of the Calvary Baptist Church
1923 – today
Most recently Calvary Baptist Church called Malcolm Fowler as its full-time pastor. He and his family joined us in September 2016. Together we are excited as God continues to write His story among us.
God meets you where you are. You don’t have to be perfect and He accepts you and so does Calvary. You are part of the family right from the beginning.
– Terry Coleman
Calvary Baptist Church is a family oriented congregation and a member of the American Baptist Association. The basic beliefs can be found in their church covenant.
Calvary Baptist Church
Having been led, as we believe, by the Holy Spirit, to accept Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Lord, and upon profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, we now enter into Covenant with one another, as one body in Christ.
We promise, as the Lord shall enable us, to strive daily to live after the spirit and teaching of Christ, and to do all in our power to create a spiritual atmosphere within the Church, which will lead others to come into fellowship with God and into saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
As a fellowship of Christians, we promise by the help of God to nurture Christian growth in our homes, and to minister to the spiritual and material needs of one another. We further promise to strive for the advancement of our church in worship, in Christian Education, in service, and in fellowship; to observe its ordinances; to attend its services as faithfully as possible; to contribute regularly to its local and missionary enterprises; to unite with some other church when living away; and by personal and group example, to commend the Christian way of life to all.
May the blessing of God our Father, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, and the Holy Spirit our Helper and Guide ever rest upon us.
In 1906, the executive committee of the Vermont Baptist State Convention started investigating Springfield, Vermont as a potential site for a new church. On March 31, 1923, former Governor of Vermont, William Stickney, purchased land and two houses as a site for a Baptist church in Springfield for $9,200.00.
The first minister, Rev. Walter F. Sturtevant, was a temporary appointment by the State Convention. The first service was held on July 15, 1923, and a nominating committee was appointed to report at the next service, July 22. Officers and committees were elected, the church’s Constitution, By-Laws, and Covenant were adopted. A recognition service was held on July 24, officially accepting Springfield Calvary into the Vermont State Baptist Convention. The church had fifty-six members. Some charter members were baptized in the Black River in North Springfield. Others were baptized at the Bellows Falls and North Springfield Baptist churches.
Rev. Strurtevant was an energetic leader traversing the town in a Model T Ford and charming people with his sincerity. Between 80 and 100 people attended his services, filling the large house to capacity. Sunday school, established by Mrs. Eugene Lockwood was self-supporting. In 1923, Sunday school classes had 100 students and 20 teachers. Rev. Walter F. Sturtevant served until the end of the year.
On December 30, 1923, Rev. George Pomfrey of Richford, Vermont, was called to become the official pastor of Calvary Baptist and started work on February 3, 1924. Rev. Pomfrey had a dynamic personality and was effective in preaching and executive work. He had experience building a church in his previous pastorate and was adept at assisting in the physical labor of projects. The congregation enthusiastically sacrificed their own time and money, and this was the method established for all fundraising, a principle which continues to this day.
On March 16, 1924, Merton H. Arms, Burnham A. Bibens, F.E. Lockwood, George Pomfrey and Fred Dodge were elected to the building committee. On September 7, 1924, the members voted to erect a seventy-five by forty foot unfurnished building at the cost of no more than $25,000. Frank Lyman Austin of Burlington was the architect, Webster W. Hall of Saxtons River was the contractor, and B.K. Barlow of Springfield was engaged to move the large house in which services were held to a location at the side. The contract for the new building was signed August 28, 1924 for $23,975.
The Vermont State Baptist Convention contributed generously to the construction of the new church building as well as the pastor’s salary. The Pomfrey family helped fundraise for the pews and stained glass windows. Pledges were solicited from the membership and individuals in the community. Subscriptions amounted to $5955.80 to be paid over a two year period. A pipe organ valued at $5000 was donated to the church. It was previously housed in the Vergennes Baptist Church and the Rutland Baptist Church. The installation of the organ cost about $1000. Other gifts included new pulpit furniture, a communion set, a bell from the Newport Center Church, and a Bible from the Vermont Bible Society.
On October 18, 1924, 175 people gathered to witness Mr. Davidson lay the cornerstone of the new church building. A time capsule containing a list of church members, names of friends who made gifts to the church, a current issue of the Springfield Reporter, silver coinage of the year, and “Articles of Faith” of the church was placed inside the cornerstone. In February 1925, money was borrowed for the church structure. The deed was transferred on July 25, 1925 and in April 1926, the church voted to carry on without Convention aid.
The young men of the church were organized under F.E. Lockwood in a group known as “The Pals.” They met monthly and several meetings were devoted to “work night” projects. The women were organized by Mrs. Pomfrey into the Women’s Missionary Society and Social Union. This group was reorganized in 1954 to align with state and national guidelines and the name changed to the Women’s Union.
In addition to the first prayer service held in the new church on April 16, the church saw many firsts in 1925. Dedication services were held in the auditorium between May 3rd and May 8th with attendance ranging from 256 to 375 people. Mrs. H.O. Dodge was the first candidate to be baptized in the new church building and the first wedding was that of Isabel Jenks and Lawrence Fleming. The first organist was Mrs. F. Eugene Lockwood, the clerk was Lewis Basso, and the treasurer was Merton Arms.
The Pomfreys completed their work on April 28, 1936 and Rev. Pomfrey returned to his former pastorate in Richford, Vermont. During his time in Springfield he baptized 291 people, bringing the membership to a total of 428.
Rev. Promfrey’s successor, Rev. James Beveridge came with his family from Milford, Massachusetts on September 20, 1936. The church remained strong under their ministry despite the trying times of World War II. The machine tool companies in town were working at full capacity, often with three shifts a day. Scrap metal drives were organized by local Scouting groups and many people planted their own Victory gardens. Everyone was focused on helping with the war effort. This created opportunities for the ministry including sending two missionaries into the government housing areas, South View and West View, to work with young children. After the war, the church was able to pay off its debt and its share to the Minister and Missionaries Board Pension Fund. The Beveridges completed their work at Calvary on April 17, 1949 and returned to Belmont, Massachusetts.
Rev. Brenton J.K. Arthur and his wife arrived August 7, 1949. They organized a young married couples group and started nursery classes in the parsonage. A fellowship room was constructed in the parsonage basement for use by these groups. Rev. Arthur left Calvary on March 25, 1951 to become Field Secretary of the Ohio Christian Endeavor.
Rev. Ehrmann Bennett, of Gering, Nebraska, and a new graduate of Gordon Divinity School, became pastor on July 7, 1951 and was ordained at Calvary Baptist. A new Christian Education addition was approved on January 13, 1958 and construction began on October 13, 1958. The addition was dedicated on April 12, 1959. More than 3,600 volunteer hours were given by members of the church to the construction of the addition which cost a total of $23,000. The two story addition included Sunday school classrooms, a chapel, and secretary’s office. On July 18, 1959, Rev. Bennett married Fay E. Hunting at an afternoon service.
It was during Bennett’s service that the Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF) met during the week in the basement of the parsonage. A variety of activities were planned for the BYF including camping trips, weekly meetings for Bible study, and also a choir.
Rev. Bennett was very busy; in 1954 alone he delivered 80 sermons, 43 prayer meetings, baptized 80 members, gave 14 communion services, went on 200 pastoral calls- not counting hospital visits- performed 10 funerals, 6 weddings, and gave 4 Sunday services on WNIX radio. Rev. Bennett served until September 1960 when he left for Fair Haven, Vermont.
An important function of Calvary Baptist Church is missionary work both in the United States and abroad. Originally from Philadelphia, Dorothy Ann Taylor was the first missionary to Springfield, Vermont. Velma Giddings worked for Bancroft Gospel Ministry in Tennessee where she worked at summer camps. Judith Crossmen worked for the New England Fellowship of Evangelicals in Maine in the mid-1950s. In 1959, Judith completed missionary candidate school and departed for language school. In February of 1960, Judith left for Thailand where she was a missionary until 2003.
Rev. Stephen Fletcher served from January 1961 to August 1965. Although his time at Calvary was short, he was known to be a very outgoing pastor. In 1961, he made 497 calls to church members. In 1962, the church offered two Sunday morning services: one at 8:30 A.M. and another at 10:00 A.M. That same year the church sponsored an Indonesian refugee family. Emil and Tineke Gronovius came to the United States by way the Netherlands. The couple stayed in Springfield and raised a family. In Fletcher’s 1964 annual report he noted having read three different books including Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystic, the book known for launching the feminist movement. Fletcher left for Somerset, New Jersey. Frank Accardy was the interim pastor after Rev. Fletcher.
In June 1966, former Navy Chaplin Norman MacFarlane was called to Calvary. He brought an intellectual spirit to the church, mimeographing his sermons and making copies available to its members. He later published books of his sermons. A major renovation to the sanctuary was undertaken and dedicated in September 29, 1967. Rev. MacFarlane was frustrated by the proximity of the parsonage to the church and the main street of town. He said,
Living next door to the church is sometimes like living in a tent between home plate and first base in Fenway Park during a double header.
This was the same feeling many pastors had had over the years. The records of the annual reports indicate that Rev. MacFarlane was unhappy with his stay at Cavalry. He served until October 1969. Following Rev. MacFarlane was Interim Kendrick Doe.
Reverend Gordon Bourne served as pastor from May 1, 1970 to February 28, 1986. He attended seminary school at the same time as Rev. MacFarlane.
Just his presence was very warm and friendly … he cared about his congregation.
– Bob Swanson.
During Rev. Bourne’s ministry, attendance for adult Sunday school classes increased. The coffee fellowship time between church and Sunday school began. In addition, the services were recorded and made available to shut-ins. The mortgage on the renovation was paid off and the papers burned in November 1972. In 1974 a new youth minister was hired but his tenure was very brief. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, leaders of the BYF included Walt and Aida Pluss, George and Karen Adnams, and Bob and Mary Swanson.
BYF was a great experience that helped you grow as a Christian.
– John Swanson
During the Vietnam War the church formed a resettlement committee. In late summer of 1975, the church voted to sponsor a refugee family from the war torn countries of Southeast Asia. The church rented an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue and furnished it with furniture and food for a family to stay in. In early September, a family arrived and the church paid for the rent and utilities for three months by donations and funds from the Deacons fund. The family consisted of five: Hoang Sy Dam, his wife Loan, eldest son, Ninh, youngest son Hiep, and Loan’s sister, Phuong. The church contacted over 40 firms in the surrounding areas and finally found jobs for both Hoang and Phuong at Ludlow Mills in Ludlow, Vermont. In early December, the family indicated that they wanted to be reunited with their brothers in California. The church made arrangements with the Methodist Church in Los Angeles to sponsor the Dams and they left Springfield on December 11 for their new home in California.
Never can we forget those joyful days in Springfield. What a wonderful town with wonderful people that we can never forget.
– Hoang Sy Dam
Also during Rev. Bourne’s tenure, the first annual family weekend at Gove Hill was started in 1977. In 1978, the men built a new garage, enlarged and paved the parking lot. In 1978, the vestry was renovated with money left to the church by Mabel Coucher.
In January 1986, an elevator was installed under the leadership of Art Bryant and was in operation for Easter 1987. All of these projects were made possible by members of the church.
One memorable story from Rev. Bourne’s time at Calvary is the live nativity scene. Not only did the shepherds come bearing gifts, the wise men brought gold, frankincense, and a bottle of formula for the baby Jesus.
Between March 1, 1986 and May 1, 1987 when Pastor Thomas Hiltsley arrived, the church was served by two ministers at large – Rev. Howard Faulkner and Dr. Arthur Maye. This was a period of pulling together and expanded lay leadership.
Concerned about the dangers of asbestos covering the walls, the trustees had the church inspected. In May 1986, the building was immediately closed by state officials. Authorized hazardous waste contractors were hired to remove the asbestos. Under Howard Faulkner, the Spirit moved in a special meeting where pledges were made, checks were written, and the project began. Pews were removed in preparation for contractors who would work in 4 to 6 inches of water to remove asbestos. In exactly 10 days, under the direction of Tom and Mabel Bishop, people worked from 6 A.M. to midnight to completely reconstruct the sanctuary. There were 5 to 50 people present at any given time. Meals, snacks, and cold drinks were provided to the workers. On July 13, a worship and dedication service was held in the completed sanctuary. Church services were held in the Masonic Temple for three weeks and in the vestry the rest of the time. Cost of the project was $59,935 with $35,151 given by people of the church. The parsonage was also renovated that year in anticipation of the Hiltsleys starting May 1, 1987.
The Hiltsley family arrived in April of 1987. During Pastor Tom Hiltsley’s tenure, the Lord led the church to a deepening commitment in many areas, both individual and corporate. Small Bible study groups, discipleship groups, and prayer groups started.
Under the able leadership of Dee Hiltsley, the music ministry took on a new life with the choir as well as special music enhanced worship. Pastor Hiltsley introduced a chorus before the morning sermon. On communion Sundays the services ended with the congregation joining hands and singing the hymen, “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind.” In 1989, a grand piano was purchased with donations from the church members.
Word of Life Club was started in 1990 for youth members and the youth ministry flourished. This ministry, with its emphasis on spiritual discipleship, proved to be a success, as many of young people choose Christian college educations. Some chose to go into full time ministry. The sense of family within the church continued to grow with participation in talent shows, outside fun and meals for all occasions. It seems that every occasion required a meal in a Baptist church.
In 1991, seven adults and three youths – Susan Jardina, Tom and Wendall Hiltsley, Bryce Honeywell, Walt, Aida and Dale Pluss, Al Rawson, Dave and Ryan Smith – raised their own funds for a mission trip to Haiti. The trip was led by the Monadnock Bible Conference. All came home with a new appreciation for food, drinkable running water, basic sanitation, and shelter. Everyone on the team pondered the idea that people who were so poor materially were so rich in faith, while many here in the U.S. who had so much materially found themselves so weak in faith.
The church has tried to reach out to people who are in distress across the world whether it has been famine relief or missionary work.
– Nanc Losee
In 1999, following a devastating hurricane season, ten people formed a mission team that went to Puerto Rico to help rebuild a conference center. The group included: Agnes and Emily Hughes, Scott Adnams, Jeanne Pulk, Bryce Honeywell, Walt and Aida Pluss, David Smith, Tom Hiltsley, and Stuart Stocker.
We want to be part of the community and we want the community to be a part of us.
– Tom Bishop
The connection between Calvary and the larger community became unmistakable in the wake of September 11, 2001. On that night, the church was open for a prayer service as were many churches around the country.
In October 2001, the church baked Vermont’s largest apple pie at the annual Vermont Apple Festival. The pie was paraded from Riverside Middle School to the church where it was shared. Afterwards, a community candlelight vigil and hymn sing was held. This endeavor was meaningful as the September 11, 2001 tragedy in New York was on the minds of all. Many more people attended that vigil than anticipated. Mary and Bob Swanson were on vacation out West when the attacks took place. They attended a church service but Mary remembers the feeling of finally coming home and being able to pray in their own church with friends and family.
Your church becomes a part your family, your extended family.
– Nanc Losee
I was looking for people who lived by what the scriptures taught.
– Lucielle Gramling
The vestry underwent an immense renovation in 2003. The furnace room was enlarged, the restroom areas were reorganized, and all areas were repainted. The work was completed by the members of the church working together under the direction of Tom Bishop.
In January of 2006, after almost 19 years of faithful service, Pastor Hiltsley left Calvary. Calvary then chose to have a period of intentional interim pastors while searching for a new pastor. Dr. Jim Scott served as the supply pastor from April of 2006 until January of 2007. He was an inspirational, helpful, and loving man who brought all of his passion and love in each message he delivered. Calvary is extremely grateful for his time.
Following Dr. Scott was Don Maughan who helped members discover their gifts and as he would say, “worked himself” out of a job. Don and his wife, Amy, were also inspirational individuals. Calvary changed its governance to a single board to increase effective communication. A new multimedia system was also installed, the church’s first major upgrade in fifteen years.
In 2008, Calvary celebrated its 85th anniversary. The church family came together and participated once again in the annual alumni day parade and festivities. The 85th anniversary offered the church a time for reflection on all God had done for the Church.
That same year, Calvary began its Annual Blessing of the Bikers. A collaboration between the church and the River Valley Ridge Riders, a local motorcycle club, the event draws bikers from all over Vermont and New Hampshire. Bikers are offered a pastoral blessing for the upcoming season, a barbeque and good fellowship. In 2011, a remembrance service was held for Jim Berry, who was an active member of the Springfield community and the River Valley Ridge Riders. The “People’s Choice” award was created to honor Berry. That same year the award was presented to Tom Bishop, for his 1996 Harley Davidson Fatboy motorcycle.
Tropical Storm Irene ravaged Vermont in August 2011. Springfield received little damage but surrounding communities were devastated. After the storm some members of the church visited families in Springfield and nearby towns to help those in need. $8000 was raised in grants and donations for flood relief; $5000 came from a national organization which remains anonymous. Twenty local families benefited from these funds.
As an interim, Pastor Dowse joined the church in 2012, and has been delivering engaging sermons since. He has a way of making all members, regular attendees, and guests welcome and worthy of God’s love. He connects with children each week, and notably, gave each one a medal during the 2014 Winter Olympics Games. Also of note, many of Calvary’s members remember when Pastor Dowse convinced the choir to perform their own rendition of “She Loves You” on the anniversary of the Beatles’ first performance in the U.S. on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Calvary has a rich history amongst its members and within Springfield’s community. As church member Nanc Losee reflected, “Your church becomes a part of your family, your extended family.” Aida Pluss agreed, adding Calvary is not “a church where you just appear on Sunday mornings.” The church looks forward to many more faithful and fulfilling years of service.
The main building being built in 1924