May 1958 and Brother D. M. Hardison, pastor of Arbor Grove Baptist Church, came and donated his time leading and advising the church on the procedure to use in choosing a new pastor. The congregation, after hearing several candidates chose as their new pastor, Rev. Bruce Norman.
Rev. Norman assumed Pastoral duties in June 1958 and the name of the church was changed to Calvary Baptist on October 11, 1958. Pastor Norman appointed the first Board of Deacons.
On January 6, 1959 a call was extended to Mr. John Carraway to be the assistant pastor to Brother Norman. During Brother Normanâ€™s term as pastor, Sunday School rooms were added to the church. Pastor Norman resigned in May 1959, because of health reasons, but remained a member until his death in November of that year.
In June of 1959, a call was extended to Stanley G. Knick to be the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. During the ministry of Pastor Knick, restrooms were installed and a utility building was built. Later the sanctuary was enlarged and a furnace room and pastorâ€™s study added. Church pews were purchased during Pastor Knick's ministry, but were not delivered until after his death.
Early in 1962, Brother Vance Smith and his family began attending and serving the Lord at Calvary. At a business meeting on July 13, 1964, Brother Vance was officially voted in as assistant pastor. In 1967 Pastor Knickâ€™s health began to fail and the Lord called him home on September 11 of that year. Brother Vance Smith was elected pastor on September 17, 1967.
During Brother Smithâ€™s ministry, Calvary continued to grow. Over the years, additional lots were purchased allowing the church to go from a single corner lot to occupy the entire end of the block. As the congregation grew, one of the newly acquired houses was used as nursery space and Sunday School rooms and the old garage adapted into a social hall and Junior Church room.
At a business meeting held on April 7, 1981, the building committee presented a plan for a new, two story wing. The new wing would include a social hall, kitchen, Sunday School rooms, and restrooms. The auditorium and old Sunday School rooms were to be remodeled and new restrooms fitted on the Elmhurst side of the building. Construction was completed and the new building occupied near the end of 1982. As in earlier construction projects, a major part of the labor was donated by church members.
The congregation of Calvary Baptist, wishing to honor Brother Smith for his 20 years as pastor, celebrated the event on October 18, 1987. Old friends and church members gathered with the congregation for a day of special services, dinner on the grounds, and gospel music. Special speakers included; Donald Oâ€™Dey, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, George Baker, pastor of Princess Anne Baptist Church, Terrell Hendricks a retired pastor, James McCleneghan, Chaplin at Union Mission menâ€™s shelter, and Ted Bashford, founder and director of the Union Mission and Hope Haven childrenâ€™s home.
After twenty-nine years as pastor, Brother Smith expressed his desire to retire from full time ministry. His retirement would be effective at the end of August 1996. The congregation was saddened but at the same time rejoiced with Brother Smith that after so many years of faithful service, he would be able to take life a little easier. The congregation honored Pastor Smith and his wife Claudia, who had served the church together for so many years.
Led by the deacon board, the search for a new pastor began. As the search progressed, the church learned that one of our members was considering putting forth his name. Brother Jim Rosenberger, head deacon, announced at a business meeting on October 20, 1996 that, â€śBrother Richard Smith, a member of the church and well known among the people, has asked to be considered for the position. Brother Richard has been preaching frequently since the former pastor, Vance Smith, retired. Brother Richard has shared with the deacons and the congregation his call to the ministry and we are all convinced that his call is spiritual and genuine, not based on feelings and emotions.â€ť Brother Richard was elected pastor that night and ordained on the 17th of August 1997. Supported by his wife Sherri, Pastor Smith continues to shepherd the congregation of Calvary Baptist Church today.
Winning lost souls for Christ, at home and abroad, is the primary goal of Calvary Baptist Church. Throughout the years and pastoral changes, the ministry of the Gospel has been foremost and taken many forms. Powerful preaching and a strong Sunday School are just a part of the picture. Support of missionaries, regular services in nursing homes and Union Mission, an outstanding Vacation Bible School program and other youth ministries, ministry to the needy and so many other important works have been carried out well and faithfully through the years.
Marjorie Browning, one of the first missionaries supported by Calvary, is still on the field in Brazil and is still supported every month. Though gone on to Glory, another early missionary couple, Clayton and Nina Templeton, still have many family members on the mission field and Calvary still supports some of them after nearly fifty years. In all those years, the people of Calvary have never missedâ€¦or been lateâ€¦with a single support payment to a missionary.
Through the years, Calvary has contributed to the call and work of many pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other laborers for Christ. Drawn by sound preaching and our strong commitment to Jesus our Savior, several pastors and missionaries have chosen Calvary as a place to worship when they retired from ministry or were not in active ministry themselves.
The history of a true soul winning church is strongly tied to itsâ€™ ministry works and the pastors who shepherd them. And rightly so. At Calvary the congregation is also a large and important part of the history and ministry. Many great saints of God have passed through this congregation and contributed mightily to the ministry. Too numerous to mention by name, many have served as deacons and ushers, Sunday School teachers and nursery workers, song leaders and musicians, program directors, cooks and housekeepers, mowed lawns, visited the lost and the sick, and been faithful in prayer.
Though this text is but a brief narrative, the true history of Calvary Baptist Church, and thousands of New Testament Churches, is best recorded not by menâ€™s words, but in the records of our Heavenly Father. Though we close this text for now, the ministry, by Godâ€™s grace and power will continue until Christ calls home His Church.
Will you be there when He calls?