Calvary Baptist Church
Meetings started in September 1943 on the front porch of Roy Goheen's house, weather permitting. During the week of March 6, 1945, the First Baptist Church of Lakeland, Florida, made a survey concerning the need of a church in the Glen Echo sub-division. As a result, services began in a tent on the afternoon of March 11th. Fifteen people were present to hear a message by Rev. Frank Farris. Music for this service and for those in the months to come sounded from a portable pump organ. Unknown at that time, this service began a great change in the lives of many scores of people in this community and throughout the city of Lakeland.
Meetings were held every Sunday afternoon and for about eighteen months the attendance extended anywhere between three and twenty-nine, depending on largely upon the weather, but often upon the faithfulness of man. Within just a few weeks the tent, as a result of heavy rains and strong winds, began to leak, to decompose, and finally blew down, torn in several places.
Though Satan opposed this new work, the Lord provided all that was needed to cause growth in both attendance and faith for determined hearts. This meager beginning grew from a tent to a new sanctuary which was dedicated on April 23, 1947. Faithful workers such as the Webster Benner, Roy Goheen, and John Haughton families continued to pray and work until new Sunday School rooms were added in February 1949, to take care of the increase in attendance.
May 14, 1950 became a historic day as the work passed from a mission chapel to a fully organized church with Rev. Milford Sanders called as its first pastor. Rev. Sanders terminated his ministry on March 16, 1952, in order to further his study and later that year Rev. Harold Bowe became Calvary's senior pastor. On Wednesday evening, June 11, the church elected a Building Committee to begin plans for a new auditorium. God had been blessing the work to such an extent that the need for a new building, in the not too distant future, could be seen.
For many years Calvary had a radio broadcast on WONN from 8:30 to 9:00 AM starting in 1952. In November, the church began the first steps toward a new auditorium by starting a building fund. The church was able to enter the new auditorium in November 1953. In the May business meeting, the church took the first step toward a far reaching mission movement when she voted to take 10% of all undesignated offerings and start a special Mission Treasury. In July, the church voted to take full responsibility for the first camp to be sponsored by Calvary Church. The camp work was to be the beginning of a yearly Camp Calvary for boys and girls. The first camp was held July 9-25, at Camp Gilead, Polk City.
Rev. Harold Bowe resigned February 21, 1960 and Rev. J. McClure accepted the call to become the third pastor of Calvary Baptist Church on May 12, 1960. During Rev. McClure’s short but dynamic ministry a new educational unit was dedicated on May 14, 1961. Rev. J. R. McClure resigned on October 7, 1962, to enter the field of evangelism.
Pastor J. B. Buffington, became the fourth full time pastor on May 19, 1963. Since that time the average attendance had grown to over 800 in Sunday School, a kindergarten started and many bus routes added. Mission giving had increased to an estimated $101,000. Our present auditorium was dedicated on March 14, 1971. In 1993, Pastor J.B. Buffington accepted the call to go into evangelism and Rev. Ed Buford became pastor. Coming from Germany, where he had been a missionary to the American Military, he continued the emphasis upon missions. In 2007, Reverend Buford resigned and our Rev. Shane Skelton became our current pastor of Calvary Baptist Church on November 18, 2007. He has a heart for missions and will continue the legacy of missions giving at Calvary Baptist Church.