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Muncie's oldest Black Baptist church to celebrate 150th anniversary

·4 min read
Calvary Baptist Church, 1117 E. Jackson St., will celebrate its 150th anniversary during the worship service at 10:45 a.m. May 22, 2022.
Calvary Baptist Church, 1117 E. Jackson St., will celebrate its 150th anniversary during the worship service at 10:45 a.m. May 22, 2022.

MUNCIE, Ind. — Muncie's oldest Black Baptist church — a church that publicly denounced the Ku Klux Klan at the height of the KKK's power in Indiana — is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month.

Calvary Baptist Church, 1117 E. Jackson St., will celebrate a century and a half of worship and history during a service at 10:45 a.m. May 22. Pastor Maurice Reed of Bethel AME Church will be guest preacher for the service. Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will be guest lecturer. A native of Muncie, Wilkins was appointed to the court in Washington, D.C., in 2014.

History of Calvary Baptist Church

According to a history of the church, it was organized as the Second Baptist Church of Muncie in May 1872, with a congregation of eight who worshipped in the home of members William and Sarah Jones, a log cabin at the corner of Jackson and Beacon streets.

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An early newspaper mention of the church appeared in The Muncie Morning News in August 1879, with an item reporting the church would hold "a basket pic-nic at the old fairground. ... Good speakers from Indianapolis and other places will be present."

By then, the membership had grown to 56, and the church bought its first location at 1115 E. Jackson Street, where a frame church was built in 1881, according to the church history. Construction of a larger building started 1901. An article in The Muncie Sunday Star on Sept. 17, 1905, invited local citizens to a full day of services, music and dedication of the new building on East Jackson Street, noting, "The church will be known as the Calvary Baptist Church."

Calvary Baptist Church, on East Jackson Street between Beacon and Grant streets, in shown in this 1916 photo taken by 	
Otto Sellers.
Calvary Baptist Church, on East Jackson Street between Beacon and Grant streets, in shown in this 1916 photo taken by Otto Sellers.

During a church service in late September 1922, a donation of $40 was presented to the church by a representative of the Muncie Ku Klux Klan who "asserted that the klan was not opposed to the colored race, but that it was working for both the 'colored and the white out of a feeling of brotherly love,'" The Muncie Evening Press reported more than week later.

The church put the startling donation on hold until it could have an official business meeting at which a resolution was adopted to mail back the funds with the explanation "that we could not under the unpleasant circumstances receive the money." A statement from the church published in the local newspaper denounced both the KKK and a subsequent critical account of the donation in the Indianapolis Ledger that had been headlined, "Church OK's Klan": "Therefore, we the members of the Calvary Baptist Church wish to refute the report broadcasted by our enemies that this Church or its pastor, the Reverend T.W.H. Gibson, have or do now indorse the Ku Klux Klan. Instead we do hereby condemn the organization as being un-American and unfriendly to the Negro race."

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Building renovations, changes over the years

The church building was redecorated and updated over the years, and in the 1950s a building fund was started and land to the west acquired for a parking lot, according to church history.

Plans for a new church, recognizing that the longtime building "had outlived its usefulness," began in the mid-1960s, the church history recounts.

Calvary Baptist Church, now in its third building, will celebrate its 150th anniversary on May 22, 2022.
Calvary Baptist Church, now in its third building, will celebrate its 150th anniversary on May 22, 2022.

After seven years of fundraising, on Sunday, Aug. 18, 1974, the final morning service was held at the old church, and the congregation marched to the new brick church next door for the first regular service there, according to church history and a Muncie Star article. The old building — from which stained glass windows had been transferred to the new church — was demolished in 1975.

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Since then, the church has continued to update and adapt its facility and programming, including briefly suspending its worship services in 2020 at the start of COVID-19 lockdowns for the first time in its history before switching to virtual programs, and, by 2022, a combination of in-person and virtual services.

Calvary Baptist Church, 1117 E. Jackson St., will celebrate its 150th anniversary during the worship service at 10:45 a.m. May 22.
Calvary Baptist Church, 1117 E. Jackson St., will celebrate its 150th anniversary during the worship service at 10:45 a.m. May 22.

Contact content coach Robin Gibson at ragibson@gannett.com or 765-213-5855. Follow her on Twitter @RobinGibsonTSP.

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Oldest Black Baptist church in Muncie to celebrate 150th anniversary