Calvary’s History

Serving the Winston-Salem community since 1876, when summer services were held outdoors on the church grounds, Calvary Moravian Church today continues her witness as the “downtown Moravian Church.” The first sanctuary was completed in 1889.The Church in Salem, true to the traditional Moravian avoidance of “poaching” on the membership of other churches, declined to expand into the newer town of Winston with its established Methodist and Baptist Churches. But as more and more Moravians moved into Winston, Home Moravian Church was presented with the obvious problem of serving its own people, who by now were faced with fairly long journeys to get to church. Also there were other souls to be reached that, for whatever reason, were not being reached by Winston churches.

So in 1876, a tentative first step was taken: Outdoor benches were placed in a clearing on the “Reservation” and during the summer, theological students and recent graduates from Moravian Theological Seminary conducted evangelistic services. Thus the seed was planted for Calvary.

In October of 1877, The Rev. Edward Rondthaler was driving his buggy accompanied by Bishop Emil DeSchweinitz through woods of the Moravian reservation and commented, “wouldn’t this be a nice place for a church – if we had one in Winston?”

In the next years, the Salem Congregation decided to begin a Moravian work in Winston. By mid –August of 1888 the site was selected, land cleared and the foundations staked off. Fogle Brothers undertook the building. Its cost would be $10,000.00. The cornerstone was laid on September 23, 1888 and in the Salem Congregation Memorabilia on December 31, 1888, Bishop Rondthaler would report, “Our own handsome Moravian chapel In Winston is now under roof.”

By 1914 the congregation had grown to the point that the interior of Old Calvary had to be rearranged to provide yet more seats. This was done and the seating capacity became 675.

Rev. Edmund P. Schwarze came to Calvary in 1916, and when he retired in 1950 had at that time the longest service to one congregation of any Moravian pastor.

Under his capable and dedicated pastoral leadership the congregation grew numerically and spiritually, leading to the building of yet another sanctuary in 1926. The old Calvary Church was razed and on April 4, 1926, Easter Sunday, the new structure was formally opened at a cost of $186,000.00.

As was standard Moravian practice, the new sanctuary was not dedicated until the mortgage was paid in full. Therefore Calvary’s formal dedication was held on Sunday, January 25, 1931 with the Rt. Rev. Edward Rondthaler officiating at the service of dedication. Incidentally, this was the Bishop’s last official act, since he died 6 days later at the age of 88.

You will notice in the photograph that there is no clock in the church belfry. As it worked out, Winston-Salem’s Old City Hall (located where the Reynolds Building is today) was being razed. Louis Owen, a member of Home Church and the Traffic Manager of Reynolds Tobacco Company bought the clock and gave it to Calvary. All we had to do was install it. When it was announced that the town clock would become a part of Calvary the newspaper rejoiced that “ when Third Street is extended as planned”, the Church would be on an important corner and “practically in the heart of the city.” The newspaper continued to extol the elevated location of Calvary Church and was delighted the sound of its bell would continue to be heard in the heart of Winston-Salem.

The Seth Thomas Clock Company had built the clock itself as number 739 in a series. The same company was contacted to supervise the installation of the clock and happily they were able to fit it into the belfry where from a height of 74 1/2 feet it could be heard and seen a substantial distance. It was no small job: The clock face alone measures sixty three inches in diameter.

Having been served by faithful leaders including The Rev. Arthur D. Thaler, The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Crosland, The Rev. Kenneth G. Hamilton, The Rev. Edmund Schwarze, The Rev. John W. Fulton, The Rev. John S. Goserud, The Rev. C. Truett Chadwick, The Rev. Mervin C. Weidner, The Rev. J. Calvin Barnes, The Rev. David R. Burkette, The Rev. Henry E. May, Jr., The Rt. Rev. James C. Hughes, The Rev. Gary T. Marsh, and currently, The Rt. Rev. Lane A. Sapp, associate pastors and educators, Calvary continues to honor its tradition of excellence in ministry.

The Congregation has long been noted for inspirational and creative worship, an outstanding program of music, Sunday School for all ages, a caring fellowship and varied opportunities of service to the congregation and local community. In these ways, Calvary has responded to its call to faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Having now entered into its second century of ministry, Calvary and its membership look forward to continuing in service to the Lord in a way that celebrates the past and is open to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit for the future. Our history reveals a deep desire to serve “the present age,” an “age” that is always before us.

Hamilton C. Horton. Calvary Moravian Church Centennial History 1893-1993.
History of Calvary Moravian Church, 1993 Church Directory.

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