OUR BAPTIST HERITAGE
After Martin Luther dared to criticize the dominant Roman Catholic Church in Europe early in the 16th century, some of the early Catholic Christians who dared to read the Bible themselves became critical of the forms used in the Catholic churches at that time. They placed more authority in the words of the Bible rather than the Catholic clergy.
They concluded that the sacraments were not the true means of salvation. Instead, one must have personal faith and only then be baptized and admitted into the church.
Some of these early European Christians were called Anabaptists, because they baptized again those who joined them from the Catholic Church.
From Continental Europe the Anabaptist movement began to grow in England. There was not yet a common understanding of the scriptures from all Baptist groups. But they were all in agreement that no governmental authority could tell them the meaning of the Bible when they could read it themselves and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, learn the meaning of the Christian faith.
Roger Williams, a Puritan from England, brought the concept of personal freedom of religion with him to America. Then, when he was banned from Massachusetts for not obeying the state rules regarding his faith, he went to Rhode Island and, in Providence, began the first Baptist church in America.
With that concept of individual freedom the number of Baptist churches began to grow, each one independent, so the need to find a way to serve their mission together became apparent. That’s when associations of churches began.
Formed with just five churches in 1707, the Philadelphia Baptist Association (PBA) was first. In 1887, the new Second Baptist Church of Norristown, now Calvary Baptist Church, soon became associated with the PBA, and we are still serving Christ in mission with the other 122 churches of the PBA.
Calvary Baptist Church began in 1885 as a Mission Sunday School of First Baptist Church, meeting in a stable on Haws Avenue near Marshall Street. Two years later the Sunday School organized to become Second Baptist Church of Norristown, changing its name to Calvary Baptist Church in 1902, on the day that the cornerstone (made of stone cut from Mount Calvary in Palestine) of the present sanctuary was laid. Calvary Baptist is an American Baptist congregation and a member of the Philadelphia Baptist Association.