Calvary Baptist Church
A brief history of its 120+ years serving God and the community
From the home of Mary E. Richards, a small group of members from Second Baptist Church in Orange, N.J. organized to form Calvary Baptist Church in 1887, where Rev. John H. Travis, then pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in New York City, was secured as its pastor. In June 1888, Calvary was incorporated by the State of New Jersey.
Calvary later moved worship services to the basement of Calvary Methodist Church on N. Clinton Street, before purchasing a lot on Thompson Street in 1889 for $500. The new structure seated about 70 members.
Because of an increased membership driven by the efforts of Betty A. Franklin-Brown, who mortgaged her home for the cause, in June 1905 the congregation invested $6,000 to purchase First Baptist Church on N. Maple Avenue, which is also affectionately known as Calvary No. 1.
Rev. Travis was highly regarded among members, and they sent him to the World Baptist Alliance in London, England.
On March 1, 1914, Rev. Travis passed away, and in his memory Calvary declared every first Sunday in March Travis Memorial Sunday.
On Nov. 30, 1914, Rev. E.A.P. Cheeks, a biblical scholar from Columbia, S.C., accepted the call lead Calvary's flock. His leadership led to many improvements to the church's facility, which includes the stained glass windows that now adorn Calvary's narthex, and a pipe organ which is still in use today. Calvary's original organ pipes are presently behind the altar. In Oct. 27, 1924, Rev. Cheeks retired his services to accept another charge.
On February 29, 1925, Rev. Clarence M. Long of bank Street Baptis tChurch in Norfolk, Va., assumed the Pastorate. Under his leadership, the church purchased a mimeograph machine to produce bulletins, founded Vacation Bible School, which is claimed to be the first in Essex County, and formed an award-winning choir that won a competition in Bordentown, N.J. for four consecutive years. Calvary eventually sent Rev. Long to the Baptist World Alliance in Europe.
In 1938, he accepted and offer to pastor in St. Louis, Mo.
In October 21, 1939, Calvary called Rev. Albert Tibbs, then pastor of Friendship Baptist in Bayonne, to serve. On April 10, 1940, Calvary purchased three-quarter acres on Main Street to build a new structure for its still-flourishing membership. Shortly thereafter, Rev. Tibbs was inducted into the U.S. Army as Chaplain for two years, and as a result Calvary's building project was interrupted. Rev. Tibbs returned, but departed permanently on Aug. 9, 1950.
In November, 1950, an offer was extended to Rev. William R. Bailey, a member of Calvary since childhood. He accepted and returned to Calvary after serving as an associate minister at St' mark's Social Center in Boston, Ma. Despite a temporary halt in construction from 1953-1954, Rev. Bailey eventually completed construction with the late architect Deacon Edward T. Bowser, Sr. On Easter Sunday 1957, the membership moved into Calvary No. 2.
Rev. Bailey is credited with founding the Board of Christian Education, The Baptist Young People Fellowship, the Sunbeam Choir, Boy Scout Troop No. 8, attaining for Calvary NAACP Life Membership. Establishing Calvary's relationship with the New Jersey Baptist Convention, revising Calvary's constitution, and replacing the offering preceding the Lord's Supper with the Benevolence Fund.
In late 1966, after learning that a new major highway threatened Calvary's Main Street location, Trustee Samuel Greene, Sr. joined Summit-based architect Mr. Ralph Jefferson and, along with support from Rev. Bailey and the congregation, to build the current edifice at 66 Grove Street. In 1979, the 10-year, $100,000 mortgage for Calvary No. 3 was settled two years ahead of schedule.
In 1982, Rev. Bailey's declining health forced him to relinquish his duties, ending his 32-year pastorate at Calvary. He passed away on Oct. 11, 1983.
In July 1983, Rev. Keith Cook accepted to lead Calvary after serving as an associate pastor since November 1982. During his five-year tenure, he reorganized the order of worship, introduced bible Study classes and increased Calvary's staff musicians. The Family Task Force was also and its Theater Ensemble organized. A new air conditioning system was also installed to accommodate members in the summer months. In 1987, the constitution was revised. In the same year, Calvary celebrated it's 100th Anniversary with a special banquet at Scott's manor in Orange. In 1988, Rev. Cook left to relocate to Virginia.
The Join Boards, under the guidance of Deacon James Robinson, Sr., Trustee Samuel Greene, Sr. and the associate clergy, governed the church during the vacancy of the pastorate.
After more than two years in their search, the Pulpit Search Committee proposed that Rev. Glenmore Bembry, Jr. of FirstBaptistChurch in Jersey City serve as Pastor. He accepted and the congregation called him to serve on Oct. 14, 1991.
In his time as pastor, Calvary expanded its ministerial staff with associate ministers, who worked in the areas of Christian Education, youth evangelism and visitation. The Women and Men Ministries were also formed to focus on the spiritual growth of the congregation. The Children's Church and tutorial programs were formed to enrich the youth. A church van was also purchased to shuttle members to and fro services, as well as office equipment to help produce bulletins and assist staff in administrative tasks.
In addition, Rev. Bembry led delegations of Calvary members on tow trips to Israel and the Holy Land.
Rev. Bembry left Calvary in 2001 for TrinityBaptistChurch in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Later that year, one among us was chosen. The Pulpit Committee asked Rev. Joseph Onimaya, one of the key members shepherding Calvary through a period of adjustment, to serve as pastor. He was installed in October 2001.