“Old Calvary”

Salem congregation, earlier of two minds as to whether a new Moravian presence in Winston would be perceived by the churches already there as competition, finally chose to start a new work—assured that the principal need was by those in the new town who were already Moravian and who desired a nearer Moravian chapel in which to worship their Lord through the noble cadences of the traditional litany and liturgies, and the sturdy Bach-inspired hymns of their forefathers. The Salem congregation appointed a committee on June 4, 1888 to select a location for the new work.By mid-August of that year, a site had been selected, land cleared, and the foundations staked off. Fogle Brothers (an old line Moravian construction firm) undertook the building. The cost was to be $10,000.00.

The brick walls of old Calvary were laid by a master brick mason, Charles Fetter, later a member of Calvary. The cornerstone was laid on September 23, 1888 and in the Memorabilia on December 31, 1888, Bishop Rondthaler could report,

“Our own handsome Moravian chapel in Winston will soon be under roof.”

Interior, Old Calvary, 1903

But while the architecture, the walls and the very fabric of old Calvary were solid as those built more than 100 years earlier in Wachovia, there were elements you and I might miss: There were no lights when we first began. One Brother might bring a lantern, another a lamp, another a candle to light the sanctuary for evening services. These would be placed on a long table in the front of the sanctuary and then the service could begin.

Indeed, after one evening service at old Calvary Bishop Rondthaler lost his way in the dense forest of the Winston reservation surrounding Calvary and feared he would have to spend the night in the woods (finally he found a foot path and was able to make his way home).

The footprint of the sanctuary of old Calvary was a bit north of the present church.

Interior, Old Calvary Decorated for Palm Sunday, 1924

Calvary was very much an integral part of the Salem congregation. Bishop Rondthaler himself preached at Calvary every other Sunday and at Home Church on alternate Sundays. The saying was that, early on, more people came to Calvary in the south door (i.e. from Salem) than in the north door (from Winston). Largely because the Salem congregation encouraged its members to affiliate with the new Calvary chapel, many of our present families came to Calvary from the Home Church because of Bishop Rondthaler’s urging.

Sunday School was an important part of the Christian church back then, as now. And James Lineback, promoter of Sunday Schools throughout the Province, spent much of his time developing the Calvary Chapel Sunday School.

By 1889, the new church building was ready to be dedicated. And on December 10, 1889 Bishop Rondthaler dedicated “Calvary” Chapel. He had chosen the name. The new sanctuary had a seating capacity of 350. Brother James Lineback reported the Sunday School had 100 members at that time. Indeed, the dedication was the “chief event of the year” in Bishop Rondthaler’s 1889 memorabilia. He stated that the

“dedication service elicited the cordial good wishes
of all the other denominations of Christians situated in the neighbourhood”

and added

“it has already secured the active service of members
living too far away from the Home Church to be, as a rule, very active here…”

The Southern Province of the Moravian Church was apparently still uncertain how to grapple with new congregations: Should they be independent as were the rural congregations, or should they remain, connected to the mother congregation in Salem? Bishop Rondthaler opted for the latter. In his memorabilia of 1890 he emphasized the need for strict unity of the congregation throughout the limits of Salem and Winston, noting that this would mean a “principle that we have one congregation in several distinct fields of activity… one house with many chapels.” 1

The first marriage at Old Calvary occurred on October 29, 1891 when Miss Bertha Rayle married Mr. Nixon Padgett.

In March of 1891 Sunday School Superintendent James Lineback could report that two confirmations had sprung from the October week of prayer conducted by Calvary.

  1. His concept endures today in the “Salem congregation,” within which each church in the traditional city limits of Winston-Salem has representatives on the Central Board of Trustees, has burial privileges in God’s Acre, and thus exists as one amorphous and extended congregation.

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