100 years 08.2020
Originally written and researched by the Late Robert L. Leake
in honor of Men and Women’s Day, October 28, 2001
Updated April 1, 2019
In the 1920’s there were very few African Americans in the Venice-Santa Monica area. Phillips Chapel Colored Methodist Episcopal Church located at 4th and Bay Street,s, is the oldest African American church in Santa Monica. There was no division between churches but there was a need for an African American Baptist church in this area.
August 3, 1920, having been led by the spirit, the following group of dedicated Christians met at the residence of Brother and Sister S.L. Nicholas, (1558 17th Street), for the sole purpose of organizing an African American Baptist Church. Present were Rev. W.R. Carter, superintendent of Negro Work of the Southern California Baptist Convention, Rev. W.R. Wade, General Missionary of the Western Baptist State Convention of California, Brother and Sister S.L. Nicholas, Sister M.L Nelson, Sister M. Smith, Sister M. Dudley, Sister S. Brown, Sister A.J. Milan, Brother Alex Brown, Sister Carter and Sister Eva Burks. This group immediately took the first steps in organizing Calvary Baptist Church. Dr. W.R. Carter was chosen as moderator and advisor.
Sunday morning, August 10, 1920, one week after their first meeting, these few Christians marched into the church for their first worship service. The spirit was high and God was given the glory and praise. At this first church service Sister Dell Dansby joined the church. Many departments were organized, namely, the Missionary Society, the Deacon and Deaconess Boards, the Ushers, the Choir, the Sunday School, the Baptist Training Union and others. All of these faithful few members contributed their time and finances in order to purchase this property. Sister Burks cooked and sold many dinners to raise the necessary finances to augment the treasury. The Rev. Frank James was called and became the first pastor. He pastored for a period of years and was followed by Rev. Burbridge, Rev. McGriff, Rev. William Augustus Jones (twice), Rev. Leath and then by Rev. Welford P. Carter, who was called to be the pastor in June, 1939.
Realizing that this new church must comply with the articles of incorporation for a religious non-profit corporation in the State of California, after many meetings, the church voted to send the by-laws to the Secretary of State. They were sent and immediately approved in 1924.
These faithful charter members knew that if Jesus would lead them, they had nothing to fear. Calvary flourished in the knowledge that the church’s foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord. Thanks be unto God, the property at 1531 6th Street was paid off. Again, to God be the glory.
After the earthquake of 1933, Calvary rented a place on 20th Street and Olympic Blvd., and worshiped there for a while. The Board of Directors found and put down a payment on the old Humphrey Hall located at 20th and Delaware, consisting of three lots. Services were held downstairs until the upstairs, where there were three apartments, became vacant. The congregation then moved upstairs. This permitted Calvary Baptist to rent out downstairs to a grocery store, barbershop and another business. Under the leadership of Rev. Welford P. Carter, who was adept as a financier paying off debts., and keeping the church solvent, the property at 20th and Delaware was paid off in 1941.
In December of 1941, the membership of Calvary Baptist Church of Santa Monica was close to 600 people. Under the leadership of Rev. W.P. Carter, in 1942, seven lots were purchased on the southwest corner of 20th and Broadway.
The lots were full of weeds and wild mustard greens, and the ladies of Calvary Baptist Church used to pick them and cook them with good old fashioned seasoning. The indebtedness of 20th and Broadway was liquidated in 1945. The parsonage at 1901 19th Street and the lot at 1907 19th Street were purchased. The membership by this time was almost 1200. Praise to God again, our beautiful sanctuary at 20th and Broadway was erected and dedicated in 1947. In June 1957, an offer was made to Calvary to sell the property where the first church was located, namely on 1531 6th Street. On September 20, 1957, escrow was closed. In 1954, construction of the Christian education center began. In 1955, the educational center was built and the cornerstone was laid. In May 15, 1960, the center was renamed the “Welford P. Carter Education Center” in honor of Rev. Welford P. Carter.
After our beloved Pastor, Rev. Welford P. Carter, transitioned from this life to life with our Saviour, Calvary sojourned with the following Pastoral under-shepherds: Rev. Dr. Henry H. Mitchell (1965 - 1969), Rev. Dr. Clarence J. Davis (1969-1984), Rev. Robert Lee DeFrance (1984-1994), Rev. Joseph P. Metoyer (1994-1999), Rev. Herman Kemp (2003 – 2009) and Interim Pastor, Rev. Robert L. Shipp, Sr.(2013 - 2018). Each of these pastors shared of their love for God as they served the flock.
On Sunday, November 4, 2018, the Calvary Baptist Church family took great pride in installing Rev. Lemuel “Mack” Mossett, III as Spiritual Leader and Under-shepherd. Pastor Mossett is a loving servant of God and His people, who seeks to lead with passion, honor and commitment.
August 2019, we celebrated 99 years of the Lord’s blessings. We continue to worship, render praise, and serve our Lord with gladness on the corner of 20th Street and Broadway in Santa Monica, California, and look forward to our 100th Anniversary Celebration in August, 2020!