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Calvary Baptist celebrates 120 years of serving both the African American community and the wider community

Calvary Baptist Church celebrates its 120th anniversary with a banquet at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Whitworth University Hixon Union Building and a service on “It’s Not About Us, God Is Still in Charge” at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14.

V. Anne Smith
V. Anne Smith

Founders attended First Baptist Church of Spokane Falls, sitting in the balcony, until they decided after a sermon on Feb. 9, 1890 to start their own church.  On Feb. 16, 1890, it became the first African-American church in Spokane and in Washington state—closely followed by Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in April 1890.

In 1895, the church moved from its first building at Pines St. and Fourth Ave. to 168 S. Howard, in 1897 to 426 E. Third and then to its present location at 213 (now 203) E. Third Ave.
Its 14 pastors range from the Rev. J. P. Brown, an early pioneer who moved from Roslyn, Wash., and presided over the founding, to the Rev. C. W. (Chet) Andrews, Sr., who has served the church since 1974.

V. Anne Smith, who joined the church when she came to Spokane in 1968, listed the pastors:  P. B. Barrows, E. Hares, C. S. Smith, l, Esters, F. Bailey, J.P. Beckham, S.H. Wilson and J. McPherson, who served from 1895 to 1919. 

The Rev. Emmett Reed, who came from Butte, Mont., served 42 years from then until his death in 1961, followed by M. L. Daw, A. O. Mills and Leon Garcia, before Chet. 

Emmett led efforts to build a new sanctuary.  Ground was broken in 1927.  Through the Great Depression, members paid off the debt by donating 25 or 50 cents at a time and by holding chicken dinners, said V. Anne.  They celebrated paying off their mortgage by buying new pews. 
He also helped organize the North Pacific Regional Baptist Convention.

The church, which affiliates with both the American Baptist and National Baptist USA churches, was the “mother” church for Morningstar and New Hope Baptist churches, she said.

V. Anne said Calvary has been important in the black community as a place for social gatherings, club meetings, lodges and a USO for servicemen and families.

“For many years, the church housed the charter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),” added V. Anne, who is local chapter president.  “During the Civil Rights years, the church was the meeting place for rallies on human rights and justice.”

Under Leon Garcia, she said the church opened the first HeadStart program in Spokane in Calvary’s basement.  He also brought the Opportunities Industrial Council federal job program to the city.

Under Chet, the church has served the poor and marginalized, starting the Storehouse in the former parsonage to provide clothing and food, and recently opening a soup kitchen for hungry, homeless people. 

A supporter of the ordination of women, he ordained Rachell Williams, the first African American Baptist woman pastor in Spokane, in 1989, V. Anne reported. 

The church has also been involved in building churches in Kenya, relating ecumenically with local churches and having ties to Whitworth University, where Chet teaches some classes, V. Anne said.


For information, call 838-8817.