On November 12, 2017, the Calvary Baptist Church will celebrate 125 years of ministry in and to the Salt Lake City community. Calvary was organized in the early 1890’s by a small group of Black women who came together to pray. Meeting in various private homes, they were soon designated as the “Baptist Prayer Band”. They assembled under the leadership of Sister Emma Jackson (“Mom Jack”), and her home became their primary meeting place.
These strong Black women worked long hours in private homes, including that of the Governor, as maids, cooks, and wash ladies. At the same time they kept their own houses, tended their children, and cared for their husbands. They turned to Black centers of worship as havens of fellowship which provided positive images, personal strength and opportunities for responsible participation in community building.
By 1892, that group grew into the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, a haven for African American fellowship, worship, education, and personal sharing. Outgrowing their private homes on April 18, 1896, they met at the facilities of the First Baptist Church where Sisters Emma Hatfield, Mattie Ketchell, and Eliza McAfee were the first three to be baptized as members of the “colored” congregation. The people worshipped God with great excitement, high energy, moving vigor, spiritual fervor, and call-response participation. Soon thereafter in 1898, they located what the Broad Ax newspaper called “the little colored house of worship” in the alley off West Temple Street” at 37 ½ South West Temple. They invited the Reverend A. E. Reynolds to permanently start the work.
After about six months, Pastor Reynolds departed and the Reverend D. Jones of Topeka, Kansas came generating a great deal of excitement. However, he left abruptly. In 1901, the Reverend James W. Washington became leader of the congregation and preached stirring sermons such as “Never A Man Spake Like This Man,” “Prodigal Son,” and “The Wagon That the World Used to Ride In.” The congregation outgrew its facility and Rev. Washington led the congregation and community in a “Building Fund Possum Festival” with ten fat ‘possum, five wild-turkeys, and Belgian hares. They were prepared by Sisters Lloyd Blanchard, Fannie Barker, Emma Jackson, Nellis Johnson with Brothers Lloyd Blanchard and Anderson J. Spears. Instead of building a church as intended, Rev. Washington led the congregation into a building on June 29, 1902 at 472 East 200 South. Pastor Washington convened the Alexander Dumas Literary Society and published the Tri-City Oracle Newspaper.
In 1911, the Congregation secured The Eastside Baptist Church at 679 East 300 South from the Immanuel Baptist Church under the leadership of The Reverend William A. Magett. When the Reverend Allen Newman became pastor in 1912, he urged the distinguished educator Booker T. Washington, on his planned visit to Salt Lake City, to deliver his concluding message to the African American community. He spoke at the Calvary Baptist Church on March 26, 1913 at 9:30 o’clock.
In 1917, the Reverend George Hart(s) called together missionary Baptist congregations and organized the Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming Baptist Association. The first annual session was held at the Ogden Wall Avenue Baptist church on August 20-24, 1918. The Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP was organized on February 19, 1919 by Pastor George Hart, Sister Thelma Steward (Beridon), and other concerned members of Calvary. The Calvary Baptist Church was incorporated under the leadership of the Reverend George Hart on May 11, 1921. After a number of other pastors served and left, the Reverend William A. Lucas became pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, the Association changed its name to Rocky Mountain Baptist Association, and Pastor Lucas was elected as its moderator on July 12, 1944. The Calvary Baptist Church, also, published its own monthly magazine called the Rocky Mountain Messenger during the middle 1940s.
The Reverend William I Monroe was chosen to serve as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church from 1954 to 1967.
As the congregation grew, he led them with a “Dime Drive” to build a larger and new facility at 532 East 700 South which was dedicated on November 3, 1966.The Reverend Monroe and his wife Sarah published a monthly magazine called The Reflector to help keep the people informed. After Pastor Monroe retired, the Reverend John Henry Johnson from Texas became the pastor and guided the people with a strong music emphasis for a short time. Then, the Reverend Henry L. Hudson came commuting for a while from California with a strong accounting background and set the congregation on firm financial footing. He departed in 1973, and the Reverend France A. Davis was asked to “fill-in until they could find somebody.”
In 1974, the Rev. France A. Davis was selected and installed as the 23rd pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, Utah. Pastor Davis has been serving the congregation for a longer period than any of his 22 predecessors. His wife Willene walks beside him with her very warm spirit
By the fall of 1995, it was apparent the congregation had outgrown the 532 East 700 South church site. The membership voted to purchase land and build a larger building. Each member was asked to make a pledge and give as the Lord blessed them. In 1996, God blessed the congregation with approximately 2 ½ acres of land for which a 47,000 square feet facility was designed and constructed at 1090 South State Street.
It includes a sanctuary for worship, offices, classrooms, community, and recreational space. The first worship services in the new facility were held on October 7, 2001 followed by the official dedication on November 11, 2001.
In 2009, “Fill the Pot” was initiated as a community outreach ministry of the Calvary Baptist Church. It is led by Associate Minister Jaye Ragsdale. Each Sunday morning, an average of 300 people in Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Park receive a Biblical message and a hot meal. In addition, clothing, household goods, housing information, and legal information are made available for those needing them.
Calvary has grown into a diverse congregation of Christian believers from all over the Wasatch Front community. Our mission of the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, Utah is to share the gospel with non-believers, to make disciples of the un-churched, and to empower believers to faithful Christian ministry. The congregation is determined to help meet the needs, first and foremost, spiritually, but educationally, politically, economically, and socially as well.