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Calvary Baptist celebrating 50 years

Calvary Baptist Church will celebrate 50 years of worship Sunday and anticipate people who have roots in the church to come back for the celebration.

Associate Pastor Neil Rogers said pastors, song directors, Sunday school teachers and other former Calvary members will be on hand to honor the church’s dedication to spreading the gospel.

“We are bringing everyone back that was once involved in the church in the past to come and fellowship with us Sunday morning and celebrate 50 years of following the Lord as a church,” he said. “We usually have around 500 people at a normal Sunday morning service, but I believe that number will jump close to 700 for our anniversary celebration.”

A group of young people in the late 1950s got together and held a Vacation Bible School in a rent-free home.

The home, which belonged to Dr. Price Clayton, was located on North Jackson Street in the northern part of Russellville.

The VBS turned out to be a great success and from that a Sunday School was organized with a Samford University ministerial student preaching an 11 p.m. service every Sunday.

After the passing of Clayton, the property was no longer available for worship, but another man named Ortho Scruggs had moved in to town and wanted to get a church started.

So Scruggs and Russellville resident at the time, Earnest Thornton, collaborated together to build a church from scratch. 

Original charter members Delano Lawrence and his wife, Dianne, serve as two of the first 18 in the early beginnings.

“There were members of the community who wanted to start their own church and we all wanted to serve the Lord together,” Delano Lawrence said. “So we organized as sort of a Bible school on Earnest Thornton’s back patio at first until we could purchase a piece of property.”

Lawrence said the church was pretty much just made from a group of people coming together just following the Lord’s guidance.

“We rented a house on Joe Wheeler Avenue until we could afford something better,” Lawrence said. “After a while the Lord led us to purchase some property on the corner of LaGrange Road and Highway 43 on the north end of town. We bought five acres and it was a big rock pile. If you have ever heard the old saying ‘Christ on the solid rock’ that is exactly what our church is built on top of, a solid rock lot. But we dug out and blasted those rocks and built our building.”

Calvary petitioned the Franklin County Baptist Association for membership and was accepted on October 9, 1960.

Lawrence said the first pastor of Calvary, Dossie Hamilton, who now lives in California, was called to lead the church about six months after it began.

Hamilton stayed with the church for four years and Lawrence said if it wasn’t for him having two hip-replacement surgeries he would be attending the celebration.

Lawrence said everything was done “simply by faith” and with a little help from the Franklin County Baptist Association and missionary pastor Bro. Charlie Thorn, Calvary was off and running.

“The reason why we have grown is because Jesus Christ planted a seed in every member’s heart to get out and visit with those who were lost and needed salvation,” Lawrence said. “With Christ, all things are possible and that is why we are where we are today.”

Pastor emeritus Bro. Joe Lenox, who served as pastor for more than 15 years, said current pastor Dr. Wade Wallace has helped the church grow even more over the past five years.

“There has been quite a few saved under his leadership and the church has definitely gotten bigger since he took over,” Lenox said. “Right now, we are actually considering expanding and making a children’s building.”

Lenox began his tenure at Calvary in 1984 and believes he will see a lot of familiar faces this Sunday.

“I hope to see a lot of folks that have spread out all over the country to make plans to attend the celebration,” he said. “I hope to see visitors come as well and learn about our church and come to know our savior Jesus Christ as Lord.”

Sunday school begins at 9:30 a.m. and worship will be at 10:30 a.m. A lunch will be provided following the service.

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