Centennial celebration: Calvary Baptist marks 100 years in community

Vicky O. Misa
Calvary Baptist Church, at 214 W. Farrall St. in Shawnee.

Calvary Baptist Church will officially celebrate its 100th anniversary Sunday.

The congregation has plans to commemorate its centennial all year with special events each month, Pastor David Henry said.

Henry is Calvary Baptist's 23rd pastor in its century-long lineup of spiritual leaders.

He started in 2007.

What has always impressed Henry about Calvary is its vast history of actively caring for those who are struggling.

Through the years, though attendance rolls have experienced peaks and valleys, the church's purpose has always remained the same — a hands-on mission to serve others focusing on socioeconomics.

Even 100 years later, Calvary is still pushing forward with a pioneering spirit. While some churches these days are finding reasons to split, Calvary has achieved partnership with another church at a whole new level — serving together in the same location.

For nearly a year now the site at 214 W. Farrall has been home to two churches — one Baptist, the other Presbyterian — as they choose to embrace their common ground: a heart for the troubled and poverty-stricken in the community.

Henry said Shawnee Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Matt Wiley, had reached out to Calvary for help to get closer to the area of town it felt called to minister.

“They were like a fish out of water all the way across town,” he said. “They had a desire to be here on the south side.”

At that time located at 2100 E. 45th Street, Shawnee Pres then made the move, becoming building buddies with Calvary at Easter last year.

Sharing quarters with Shawnee Pres has been an easy partnership, Henry said.

Like all roommates, to succeed the two churches had to work out a schedule for occupying the same space.

“At 9 a.m. on Sunday Shawnee Pres holds its worship service, while we (Calvary) are having Sunday School,” Henry said. “Then at 10:30 a.m., we switch.”

He said the system has been working very well.

“There haven't been any conflicts,” he said. “It's been really great.”

He said it's simply good stewardship to share space and resources so effectively.

The two may be different denominations, but they have very similar mission and goals when it comes to helping the underserved.

Settling into its shared space and shared mission, the duo continues to strengthen its bond.

“On the first Sunday of each month the two churches have lunch together,” he said.

Henry said, moving forward, Calvary has a goal to become increasingly more direct in its involvement with the community.

“We want to look into things like housing and a community garden,” he said.

The church already is actively offering support of Shawnee's food bank, the Community Market of Pottawatomie County.

Aptly named “First Fruits,” at the first of each month Calvary gathers food and donates it to the market, he said.

“In doing that we are teaching our children to give ad care,” he said. “Ultimately that will help them be mindful of taking care of their bodies and making good choices as they grow up.”

Family Promise is another entity Calvary continues to partner with. That ministry is still close to his heart, as Henry at one time was executive director of the organization.

A history lesson

For $2,000 the northwest corner of Farrall and Market Streets was secured by First Baptist Church for use as a mission or church in November 1919. Just months before that — in July that year — First Baptist had arranged Sunday School services at the nearby (former) Washington School building.

On Jan. 21, 1920, the church gathered in conference “after a very helpful prayer service, led by Bro. J.A. Tolman.”

Tolman was president of Oklahoma Baptist University at that time.

The church granted 31 members letters of dismission 'for the purpose of organizing a church in south Shawnee.'

The church became the Calvary Baptist Church, which is still located at 214 W. Farrall.

Information from “The Lengthening Shadow: A Centennial History, Heritage, and Hope of First Baptist Church, Shawnee, Oklahoma 1892-1992,” by Slayden A. Yarbrough.