History of Mt. Calvary

On Sunday, January 4, 1904, in a rented room on the second floor of 15 ½ East King Street, the Reverend J. George Borneman, Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbia presided over the first worship service of Mt. Calvary. The room having previously been furnished with an organ, lectern and baptismal font donated by St. Andrew’s Church in Pittsburgh, 36 newly purchased chairs, and using part of a store counter as an altar, the service was attended by 17 worshipers. Worship services continued there until May of the same year when the Missouri Synod Mission purchased the former St. Matthew’s Church property and furnishings on North Anne Street.

Many members of St. Mathew’s joined the original 17 in officially forming Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Rev. Harry C. Muhly, who later became the first Executive Secretary for Missions and Stewardship in the English District, was installed as the first pastor August 28, 1904. A constitution was quickly drafted and Mt. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church was formally organized with 24 charter members on September 13, 1904.

By June 1905, it was apparent the chapel would soon be too small, so in faith, two lots in the corner of Plum and Clay streets were purchased. By February 1906, construction had been authorized for the new church which was subsequently completed and dedicated on November 4, 1906.

In April 1911, the congregation purchased an adjoining lot which first served as the site for the parsonage, and eventually as additional Sunday school rooms and church library. June 1911, marked the first summer Bible School which became the frontrunner of the Vacation Bible School tradition at Mt. Calvary. This has been considered as the first summer Bible School in Lancaster. Two educational wings were added over the years – one in 1955 and one in 1969.

After many years of sustained growth, the congregation recognized the potential for increasing the Lord’s work and limitations for further expansion at Plum and Clay. In May 1988, a capital campaign “Venture Forward in Faith” was launched and an earnest search began for a site to construct a larger church. The search culminated with the purchase of a tract of land on Petersburg Rd. in July 1988, and was soon followed by the purchase of an adjoining property to accommodate future expansion. Following the sale of the former church home at Plum and Clay in March 1993, ground was broken for construction that same month.

During construction, the church was moved from Plum and Clay to a former auto dealership in Granite Run. Sunday School classes were held in former sales rooms and worship services conducted in the showroom. Church was moved to an empty warehouse across the road in the industrial park when the dealership was sold until the Petersburg Road church was completed.

On December 5, 1993, the church building where we now worship was dedicated. The new church became a reality through prayers, perseverance, and physical efforts of members who with the invaluable contributions of the Laborers for Christ were responsible for its construction. A need to expand the educational facilities was recognized, and on September 7, 2003, a new educational wing was dedicated.