Thanks to Mrs. Lillie Johnson, who originally prepared this historical summary in 1988 and to Mrs. Bette Anderson and Mary Anne Watson, who updated the summary to 2008
60 YEARS OF SERVICE
Calvary Baptist Church of Tucson has had a colorful history dating back to July, 1948 when the Home Mission Board sent Brother and Mrs. T.T. Reynolds into the Tucson area as pioneer missionaries. They were to conduct Vacation Bible Schools and give assistance in the organization of new churches.
During the last two weeks of July, 1948, Brother and Mrs. Reynolds conducted a Vacation Bible School in the mornings, a religious survey in the afternoons and held revival services in the evenings in a tent set up at 758 South Thoreau. The tent was located between Paseo Dorado and Santa Barbara Streets. Thoreau would later become Columbus Boulevard. During the services seventeen people indicated a willingness to band together to form a Baptist Church. Rev. Reynolds agreed to serve as acting pastor during this early period.
This small group of dedicated Christians lost no time in making plans for a building. Within six weeks of the organization of the church, on September 19, 1948, a ground breaking ceremony was held for a concrete block building measuring thirty-six by sixty-six feet. This facility was meant to serve as a temporary auditorium and space for the Sunday School program. Almost a month later, Brother J.P. Graham was invited to hold a revival on the site. Since the new building was not yet completed the services were held in a tent. The winds became so high that the services had to be discontinued on Wednesday night of the first week.
By this time Brother Reynolds was moving into another pioneer area. The church extended a call to Brother J.P. Graham to become pastor. He accepted the call and assumed the responsibility of the pastorate on December 1, 1948. Since there was no parsonage, the pastor moved into the home of Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Robinson until one could be secured. The pastor‟s family arrived in January of 1949 and moved
into a home the church had rented across from the church on Paseo Dorado. Brother Graham labored lovingly in the work of the church until the Lord called him in August, 1950 to Houston, Texas. During Brother Graham‟s tenure the church was blessed with the joyous occasion of the first baptism of a child of God into the fellowship of the church, Betsy Clore. Since Calvary did not have a baptismal, first Southern Baptist Church graciously permitted the church to use their baptistery.
In the summer of 1950, a college student working as a summer missionary under the Home Mission Board was serving in the Tucson area. On August 5th, Glynn Ford, A Student at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, attended the mid-week prayer service at Calvary. During the service Brother Ford was asked to lead a special prayer in the calling of a new pastor. Within ten days Brother Ford accepted the call of the church to become their new pastor. His leadership was significant in that he led the church to increase its gifts to missions even though Calvary was hardly more than a mission itself. During this time the church went through a period of intensive training. Numerous courses were offered, all of which indicated the laying of a good foundation. The church members enthusiastically entered into their studies and were well informed on what Baptists believe according to the scriptures.
In May, 1951, the small congregation exercised a mighty leap of faith by applying for a $10,000 loan from the Home Mission Board for the erection of a sanctuary. There were numerous delays, however, including a problem of underwriting and approval of plans. It was almost a year later, on April 27, 1952, that the ground was broken. The new sanctuary was completed in April, 1953, and used for the first time on Easter Sunday morning. The sanctuary was filled to capacity while additional chairs were brought in to accommodate the large crowd. The first service in the new sanctuary ended with standing room only. The baptistery was used practically every Lord‟s
Day because so many were saved during this early period of the church.
The completion of the sanctuary and many other notable accomplishments occurred during the ministry of Brother Frank Gillham, who became pastor in January, 1953. The church was giving 30% to the Cooperative Program and had set a goal to reach the 50/50 mark. Sunday School attendance was averaging 65 while meeting in the one floor unit which had been completed in early 1949. The church had seemed to reach a plateau in interest
When the auditorium was only partially completed most of the men seemed to lose interest in the completion of the building. Only a few were willing to finish the work. The church seemed to be at a low ebb. Earl Martin, Dusty Rhodes and Bill Strader worked many hours into the night and every spare moment they had to finish the auditorium. The willingness of these men, combined with the energetic talents of a new young pastor, soon challenged the hearts of the others. The work crew began to grow in size and pace. Ten, fifteen, and then twenty men would show up for work on the building after they had spent a full day at other jobs. On one particular Saturday, when over 30 men showed up at the site, the beams for the sanctuary were installed. It was a matter of putting finishing touches on the building before work was completed.
During this time, in the midst of the work being completed, both visitation and soul winning were priorities in the church. God blessed the congregation‟s efforts and honored its faith. Because Calvary has been a mission-minded church since its very beginnings, many programs were carried on, including W.M.U., Sunbeams, G.A‟s, Royal Ambassadors and a Brotherhood. Several of the young girls in G.A. were crowned queens, the first ones being Sherill Strader and Marsha Galloway, with Rae Ann Croy achieving Queen Regent.
Within a few months Sunday School attendance was averaging over 150, and by summer of 1954, there were more than 200. Building for the church was increasing as well. Additional funds secured by the Home Mission Fund were provided to add a second story to the first unit. Again, the Annie Armstrong offering came to the aid of the congregation. The facilities were soon filled to capacity following the building patterns of the church. It was during this period that two additional pieces of property were purchased. One of these was a house on Santa Barbara that became the first parsonage and the other a lot which lay between the parsonage and the building. Eventually, the church purchased another parsonage, while the original building was used for Sunday School departments and classes. It was with great regret that the young flock wished their Pastor, Brother Frank, Godspeed. After only twenty months at Calvary the young pastor felt the Lord’s calling to return to the seminary and complete his studies.
In February, 1954, Reverend W.T. Oman was called as pastor, coming to the church from Elizabeth City, North Carolina. During the five years of his ministry the church acquired the two adjoining houses on Santa Barbara immediately west of the church property. The ministry of Brother Oman was marked by a period of constant growth. His pastoral concern and studious pulpit ministry was a time of maturing for the church, particularly because it had experienced such a rapid numerical growth. On August 6, 1958, Jack Richardson, Chairman of the Missions Committee, made a motion that the Calvary Church organize the Broadway Chapel and begin functioning by September 21. Two months later, upon recommendation of the Missions Committee, the church voted to call Brother Roy Matthews as mission pastor. Reverend W. T. Oman resigned as pastor of Calvary in February, 1959, to assume the pastorate of Coolidge Baptist Church in Coolidge, Arizona.
Brother Roy Sutton, superintendent of City Missions for the Catalina Baptist Association, was invited to be supply pastor. On February 11 the following recommendation was passed by the church: ”The pulpit committee be made up of all active deacons, the WMU president and one other woman named by that organization, with three more to be named by the Church in conference-they could be either men or women.”
On May 20, 1959, the church extended a call to Reverend Earl S. Bell from Frankfort, Kentucky during a regular business session. Reverend Bell and his family joined the Calvary family during the first week of August, 1959, continuing the building of the church on the firm foundation of Bible study, prayer, visitation and soul winning. The church grew in numbers with over 700 being added to the fellowship. Although many were added by transfer of membership, more than 200 of the 700 were by baptism. Because of the marked increase in members it became necessary to enlarge the sanctuary and build an elementary education building. The new sanctuary provided seating for 325 people, while the education building extended care to 600 in Sunday School. The average attendance was 350 per Sunday.
Other additions in staff were made to expand the ministry of the church. A Full-time Minister of Education and Youth, a full-time secretary, and a full-time Superintendant of grounds were added to the staff roster. The church also secured a Minister of Music. These additions secured the leadership that was needed for a complete educational and spiritual ministry.
The sanctuary was completely redecorated after the enlargement. The beautiful oil painting in the baptistery (painted by Reverend J.P. Graham and enjoyed by the congregation for many years) was replaced with the beautiful and inspiring lighted cross. Mr. Mathias, a talented carpenter and the Superintendent of the Grounds, built and installed the cross. This cross has been a blessing to the
congregation for many years. The church also purchased an organ at this time to utilize the talents of Mrs. Bell, and accomplished musician.
In 1964, after five years of service, Brother Bell felt the Lord leading him to other fields of service. He was followed by Brother Malcom Lovell who was called as pastor in 1965. Brother Lovell‟s main concern was in the field of Youth Ministry. He led the church to become fully involved with the Baptist Student Union at the University of Arizona. On registration days at the University (with the help of many volunteers) Brother Lovell erected a booth and handed out tracts and refreshments to the students along with a printed invitation to attend Calvary Baptist Church. The impact of his ministry is evident in the testimony of one young man who stated, “I could sit down across the desk from Brother Lovell and we would pray together, and he would counsel me. I never left his office without having a feeling of victory.”
After Brother Lovell resigned, the church called Reverend Robert Dottley in 1967. Reverend Dottley served Calvary faithfully for two years. Perhaps the greatest blessing of his ministry was the enlistment of church members to attend the James Robinson Crusade conducted at Hi Corbett. Scores of Calvary members worked and prayed for the Crusade. Many good results were reaped including making new friends and winning them to Christ. Brother Dottley resigned in 1969 and went onto do the Lord‟s bidding for his life.
Great changes were taking place in our community. Children had grown up and moved on. Original families were gradually moving to other areas, and we were becoming a semi-retirement area. Although our membership decreased from year to year, our dedication to the service of the Lord remained firm.
The church called Reverend Horace Crowder from El Paso, Texas, in 1970. He served the church until 1975. During his ministry Dick and Candy Dillender were called as Youth and Music Directors. They served the church well, and built a solid and exciting youth program. At one point there were more than 35 youth in the youth choir. With the encouragement of the pastor, deacons, and church members the youth choir made a tour of the Northwest and presented a concert in a different church every night of the week. Upon their return from the tour they made a record which was very popular in the local church community. These years were certainly a highlight for the youth. Brother Crowder resigned in 1975 to serve the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas as minister to the handicapped.
In 1976, the church called Reverend Craig Bellah from Dallas, Texas to serve the church as pastor. Craig was young and energetic with a very winning personality. In the early part of his ministry he stressed prayer and soul-winning. The Lydia Classroom was designated as a place of prayer and it was always open to anyone who wanted a quiet place in which to talk to the Lord. There was always an open Bible on the table as well as appropriate tracts. People signed up for specific times to pray, and around-the-clock services brought great results in revival. The latter part of his ministry was given to a complete remodeling and redecorating of buildings. Labor was donated in some instances. Mrs. Bellah, Craig‟s mother, was an interior designer and shared her talents with the church.
Craig resigned in 1978. In that same year the church called Reverend Gordon Vernon, a recent graduate of Golden Gate Seminary, and a local Tucson boy. Several people were asked to express their feelings about Gordon‟s ministry. Invariably the response was, “It was such a thrill to watch him grow in the Lord.” Another remarked that, “He truly had a pastor‟s heart and seemed to know just when he was needed and where.” Another indicated that, “He had such a sweet spirit, and took loving care of the shut-ins and
sick night and day.” Others noticed how much he was loved by the children, young people, young adults, and senior adults. During Pastor Gordon‟s tenure, Dr. Maurice Brantley was called as Assistant Pastor. Gordon resigned in 1987.
In 1987 the church called Reverend Dennis Mixer from San Angelo, Texas. During his pastorate the church experienced additions to our fellowship. Cheryl Mixer, the wife of Pastor Mixer, blessed the congregation with her musical talents. Dr. Mixer‟s strong leadership was evident in the redecorating of the sanctuary which included new carpeting in that area and the fellowship hall and offices. Dr. Mixer resigned to accept a pastorate in Cincinnati, Ohio in July 1994 at which time Calvary asked Gordon Vernon to serve as interim pastor.
Our present pastor, Reverend David Wallace, arrived on the field in June 1995. In October and November of 1995, we called Don McGinlay to serve as our part-time Minister of Music and Steve Young to serve as part-time Youth Minister. Pastor Wallace is leading the church to seek new innovative ways in which to reach our surrounding community for Christ while maintain a warm, loving fellowship in which to welcome new members.
During the past decade Calvary Baptist Church has opened up our facilities to the SOBER Project, pastored by Larry Mungia, Second Mile, pastored by Chad Haynes and God‟s Country pastored by Ron Gilliland . The SOBER Project began meeting here Easter of 2004, Second Mile in June of 2005, and God‟s Country in September of 2006. Each of these groups ministers to diverse groups meeting them where they are in life.
Calvary, having started as a mission itself, continues to be involved with missions to our community. Under the leadership of Bette Anderson for the last five years, we have continued a 20+ year tradition of collecting food for Thanksgiving baskets donated to our local missionaries to the Pascua/Yaqui Indians and to a battered
woman‟s shelter as well as local families. There are many other areas of mission minded work that Calvary has participated in including the U of A meals, The Crisis Pregnancy Center and the SOBER Projects Easter Egg hunt in the park.
Music at Calvary has been under the direction of Ginger Dalrymple for the past four years with inspiring cantatas, special music and choir participation to enhance a worshipful atmosphere. Bob and Rick Ramsey continue to bless us with their piano and organ music. In addition to playing the organ, and filling in as music leader, Rick has been leading our youth for the past 4 years (officially) ably assisted by Bob. The youth have responded and faithfully attend our worship services and youth activities. These ministries have been a blessing to our church.
During this last decade Calvary has replaced our seating with 250 upholstered chairs, the old carpet taken out and the surface given a special coating until tile can be installed. The carpeting was replaced on the stage area and a new speaker‟s stand was procured. Sanctuary curtains were replaced with new window décor and new curtains were made by Betty Anderson and Barbara Rockefeller for the brass railing on the stage.
The Constitution was rewritten and we now have a three member executive council. The pastor is an advisor for the council and one member serves as chairman.
Pastor Wallace continues to lead the church to seek new innovative ways in which to reach our surrounding community for Christ as the SOBER Project, Second Mile and God‟s Country can attest.
Calvary has a long tradition of relying upon the active support of its membership, both in financial assistance and the donation of time and talent, to realize the mission of the church. Although it is impossible in this short space to mention all the individuals whose hard work and contributions of either memorial gifts or abilities have contributed to the rich history of Calvary, a few short historical facts are listed below:
In the early days of the church, First Southern Baptist Church gave Calvary money to buy a used piano to enrich the worship services. Although Calvary now had a piano, we lacked a pianist. Again, as many times throughout the years, the Lord provided an answer to the problem. Mrs. Lena Martin, a member of First Southern Baptist church, agreed to rush over to Calvary to play for worship services after she finished teaching her Sunday School class at First Southern. Later, in 1949, Earl and Lena Martin would move their membership to Calvary, and Calvary would be blessed with Lena’s musical talents at the piano for fifteen years. Lena was followed by Sue Pennington. Sue would contribute her musical gift for many years, first at the piano with Linda Bell, and later at the organ with Juanda Smith.
When Sue and Juanda moved, the Lord sent us Bob and Rick Ramsey who enhance out worship services today with the sharing of their great musical talents.
The grand piano in the sanctuary was given in memory of Gary Kerns, “HE BEING DEAD YET LIVETH”, and only the Lord knows how many people have been touched by the beautiful music made possible by this gift and have given their hearts to the Lord. The organ we now use was donated in memory of Joy Arras, mother of Darleen Raulerson.
Mrs. Elizabeth Amesbury organized and directed the first choir at Calvary. Every chair in the choir loft was full for every service, enriching the service and providing an inspiration to the congregation. Although many members in the early days maintained they could not carry a tune, they still recall their experiences in the choir with great fondness-enjoying “making a joyful noise”.
Hymnals which were used for many years at Calvary were given in memory of Earl Martin. Earl served in practically every capacity at the church including many faithful years as a deacon. Earl also served as the Sunday School Director from 1956-1958. He kept the high attendance records for those years in the flyleaf of his Bible. It shows that the high attendance were 368 in 1956, 341 in 1957, 374 in 1958 and 271 in 1959. It is interesting to note that the figure for 1959 was during a revival service.
Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Beard provided the financial assistance necessary for the church to buy equipment and books for the library. This gift was in memory of their son, Gary, who had tragically lost his life in an automobile accident. Mrs. Lillie Hinojosa volunteered her time and talents to organize and open Calvary‟s first church library. Mrs. Hinojosa served the church faithfully for many years as librarian and was followed by Mrs. Brent Billings.
Calvary‟s members have always responded to the Lord’s call and the church’s need for strong leadership in the business and Christian education concerns of the church. Mr. D.C. Keil was the first treasurer of the church. He was followed by Bill Strader, Dick Johnson, Bobby Pennington and Mildred Hogan. Mildred served faithfully in this capacity for thirty years. Several have followed with Bob Ramsey now taking charge. Others have ensured that the church has a vital and enriching Christian Education program. Frances Roylston has worked in the children‟s department for fifty- two years. Lena Martin taught the ladies‟ Sunday School class for thirty year until it grew to such proportions it had to be divided. At
that point Jane Sisler became the teacher of the older ladies, providing wisdom and leadership in this role for fifteen years. Barbara Rockefeller has continued in this line of dedicated teachers of the older ladies class. Rich Watson has been the teacher of the Adult Sunday School class for at least nine years, working in tandem with Doug Grimes following the tradition of Paul Dockins and J.D. Brown who had been in charge of the Adults for over ten years. Ken Simons now assists Mr. Watson assuring a class leading our adults in their Christian walk and growth.
Calvary has always been blessed with excellent participation and attendance at Sunday School, but on individual certainly needs to be mentioned in these notes. Pam Amesbury has a record of over 55 years of perfect Sunday School Attendance. This is certainly a record worth noting, and Calvary takes great pride in Pam‟s faithfulness. Calvary also appreciates Pam‟s work with our bed babies and assistance in the toddler class where she and her mother, Elizabeth Amesbury, have helped raise the majority of Calvary youth and young adults all of whom have great memories of “Grandma Amesbury”
The facilities and grounds that the church currently utilizes are made possible by the work of many concerned members of the congregation. We have been blessed by the work and donations of so many including such members as Darold Albritton, who, working principally alone and during his free evening times, installed the ceiling tile in the first auditorium, and Leon Johnson, who donated and installed the sprinkler system in his eightieth year. The communion table and matching tables were given by Bette Anderson in memory of Bill Strader, deacon for many years. The cross on the baptistery doors was created by Rich Watson.
Nan Ogletree decorated and furnished the foyer in memory of her husband, Ray, who had served the church faithfully as a deacon for many years. The beautiful mirror in the foyer was given to the church
be Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Galloway in memory of Mr. Galloway’s father. There are so many memorials that it is impossible to mention them all. So many have contributed to the church in their own special way to help the church achieve its mission in Tucson and provide a place where the love of Christ can be nurtured and share with others.
As the years go by and so many friends and important people to the growth of Calvary have moved on, it is nice to remember some names:
Tom Drinkwater went home to be with the Lord and left a seat next to Edith empty.
Elizabeth “Grandma” Amesbury went home with the Lord leaving family, home and church, all missing her.
Jeff and Donna, Kip and Jeannie, and Doug and Betsy, all moving on to “retire” and serve the Lord in other areas.
Calvary Baptist Church has always been a family church with a warm and friendly welcome to all. We feel blessed to have Pastor and Mrs. Wallace as a part of our congregation. They, along with the other members of our staff, exhibit great concern and love for the congregation, providing strong leadership and vision for Calvary‟s future.
We continue to provide a full program and feel greatly blessed by the Lord to be a part of His ongoing work here in Tucson. We rejoice in our heritage and the many that had the vision and drive to allow us to contribute to God’s work.