Our Early History

For several years, a company of believers discussed the need for a church to carry on their activities [summer evangelistic meetings, weekly Bible studies, Bible and Missionary Conferences, prayer meetings, children's meetings.] The group gathered in homes for prayer, seeking God's will. They consulted several conference speakers who encouraged them and offered wise counsel.

In April of 1936, a meeting was called for decision making and 44 people signed a statement expressing support for the project. They affirmed that they believed there was a need for such a church in Lancaster, and that it was God's time to move to that end. They spent a day fasting and praying, seeking guidance from the Lord. It was a solemn day which ended in oneness of spirit and full assurance to proceed.

The first step was to select a pastor. This required much deliberation. The first consideration was the gift of teaching the entire Word of God. Secondly, he had to be vitally concerned for the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

Reverend Frank C. Torrey, pastor of Calvary Independent Church in Altoona and a conference speaker, was unanimously chosen. A call was extended. He came to Lancaster to discuss with the group faith and practice of the proposed church. He ultimately accepted the call and moved to Lancaster on February 1, 1937.

Morning and evening services had begun in a rented room at the Y.M.C.A. on February 7, 1937. Weekly prayer meetings were held in homes throughout the city.

Ground was broken on donated land at the corner of Duke and Frederick Streets in Lancaster. Money was scarce in those waning days of the Great Depression but God is faithful to answer prayer. The congregation was of one heart and soul, and by the first anniversary it was paid for.

On Wednesday, September 8, 1937, membership was established at the first meeting in the new building. Each one present stood to give testimony to personal faith in Jesus Christ. The church charter was granted on December 31, 1937. The 95 members received during that year were considered to be "charter members". On the following Sunday, the building was dedicated to the Lord for His service.

The Missionary Program
The founding pastor of Calvary Independent Church believed that "Missions is a matter of life and death for the local church. The missionary enterprise is well defined in Scripture. It is the love of God in action. It is the stewardship of life, gospel, prayer and money. It is preaching and teaching. It is Christ Himself." This was the strong conviction also of the founding fathers of the church.

As far back as 1932, the missionary enterprise held a large place in the thinking and planning of those who initiated the church. It was the firm conviction of the charter members that, right from the start, there must be a missionary program if the church were to fulfill the New Testament pattern of sending forth missionaries and sustaining them by prayer and financial support. In 1937, the first missionary went out to Africa. Each successive year, with three exceptions, some were sent forth. Just as important as those who went were those who remained to hold the ropes by prayer and financial support.

An annual eight-day Bible and Missionary Conference was begun in March, 1936. In 1938, it became part of the church program. Many missionaries from all over the world have become guests of the conference through the years of its ministry. They were entertained in the homes of members and friends.

The purpose of the conference was two-fold: First, to present to the congregation the world's need for a knowledge of the Savior and challenge for missions. Second, to bring refreshment to the guests through Bible ministry, thus the name: Bible and Missionary Conference.

By the end of 15 years, Calvary Independent Church at Duke Street was filled. Its Sunday School was overflowing into every available space including four neighboring houses. In 1945, the church purchased a large building at the corner of Duke and Lemon Streets with the intent of building there. But the lot was obviously not large enough to allow for future expansion and parking. So, a new site offering six acres was purchased at the corner of Pleasure and Esbenshade Roads. Ground was broken on February 4, 1951. The church was completed in little more than a year. It was dedicated on April 6, 1952.

In 1960, transcepts were added to the sides of the church auditorium. This expanded the seating capacity and made space for six Sunday School classes on the main floor. In the basement of the transcepts, Junior and Senior High departments met for Sunday school.

Pastor Torrey retired on December 31, 1962. The Reverend J. David Harrison, associate pastor, was appointed interim pastor.

A call was extended to the Reverend Eric G. Crichton to become the second pastor of Calvary Independent Church. He accepted the call and moved to Lancaster in April, 1964 from Toronto, Ontario, where he had been pastoring the Willowdale Baptist Church. He began his new ministry on May 1, 1964 and continued for twenty-three years.

Under the new pastor's leadership, the ministry continued to grow and the Sunday school increased. Expansion was inevitable. [Additions were built in 1970 & 1977]

In 1982, a second church service was begun, beginning at 8:15 a.m. each Sunday morning.

Pastor Crichton retired at the end of April 1987 and entered an itinerant ministry of Bible teaching. The Reverend Walter S. Jackson was appointed as interim pastor.

During the fifty years of Calvary Independent Church, its Sunday school enrollment grew from 70 to 1,695 active members. Membership of the church rose from 95 charter members to 1,780.

The Reverend David D. Allen, Jr., was elected by vote of the congregation to become the third pastor of Calvary Independent Church. He accepted the call and moved to Lancaster in July, 1988, to take up his duties on August 1 that year. He had been formerly a pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Mesa, Arizona.


A copy of this document in its entirety is available at the Welcome Center or at the church office.

The following is an excerpt from the document,

The History of Calvary Independent Church, 1937-1987,
compiled by Alice M. Rohrer.