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103 years 08.2023

Our History

Originally written and researched by the Late Robert L. Leake

in honor of Men and Women’s Day, October 28, 2001

Updated August 12, 2021

In the 1920s, there were very few African Americans in the Venice-Santa Monica area.  Phillips Chapel Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 4th and Bay Streets, 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, a Spirit-led group of dedicated Christians met at the residence of Brother and Sister S.L. Nicholas to engage the organization of the Calvary Baptist Church, the first African American Baptist Church in the city of Santa Monica.  Dr. W.R. Carter, superintendent of Negro Work of the Southern California Baptist Convention, was chosen as moderator and advisor. Additionally present were Reverend 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. 

On Sunday, August 10, 1920, one week after the meeting in the Nicholas’ home, the small group marched into the church for their first worship service.  Sister Dell Dansby was the first to join the organized church at this Spirit-filled service.  Not long after, numerous ministries were organized, which include the Missionary Society, the Deacon and Deaconess Boards, Ushers, Choir, Sunday School, Baptist Training Union, and others. These faithful charter members contributed their time and finances in order to purchase the property, and Reverend Frank James was called as the first Pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church. He led the flock for a period of years. The church flourished, and thanks be unto God, the property at 1531 6th Street was paid off. In 1924, the church by-laws and articles of incorporation for a religious non-profit corporation were filed and approved. The pastorate of Reverend James was followed by Reverend Burbridge, Reverend McGriff, Reverend William Augustus Jones, who pastored twice, and Reverend Leath.


After the earthquake of 1933, Calvary rented a building on 20th Street and Olympic Boulevard until the Board of Directors found and put down a payment on, the old Humphrey Hall located at 20th and Delaware which consisted of three lots.  Services were held downstairs until the upstairs until the three upstairs apartments became vacant.  The congregation then moved upstairs, which allowed the rental of the downstairs spaces to a grocery store, barbershop, and another business.  Under the leadership of Reverend Welford P. Carter, who was elected Pastor in June of 1939, an adept financier, the property at 20th and Delaware was paid off in 1941. In 1942, seven lots were purchased on the southwest corner of 20th and Broadway. By 1945 this purchase was paid in full, and the parsonage at 1901 19th Street and the lot at 1907 19th Street were acquired. 


By this time, the membership had grown to nearly 1200.  In 1947, our beautiful sanctuary at 20th and Broadway was erected and dedicated, and in 1954, construction of the Christian Education Center began. It was completed one year later, and on May 15, 1960, the building was renamed the “Welford P. Carter Education Center” in honor of our beloved Pastor Carter. After Pastor Carter transitioned from earthly life to Glory with our Savior, Calvary sojourned under the Pastoral leadership of the following under-shepherds: Reverend Dr. Henry H. Mitchell (1965 – 1969), Reverend Dr. Clarence J. Davis (1969 – 1984), Reverend Robert Lee DeFrance (1984 – 1994), Reverend Joseph P. Metoyer (1994 – 1999), Reverend Herman Kemp (2003 – 2009) and Interim Pastor, Reverend Robert L. Shipp, Sr. (2013 – 2018). Each of these pastors shared their love for God as they served the flock.


On Sunday, November 4, 2018, the Calvary Baptist Church family took great pride in installing Reverend 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.

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