Calvary Baptist Church began as a Bible Class, meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Musser, 118 N. 7th Street. Rev. Grant Rice was the teacher. Interest increased and a larger meeting place was needed. Mr. and Mrs. Ray Tessmann graciously opened their home at 1500 Center Street.
The first Sunday services were conducted on April 17, 1960. On April 22, 1960, a church organizational meeting was held, and the thirty-two charter members selected the name, “Watertown Calvary Baptist Church.”
On May 26, 1960, the membership purchased a lot on the corner of Prospect and Spaulding Streets and shortly thereafter began to construct the first building. Most of the work was done by the membership on a volunteer basis. Since then, Watertown has grown, and houses have filled the area surrounding the church.
Rev. Charles Sanders, the church’s first pastor, began his ministry on October 23, 1960. His ministry continued through August 7, 1972. During that time, the church grew in membership, built additional facilities, and developed new ministries, such as the radio ministry, which was begun in 1967. Today the Sunday morning service is broadcast live over radio station WTTN in Watertown and through video on cable TV station 13. The video ministry began in 1986.
The years 1962 and 1963 were years of expansion. A lot on Prospect Street adjacent to the property was purchased and a parsonage was constructed. In February, 1963, a church building program was launched. Groundbreaking for a three-hundred-seat auditorium, educational facilities, nursery, and necessary restrooms took place on August 25, 1963. The enlarged facility was dedicated to God on May 3, 1964.
The Lord’s blessing was evidenced by continued growth. The corner lot across Spaulding Street was purchased for parking space. Then on January 4, 1968, the church voted to enlarge the building. This addition would more than double the auditorium and provide two levels of needed office and classroom space on the east side of the building. Groundbreaking was in January, 1969. Two bond issues financed the project. Church members did much painting and work, including constructing coat racks, counters, and cabinets. The expanded facility was dedicated on September 14, 1969.
In April, 1970, the house on Spaulding Street next to the church was purchased for the Youth Pastor and future expansion. Even more importantly, the year 1970 marked the beginning of a new and vital ministry of Calvary Baptist Church. On May 24, a steering committee for the establishment of a Christian school was selected by the church. On August 29, 1970, the school doors opened for the first time. There were three staff members and thirty-six students in kindergarten through the fourth grade.
In July of 1972, Mr. Gordon Witz, moved to Watertown to begin his responsibilities in directing this new ministry of the church. In 1973, William Lincoln, answered God’s call to pastor Calvary Baptist Church and served in that capacity until his retirement, August 1, 2000. Under his leadership, the church continued to grow in membership and to expand its facilities.
By 1974-1975, attendance had steadily increased in both the church and the school, and the building was being used heavily seven days a week. The nearly two hundred students were literally filling every nook and cranny, prompting the purchase of fifty-nine acres of land on the southwest side of Watertown on December 16, 1975.
By God’s grace, the $93,000 for the land was raised in fifteen months. On July 31, 1977, ground was broken for a new school building. The Calvary Baptist Christian School building was officially opened on August 28, 1978. Over two hundred eager, enthusiastic students in grades one through eight occupied the new school.
It is exciting to see what the Lord has done and we look with anticipation to what He has in store for us in the days ahead. God has given victories and significant milestones along the way. It’s easy to see that “Rejoicing in the Truth” has been the history of our Church and will become the goal of our future.