History of Church

In 1878, West Charleston was a small community and it was not until l895 that the Charter of Charleston was reenacted which extended its limits to take in that portionof the Elk River, formerly called “Elk City,” which is the territory wherein our church had its origin.  On the grounds where Kroger’s now stands, a small frame building which belonged to the Free Will Baptist Church, occupied the grounds and was used for a Church. Later this building was sold to the Board of Education of Kanawha County for a school building and was used as such through the week days and loaned to religious organizations for worship services.  On June 23, 1878, Rev. J.W. Moore preached to a group of 60 people at the School House.  Calvary Baptist Church was organized from this small beginning with 45 members on October 29, 1882.  The Church was known as the “Elk City” or “The West Side Baptist Church.”  It was later moved and known as the “Virginia Avenue Baptist Church” and later changed to “Indiana Avenue Baptist Church” when the street was renamed.  Finally on February 3, 1908 the name was changed to Calvary Baptist Church. The present church building, standing at the comer of Lee Street and Maryland Avenue, was dedicated in 1925 with the educational wing of the building completed in 1955.  An elevator was installed in 1988. We are located just minutes offthe I-64 exit for Washington Street and the Civic Center. We are part of American Baptist Church, USA; a family of nearly 2 million Christians who worship in more than 5,800 congregations in the U.S.  As American Baptists, we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God,We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that as a local church we are called to be a family of witnessing disciples.  We are affiliated with the Kanawha Valley Baptist Association and West Virginia Baptist Convention. Calvary has always been a family church.  Whole families came to worship together in our sanctuary and participate in the Christian Education Program.  In the1960s there were approximately 2,000 persons on the membership roll, 1,300 of theseWere “active” members.  We have seen ups and downs in attendance over the years. Members were transferred to Charleston by the chemical companies for many years and then in the 1960s we lost more than over 300 active members due to downsizing or closing of the chemical plants that had brought them to WV.  The building of the interstate on the West Side contributed to families having to move to other areas and many moved their church membership in order to be close to home.  This affected many churches in the Kanawha Valley. The June 2, 1963 issue of the Sunday Gazette Mail State Magazine called Calvary “The Singingest Church in West Virginia.” Calvary has always been a singing church as evidenced by the 10 choirs that were dedicated to using their musical talents to praise the Lord in the 1960s.  There were 380 singers in the ten choirs and a long waiting list for thenext choir vacancy.

Much of this fantastic success was due to the exceptional talent and dedication of Charles M. Margason, who received his Master of Music degree from Westminister Choir School.  Under Margason’s leadership the Chancel choir was chosen as the American Baptist Convention Choir.  They ministered to over 8,000 representatives from all over the U.S. who were attending the American Baptist Convention in Philadelphia.  Fulfilling their conviction to bring sacred music to all persons, not just their church family, they also presented concerts in Wilmington, Delaware and Washington, DC. What a blessed time in the life of Calvary. Calvary has always encouraged its members to listen and respond to the calling of the Lord.  At least 100 Calvary members have dedicated their lives to serving the Lord as Ministers, Missionaries or in Christian Education.  We believe all Christians have gifts/talents that can be used to further the Lord ‘s work whether on a foreign missionField. Or in their neighborhood. Calvary’s youth have been involved in many outreach programs over the years. They participated in “Christ at the Fair” at Dunbar fairgrounds in the fifties, distributing religious literature, moving pictures and music.  Eventually a concrete chapel was erected (at no cost to the group) to use for permanent annual work. Calvary has had Cub Scout, Boy Scout (1912) and Girl Scout troops.

Over the years we have had many boys to achieve the Eagle Scout award and girls to receive the Gold Award.  Our young adults have been active in the Charleston Church Recreation Association activities sponsoring softball, basketball and volleyball teams.  Our children and youth attend the WV Baptist Camp at Cowen, WV each year. Calvary has always been interested in missions.  Many years they were in the top50 churches in WV in mission giving.  Rensford Church and Tyler Mountain Mission were seed projects of Calvary.  We also were involved in the establishment of North Hills Baptist Church.  Calvary participates in the Shoe Box Ministry which provides shoeboxes filled with small toys, school supplies and treats to children overseas at Christmas.In recent years the youth have participated in Brothers Keepers, a program to do maintenance work on homes of low income people in Jackson County.  Calvary maintains a food pantry to the needy in our community.    We also support the American Baptist Convention Missions and some local charities.

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