History of Calvary Baptist Church

Calvary Baptist Church was founded in 1879, just 13 years after the Civil War, by a small group of formerly enslaved Africans who migrated from Louisa County, Virginia, seeking freedom and opportunity and settled in Linwood, Pennsylvania, just a mile across the Chester, PA, city limits.

Among the cherished freedoms they sought was the freedom to worship and serve God.  To that end, they soon began to meet in small groups at each other’s homes for prayer services.  The first services were held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Basil Thompson in 1875, but as the group continued to grow, they thought it was better to organize and search for property to build a church that would be more suitable for worship services.

During their search, they learned of a wealthy, philanthropical family of Upland named Crozer who endeavored to underwrite the building of institutions denoted to the perpetuation of the Baptist faith.  The Crozers were benefactors to a number in institutions, including Upland Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Chester, Crozer Hospital, Crozer Theological Seminary, Crozer Park, and Bucknell University.

Led by the Thompson family, they approached a member of the Crozer family, Samuel A. Crozer, with an appeal for a donation to aid in their building a church.  Samuel A. Crozer, not only gave them the money to purchase the land, but also $4,000 to build the edifice that stands today on Second and Baker Streets in Chester, PA, which seats 250.  On August 10, 1879, the First African Baptist Church of Chester, PA was founded and later changed its name to Calvary Baptist Church.

In 1933, Calvary Baptist Church called Rev. Dr. J. Pius Barbour to be its Pastor.  Dr. Barbour, Calvary’s longest tenured Pastor, pastored Calvary from 1933 -1974.  During his tenure, Dr. Barbour and the members of Calvary served as a watch care and provided Calvary Baptist Church as the training ground for seminarians of Crozer Theological Seminary and welcomed as Sons of Calvary, many seminary students such as Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Harold A. Cantor, Sr., Dr. William Augustus Jones, Dr. Charles E. Booth, Dr. Amos C. Brown, Dr. J. Wendell Mapson, Jr., Dr. John Scott, Dr. Earl Tolbert, and Dr. Wallace C. Smith, to name a few.  Today, the historic Calvary Baptist Church remains a vital and integral part of the City of Chester and vicinity through its various ministries such as Christian education, weekly food distribution, and civic and community engagement programs.

Calvary Baptist Church has been blessed over the years following the legendary leadership of Rev. Dr. J. Pius Barbour to have called such pastoral leaders as Rev. Dr. Wallace C. Smith, Rev. Dr. Kirk Byron Jones, Rev. Dr. Tommie Jackson, Rev. Dr. Bayard S. Taylor, and now Rev. Keith D. Dickens, who on October 16, 2022, was called to serve as Calvary Baptist Church’s 17th Pastor, along with his wife, Aquanetta L. Dickens, as First Lady.  Rev. Dickens continues in a long line of servant leaders to lead the historic Calvary Baptist Church with a vision of connecting, pursuing, and building a 21st century church that is committed to God and AGAPE love, and sharing the whole gospel to the world that is beyond imagination and a mission according to Matthew 28:18-20.

Calvary Baptist Church’s weekly Sunday services begins with Sunday School at 9:15am and Worship Service at 10:30am.  It is located on 1616 W. 2nd Street, Chester, PA  19013.  All are welcome!

This year (2023) marks the church’s 144th anniversary.  Calvary’s theme is “We’ve Come This Far by Faith”.

Calvary Baptist Church is proudly affiliated with the Progressive National Baptist Church Convention and the Philadelphia Baptist Association of the American Baptist Churches, USA, the most ethnically diverse Protestant denomination in North America.

For more information about Calvary Baptist Church, please visit calvarybaptistchester.com or call (610) 874-6717.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.