The Calvary Baptist Church History


In 1897, at a prayer meeting in the home of Sister Lula Scott, The Calvary Baptist Church was organized by a group of former members of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

With only twenty-six dollars in the treasury, these forty-three members began meeting in Manning Hall, led by their first pastor, Reverend D. S. Gibson (1897- 1899). Later, the membership began to worship in the Reform Hall.

Subsequently, the Reverend Scott Wallace (1899-1905), and the Reverend Griffin W. Bailey (1905-1911) became pastors.

A stone church was built at 121 Central Avenue, Plainfield, and a heating system was installed.

During the tenure of Reverend D. Y. Campbell (1911-1922), a baptismal pool was constructed and the mortgage was paid in full.

After Reverend Denny W. Hoggard (1923-1934), known as “The Boy Preacher,” was called to the church, a pipe organ was installed, pews were purchased, and the flourishing membership actively participated in Calvary’s programs.

The following years, Reverend James Henry Billups (1935-1937) led the congregation during which time a pastor’s study was constructed.

Reverend Charles P. Harris (1938-1976) was called to lead the membership on February 1, 1938. During his tenure, many expansions, major renovations, (i.e. stained glass windows), and numerous improvements were made; and a building program was instituted.

Reverend Harris was the managing editor of the Calvary Voice, a monthly paper published by the church, to keep its members informed of all programs and activities of the church.

As the congregation grew, plans were made to expand the church on Central Avenue; however, the city of Plainfield needed the land (by eminent domain), so the church had to relocate.

On June 1, 1960, the officers negotiated the purchase of the Wesley United Methodist Church on Monroe Avenue at West Fourth Street for over $90,000.

On the first Sunday in October 1960, the congregation marched to the Monroe Avenue site. Because the church could not accommodate such a large congregation, the members worshipped in Fellowship Hall while making plans to build a new sanctuary.

The groundbreaking service for a new edifice was planned for May 7, 1967; and the cornerstone was laid on November 5, 1967. The members marched into the new edifice on September 15, 1968.

The new sanctuary featured the same beautiful stainedglass windows that had graced the former church on Central Avenue.

In 1970, the sanctuary was air-conditioned and later, the kitchen in Fellowship Hall was modernized.

Under Reverend Harris, the church steadily grew. Many new boards, church departments, and auxiliaries were organized. Some of those included the Deaconess Board, the Joint Board, the Junior Choir, the Junior Church, the Church Council, the Matrons Club, the Progressive Club, the Young Men’s Club, the Junior Usher Board, the Pastor’s Aid Club, the Flower Club, the Men’s Chorus, the Women’s Usher Chorus, the Young Peoples Choir, the Vacation Bible School, the Junior Missionaries, the Church Board of Christian Education, the Membership Training Class, and the Scholarship Committee; also, formed were a Sunday School, Deacon Board, Trustee Board, Senior Choir, Sunshine Club, Male Usher Board, Women’s Usher Board, and a Nurses Unit.

In 1972, the church organized a basketball team which was managed by Deacon Robert Gallmon. The team played with the Plainfield Recreation League until 1974. During the mid 1970’s, Calvary opened a Sunday Morning Nursery for children up to age five.

After the passing of Reverend Harris on December 11, 1976, Deacon Edward Keith, Chairman of the Deacon Board, with God’s grace and guiding hand, led the officers and members in continuing the work of the church until the Pastoral Search Committee found a new pastor.

Reverend Dr. William Gerald Howard (1979-2005) was called as pastor on January 1, 1979. During this time, a new parsonage was purchased (1980), the sanctuary was painted, new carpeting installed, and a ramp for the handicapped was constructed. A new Hammond organ was purchased and the church office was computerized.

Family Night was organized and held each month for The Calvary Family to share a variety of social activities with refreshments and fun.

Throughout his tenure, various ministries were established and tithing was emphasized. The Christian Education Ministry was organized and other ministries, including Bible Study Fellowship, Prayer Clusters, a Revitalized Nursery, Outreach Ministries, Transportation Ministry, and a Tape Ministry were instituted.

Youth activities included participation in the annual Plainfield Fourth of July parade, the formation of a cheerleading squad and steppers team headed by Sister Jenella Smith, and the basketball team was reestablished. The Young Adult Choir and the Gospel Chorus were formed under the direction of Deacon George Garrison.

With the continued support of Reverend Howard’s vision to build a Family Life Center, in 1984, the members and the pastor initiated plans to build a Family Life Center to replace the C. P. Harris Fellowship Hall. The groundbreaking service for the Center occurred on Sunday, May 26, 1996. 

The Calvary family witnessed the vision…”and they went forward with a mandate to build”. This building endeavor was to be completed in two phases. The fulfillment of this goal was realized in April 1998 with a Dedication Service for the completion of Phase I of the Family Life Center.

With the opening of the Family Life Center, space became available for the Monroe Avenue Family Development

Corporation (MAFDC), formed in 1995, to provide programs to the greater Plainfield community centered on Christian Family Living. Later, the MAFDC became a non-profit corporation with a mission to raise the quality of life in the community.

The corporation elected Robert H. Wilson as Chairperson, Deaconess Catherine Showe as Director, Arnold Hamm as Secretary, and Edna Jefferson as its Treasurer. The elected board voted to have a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) written to fund the various programs it would service. The Union County Board of Freeholders approved the grant to fund an after-school program which included a tutorial program for students in grades K through 9.

Deaconess Catherine Showe was hired as the first Director of the Young Achievers program. Sister Dorothy Wilson served as its second Director.

The MAFDC board secured about fifty used computers for the center. Sister Lisa and Brother Glenn Stewart volunteered to update and refurbish them for the use of the students.

The computer class, taught by Sister Stewart and Sister Edna Jefferson, was also made available twice a week in the evening to all church members. Because of the diligence of the MAFDC, the volunteers, and the teachers who gave of their time and talents to the after-school program, it became a resounding success.

During 1999-2000, the Bible Learning Center was established and utilized by the congregation, as well as the community.

As the new century began, the Deaconess Ministry led the way with the feeding of the homeless at the YMCA and Bible Study at Cedar Oaks Nursing Home.

Through the Missionary Ministry, the church supported the FISH organization which also fed, as well as housed, the homeless from the surrounding communities.

The Thanksgiving Outreach Ministry was organized by Sister Sarah Christmas to expand missionary efforts to displaced families and to develop a relationship with nursing homes throughout the year. A Prison Ministry was started to share the word of God and bring hope to inmates.

While assessing the needs of the community during the World Trade Center tragedy in 2001, Reverend Quincy Yarborough established a Grief Support Ministry that functioned year round.

2001 was also the year that a Praise Team was formed under the direction of Bro. Aaron Brown.

The Calvary Baptist Church has been blessed to have had men and women to share the Gospel message with the congregation over the years.

Reverend William G. Howard licensed Rev. Ollie Johnson in June 1982 and Minister Curtis Williams in 1996.

For the first time in its history, Calvary licensed three women to preach.

Pastor Howard licensed the first woman, Minister Dorothy Jean Jones in 1996, and Ministers Sonya Chrisp and Tene Howard in December 2002.

Essential to the development of the congregation was the revitalization of the Christian Education Ministry.

This ministry promotes and supports all of the teaching and training efforts of the church. Under Rev. Howard’s guidance, annual Church Retreats, Leadership Breakfasts and Bible Institutes were held.

In order to meet the challenges of our young people, a youth minister, Min. Rodney Franklin was added to the team. The Youth Church, Youth Choir, Junior Missionaries, Youth Retreat, Sunday school.

The combined Vacation Bible School with Mt. Olive Baptist Church continued to provide and strengthen the spiritual growth of our young people.

In 2004, Sister Robbyn Woolridge formed the first Youth Liturgical Dance Team. The Singles Ministry led by Sister Theresa Douglass, the Women’s Ministry led by Sister Arrie Carolyn Brown, the Couples Ministry led by Deacon Ben and Sister Carolyn Brown, and the Men’s Bible Fellowship led by Minister Paul Reynolds were formed to address the needs of the adult congregation.

Reverend Quincy Yarborough, Jr. served as Interim Pastor from January through August 2006. Under his leadership, the Women’s Fellowship Ministry was reinstated in May 2006; an Open House and Dedication Service for the completion of Phase II of the Family Life Center was held in June 2006; and the church website was developed and launched in October 2006.

Reverend Yarborough and his wife, Sister Phyllis Yarborough, retired and relocated to Virginia in the fall of 2006.

Reverend John R. Bowden, Jr.(2008-2014), was ordained December 9, 2007 at the Calvary Baptist Church of Morristown by Reverend Jerry M. Carter, Jr. Reverend Bowden was installed as pastor of The Calvary Baptist Church in Plainfield on February 10, 2008.

Since his arrival, he has reinvigorated the congregational life, streamlined the New Discipleship Ministry, introduced a Sunday morning Discovery I Bible Class, and transformed the Wednesday Night Prayer Service into a mindset of praise and worship, where the Word is delivered, followed by Bible Study.

Pastor Bowden has developed a ministerial staff which includes: one ordained minister, Reverend Bernice Johnson, one student minister, Brother Phillip Anderson, and Ministers Paul Reynolds, Tynicia Gee, and Terry Woolard whom he licensed on March 8, 2009; Minister Chalyce Bowden was licensed on July 17, 2011.

Youth Fun Night, known as “Da Spot,” was implemented to serve the young people of the church and community; and it continues to grow under the direction of Minister Tynicia Gee and several volunteers.

A Saturday morning Tutorial Program, led by Sister Margery Deane, was formed to offer supplemental instruction in Math and Reading for students in fourth through ninth grades. Brother Clifford Holmes, Sister Deneen Blow, Sister Ernestine Graves, and Sister Marietta Blow served as volunteer instructors and Sister Olivia Greene as a volunteer student helper.

The Youth Liturgical Dance Ministry was re-organized in June 2008 under the direction of Sister Tjameika Wilson. ‘‘In His Image,” an Adult Liturgical Dance Ministry, led by Sister Loretta D.Brown Barco, was formed in 2011 to glorify God, to usher in the Holy Spirit, and to express love, praise, and worship through creative movement and dance. Their first performance was on Women’s Day 2012. These dance ministries continue to offer praise on varied assigned Sundays.

The church has begun to address the needs of the community through the Overcomers Ministry, led by Sister Joyce Holman, which is transforming the lives of former substance abusers through prayerful outreach and consistent application of God’s word. The “Two Are Better Than One” Ministry, was organized by Sister DorisPerry, to give support and encouragement to those persons, survivors, families, friends, and care-givers coping with breast cancer or other chronic illnesses. Additional outreach endeavors included the co-ordination of twelve churches from the surrounding community to participate in a Prayer Vigil held in the church parking lot to evoke prayer for the needs of the community. This led to the partnership and support of, which provided training for our Prayer Warriors Ministry to become vessels of prayer. They now offer prayer daily to those in need via the telephone.