“…as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God:”
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 as 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. 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.
Pastor Blend resigned as pastor in May 1958, and Brother D. M. Hardison, pastor of Arbor Grove Baptist Church, 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 Bruce Norman as their new pastor.
Pastor 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 Norman’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 pastor’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 Knick’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 Smith’s ministry, Calvary continued to grow. Over the years, additional lots were purchased allowing the church to expand from a single corner lot to occupy the entire end of the block. One of the newly acquired houses was used as nursery space and Sunday School rooms, and the old garage was 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.
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 honored Pastor Smith and his wife Claudia for their faithful service together for so many years.
Led by the deacon board, the search for a new pastor began. Brother Richard Smith, a member of the church and well known among the people, asked to be considered for the position. Brother Richard was elected pastor on the night of October 20, 1996. 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.
Through the years, Calvary has contributed to the call and work of many pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other laborers for Christ. The Congregation also supports the works of other ministries and missionaries to promote the spread of the Gospel here at home and around the world by regular monthly support as well as special gift giving projects. The people of Calvary Baptist Church desire to obey God’s Word by reaching our neighborhood with the Gospel while partnering with others to “go ye into all the world.”