The Story of a Church – 67 Years of Service
A little more than 67 years ago, a small group of Christian friends began wishing there was a church in the vicinity of their homes – the growing suburban area southwest of Wilmington. These few met others who had the same wish and desire.
As these few met, their wish crystallized into action. Contact was made with the Philadelphia Presbytery and the Board of American Missions of the United Presbyterian Church. The board listened to the plea with sympathy and understanding and the group was told, “find a place to worship and we will see that you have a pastor.”
Eagerly the little group set to the task of locating this place of worship. The owner of the local theater, the Crest (in Woodcrest), was approached and he too was sympathetic to the desire and need of these people. Arrangements were made to hold services in the Crest Theater and the board, true to its word, sent the Rev. James O. McDonald to be pastor and leader.
On October 1, 1944, the first church church service was held. Sixty persons attended. The meetings continued and less than two months later, on November 26, 1944 a Bible School was organized, with 32 present, meeting in the theater just before the church service. Later a choir was formed to voice the glories of God in song.
The word spread and more residents in the area and some from more distant areas aligned themselves with the growing group. Then on February 18, 1945 Calvary United Presbyterian Church was formally organized.
Sunday after Sunday more and more seats in the temporary quarters at the Crest Theater were occupied. Evenings, in addition to morning services, were instituted and classes in the Church School grew in size and number.
Eventually, the ladies of the Church formed the Christian Service Guild. Later, the men too, banded themselves into the Men’s Club. Other organizations also came into being for the young people of various ages. A Boy Scout Troop and a Girl Scout Troop were organized. The group realized a need for athletic activity and the bowling league, softball and championship basketball teams were formed.
The sense of Christian welfare developed and supported by the same cooperation and teamwork that marked the efforts of those who founded our church, expanded in the hearts and minds of those making up the constantly growing membership.
As the membership grew, the Bible School grew two-fold. Under the guidance and leadership of dedicated teachers, many of our young adults grew into manhood and womanhood. An outreach of the Church School was the woman’s class and was later to contribute much to the creation and expansion of our church.
Throughout all this expansion there was ever evident a constantly growing need – the need of an adequate church edifice. A building committee was appointed. Contact was made with the Board of American Mission and a plot of ground was acquired in 1944. Plans were drawn and on Easter Sabbath April 17, 1949, a groundbreaking service was held and on November 13, 1949 the cornerstone was laid. On March 5, 1950 the Bible School marched from the Crest Theater to the new church building.
Our First Minister
By 1951 the congregation was able to undertake the support of its own minister and on June 27, 1951 Rev. McDonald was installed officially as pastor of the church. On December 21, 1952, with great disappointment, Rev. McDonnell left the church to assume missionary task in a new area. Then on May 21, Rev. Harold McConnell was installed as the second minister of Calvary.
Additions to Our Building
On December 6, 1953 ground was broken for the annex for the church school and on October 3, 1954 the annex was dedicated.
With the growing congregation, on December 10, 1956, the decision was made to bring on an associate pastor, Rev. Thomas Patton. Rev. Patton stayed until 1959 and then Rev. Ried F. Shields was installed.
March 4, 1962 brought another ground breaking in the history of Calvary. This time it was for a new educational unit.
Since then the pastors have come and gone but Calvary has continued to thrive in God’s blessings. Those who have been in service to the Lord were the Revs.Henry Jacobs (1969-1972), William Bowers (1973-1981), Anne Meyers (1982-1986), Geoffrey Hubbard (1988-1990), Clayton Fairo (1992-1997), Tim Woodruff (1999-2002), and Bob Richardson (2006-2011). We also cannot forget those who have served as interims, they have been an intricate part of Calvary’s history.
This is a story of a church, our church, a church that is a guiding light in a modern community, a church that has met every challenge, a church that continues to thrive on the faith of its members and the blessing of God who gave a guiding hand and led those few who had a dream.
* This is a history written by Mr. Matthew Minker from church records and edited by Lane Tokarski.