Calvary Baptist Church. The structure we think of today as the Calvary Baptist Church was built in 1922-1923 at the northeast corner of Walnut and E. 2nd, immediately north of the Monarch/Canton Hotel. The August 12, 1923, Oklahoman article below reported on the building's progress:


But, the history of the congregation which became known as Calvary Baptist Church has roots going much further back than 1923. In fact, the roots trace back to Tennessee. According to this July 25, 1980, Oklahoman article (as well as other sources), "the Calvary Baptist Church originated in three small Tennessee communities of Castalian Springs, Durhan and Gallatin. When families at the three community churches caught word of the 1889 land run in Indian Territory, they headed for what became the Oklahoma City area. In October 1890, the Tennessee settlers merged with a small black Oklahoma City congregation to conducte services at an old store building at NW 2 and Hudson. Before reaching its current location on N Walnut, the church's name and location were changed twice."

The first mention made of Calvary Baptist in the Daily Oklahoman was in the October 25, 1912, article at the right. The article doesn't say where the church was located at the time, but it was presumably not at E 2nd & Walnut. A crop of the 1922 Sanborn Map Company map, below, shows that the property was then occupied by five small buildings, none of which is identified as a church. I presume that "D" means "dwelling" in the map:



The Daily Oklahoman tended to report more on church activities in the black community than it did other elements of the black community's life such as commerce, business, or entertainment, and those reports reflect that Calvary Baptist was very involved in all sorts of activies in the black community. An example is this 1942 event involving a statewide convention of black bands shown at the right. After the bands' parade through Deep Deuce and, yes, downtown Oklahoma City, the church served as the concert hall closing event of the activities.

Another example is the August 31, 1939, article which reported on the 39th annual convention of the National Negro Business League when met at the church over the 2-day meeting. One of the speakers was P.H. James, president of the Jay Cola Bottling Works, Oklahoma City. (For more about the latter company, click here for a short article.)

This article (you may have to press F5 after clicking the link) by Jana C. Hausburg at the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library website notes that, "Most graduation ceremonies of Douglass High School were held in Calvary´s sanctuary until a new school building was constructed in 1934 at Fifth and High streets."

Ultimately, the church became most known for its involvement with social/racial equality issues, black ministers having long railed against racial injustice as you will see in the related articles for other Deep Deuce churches as well as this one. Calvary Baptist the drew the distinction of hosting the 1952 meeting of the NAACP, as noted in the June 16, 1952, Oklahoman article below. Notables as Walter Reuther, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, and to-become Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall addressed the delegates.
May 9, 1942



Credit the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System
for this 1952 photo at Calvary Baptist during the NCAAP Convention
See Larry Johnson's article at the MLS website (you may have to press F5 after clicking)

And, of course, the church served as the rallying point for civil rights marches led by Clara Luper and others from 1958 into the early 1960s. For much more about those marches, see this part of the John A. Brown article.

For a good July 25, 1980, Oklahoman article reviewing Calvary Baptist's history through the article's July 25, 1980, date, click here.

Calvary Baptist was damaged badly by the April 19, 1995, Murrah Bombing, damages exceeding $1,400,000. The church vowed that it would survive, as shown in May 1, 1995, Oklahoman article here. The church's insurance only covered about $160,000 of the damage. However, the City had been granted federal relief to distribute to groups owning property damaged by the bombing, and churches suchs St. Joseph's, 1st Methodist, St. Pauls, and Calvary Baptist received rebuilding assistance. Calvary Baptist was granted $1.4 million, as shown at the right.

The church did get rebuilt (although apparently with serious construction flaws -- see the end of the article). For other articles associated with the church's rebuilding, see the following Oklahoman articles: July 23, 1995 and January 1, 1998.
October 16, 1996

Calvary Baptist Church was listed with the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and the photo below shows its appearance while it remained Calvary Baptist Church:


In late 2001, something unexpected to the community at large happened: The historic name of Calvary Baptist Church was voluntarily thrown away. Earlier, I had supposed that the building was merely acquired by a "new" church organization which sometimes happens, but that was not the case. Under the leadership of Pastor Phillip Davis, after the congregation's long and noble history as Calvary Baptist Church, the church's denominational flavor changed from Baptist to Pentestocal and the church's name was changed by the congregation to Covenant Life Family Worship Center. The historic sinage on the building was taken down. Council Member Willa Johnson (and many others in the city) were not impressed.

November 9, 2001


Since Baptist churches are not ordinarily part of a hierarchical organization which has at least some say if not control about what local congregations want to or will do with their property but, instead, Baptist churches are commonly individual churches which are wholly owned and controlled by their individual congregations, certainly it was the congregation's right and privelege to make that choice. What is odd, at least to me, is that Rev. Phillip Davis, presumably a Baptist at the time of the Murrah Bombing since he was then the associate pastor of the church, is the son of Rev. James Davis, who was the senior pastor during the time of the Murrah Bombing, and it must be presumed that he was a Baptist, also. After the father's death, the son became the church's senior minister, and it was under his leadership that the historic ties were severed for unexplained cause other than what one might reasonably surmise from the character change from Baptist to Pentecostal. In the above article, it was said that the signage would be preserved, but that does not appear to be the case.
As this article is written, the days of Calvary Baptist Church, whatever it is called today, may be numbered. According to the Oklahoman article at the right, Rev. Davis says that contractor repairs during the Murrah Bombing were poorly performed and that new damages to the building have occurred which would require $2 million to repair and that the property is on the market for sale at $1.2 million. Part of the article reads,
      "It would take at least a couple million dollars to renovate the building," which the church doesn't have, he said.
      "I wouldn't fault a man for moving if he had that extensive amount of damage to his home. It's a must-do."
* * *
      Davis said about four years ago, plaster began falling from the sanctuary ceiling and other water damage became evident. He said church leaders think the water problems were caused by work done during the renovation and filed a claim to get the construction firm that did the work to pay for the damage.
      The church's hopes for legal resolution came to an end about 18 months ago when the Oklahoma Supreme Court said the lawsuit was not filed in a timely manner, Davis said.
      "I don't know what else we could have done. It's damage that was not caused by us," he said.
The article said that the congregation was then Pentecostal in its religious orientation and, so, one might fairly speculate that they didn't want to be called Baptists any longer and wanted a fresh start, spiriting away the past so to speak -- and hence the name change. Average Sunday attendance was said to be between 150 and 200 people. "God works in mysterious ways," some claim. Draw your own conclusions. I have my own.
March 7, 2009



Depending upon both (1) if a purchaser is willing to pay $1.2 million for the property and (2) whether such a purchaser would be interested in restoration rather than residential or commercial development, the last surviving and most historically relevant Deep Deuce church may go the way of the rest. If so, what's the cost to the city? Huge history loss as well as $1.4 million dollars improvidently spent ... unless ... the current owners cut a mighty hefty check to the city from the windfall sale proceeds and, then, I too might, but would probably not, agree that, "God does indeed work in mysterious ways." Why the hesitation and reserve? The loss to the Oklahoma City black community's history as well as to that of the entire city is immeasurable and $1.2 or $1.4 million doesn't begin to cover the tab on the value of Calvary Baptist Church to our citizens, both black and white.
This is one of 6 churches presently covered in the Deep Deuce area of the Vintage Map. Use the links below to rotate between them, if you wish. The others are . . .

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