IN THE BEGINNING
Pastor John Groettum and members of Trinity Lutheran Church of Ft. Worth recognized the growing number of Lutherans settling in Richland Hills, Hurst and Bedford during the early 1950's. With the help of Pastor Herb Henson of the ALC Home Missions Department and Trinity member Elaine Wells, the church was chartered in 1955, supported by a nucleus of eight families.
In June, 1955, Orris Sougstad from Calamus, Iowa accepted the call to be Calvary’s first pastor. That summer, the Home Mission Board purchased a two and one half acre tract on Booth Calloway Road. An additional six acres with frontage on Highway 183 was added that included a house, almost hidden from the road by a wreath of trees. In October the Sougstad family arrived at the parsonage.
The first worship service was held on January 8, 1956 at the Richland Elementary School, attended by 175 future members and friends. The following week, the first Sunday School Class was held in the auditorium, attended by 36 children, 11 teachers and 30 adults. But the most important event was the groundbreaking ceremony for the church.
In March, 14 children and 4 adults were Baptized and 28 adults confirmed. In April, a constitution was adopted and Calvary Lutheran Church was officially organized with 116 members. In May the first congregational meeting and first council meeting were held. and a month later the first communion was celebrated. Then in June Calvary Lutheran Church was officially received into membership in the ELCA at the General Convention held in Minneapolis.
On August 8, 1956 Calvary moved into a new home church which consisted of an office, educational wing and sanctuary which also served as a fellowship hall. On September 23 the building and parsonage were formally dedicated with 225 attending.
LEADERSHIP AND STAFF DEVELOPMENT
In 1963, the second Pastor, Wilburn C. Ahlrich was installed, serving until April, 1969 when Eric Shulze was installed. Pastor Eric served Calvary until his retirement in January, 2004, leading the church in steady growth, numerous building projects and ministries, service involvement and additional staff to meet the needs of a spiritually growing community and outreach ministries. In honor of his twentieth year of service to Calvary, the members established the Eric N. Schulze Endowed Scholarship at Texas Lutheran College.
Under his leadership, Calvary applied to participate in the ALC Internship Program in 1986, with 5 interns trained through 1991. The internship program was re-established in 2002, with the first female intern currently serving. Pastor Eric continues to serve as Pastor Emeritus and part-time pastor. He is the Stephen Ministry leader and church tour guide, arranging guided tours for members such as the recent one to Italy and previously to the famous Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany.
Phil Heinze interned at Calvary in 1989 and returned in 1991 with his wife, Lisa, to be ordained as Calvary’s first Associate Pastor. He now serves Calvary as Senior Pastor, spiritual motivator, and chief cook. Pastor Phil is definitely experienced in multi-tasking and provides leadership in the Synod in many ways, including host ing the Parish Lay Academy where he is also an instructor, assumes leadership in the Via De Cristo community and serves on the Richland Hills city council. Under his leadership many new ministries have been formed and new programs created to involve the membership and to reach out to the unchurched and those of differing faiths.
As the church grew, support staff was needed. The first church secretary, LaNelle McCown, was hired in 1973 and first youth director in 1979. Choir directors and youth directors followed to better serve these ministries. In 1998 the current full-time youth director, Janelle Miller, was hired and Cathy Roloff replaced LaNelle upon her retirement. In 1997 Viktor Andersson was appointed Music Director. Harry Eastman came on board as Business Manager in 2003. Deborah Villavicencio serves as organist. Robin Stubblefield served as Sunday School Superintendent for more than 15 years. She was suceeded in 2005 by Christy Gibson. Sandy Dailey served as full-time Facilities Manager. Volunteers remain valuable to the overall operation of the church.
BUILDING AND FACILITIES
A fellowship hall was completed in 1979, about the same time that the Lutheran Book of Worship was adopted and the library started. On December 4, 1988, a new sanctuary was dedicated and extensive remodeling was done to all facilities. The church bell was installed in the bell tower and the pipe organ played for the first time in 1990. Stained glass windows, purchased by members, were added to the sanctuary in 1991. The Family Life Center wing, with additional Sunday School classrooms, was dedicated in 1998. The remodeling included the nursery, toddler area, three and four year old classrooms, new inquirers room and music room, Calvary has kept pacewith it's growth and meeting the needs of the members and community.
Repairs have been made to the roof, air conditioning added, carpets replaced and other repairs completed to keep the facilities updated. In honor of Pastor Eric's retirement, a mural was painted on the wall in the Family Life Center and depicts various Biblical verses. Several landscaping projects have been completed over the years that add to the inviting appearance of the church and grounds. The facilities and grounds are reflective of a very active membership and a church that welcomes and cares.
The format of the worship services and meeting times have changed over the years to maintain a focus on ministering to all and to serve the growth that the Lord has brought to Calvary. The first Communion service was held in June, 1956 and communion has continued to the major focus in worship, currently offered at all services. Open communion inviting participation to any Christian was instituted in 1970 and in 1999 small children who understand the significance of the sacrament were invited to participate. Since 1972 lay lectors and ministers have been assisting in worship and communion. In 1977 two communion services were offered each month
Calvary has grown from one Sunday worship service to four, with special services held during Lent and Holy Week, Advent, Easter and Christmas. Many will remember 1985 when Maudy Thursday communion was celebrated at table depicting the Lord's last supper with his disciples. An Easter sunrise service was added in 1974 and a very early bird service in the outdoor worship center is offered in summer.
There are now three regular Sunday morning services, one of which is a blend of traditional and newer liturgical forms of worship, as well as a blend of traditional hymns and contemporary music. The Sunday evening Y2J contemporary service, begun in 1999, has been replaced by a Taize service. Membership has grown to over 700 active members, reflected in the need for offering different services in form and time.
Special worship services have been held from time to time, such as the annual Western Worship service which was begun at Octoberfest in 1994. It has since changed to the Sunday following Easter and is held under the trees on the church lawn, weather permitting. A gospel band has been assembled and members are treated to old favorite hymns they sang as children or their grandmothers have sung to them. The dress code is casual western and the informality is enjoyed by all.
Education has been a major part of Calvary's mission with both adult and children's classes offered regularly.
As membership grew and facilities expanded, more educational offerings have been added in addition to Sunday School. Evening Bible Studies have been held through the years and a lectionary class has been formed for adults on Sunday mornings as well as special topics led by church volunteers. Training for teachers began in 1977 and continues.
In 1998 music was made part of the Sunday School Curriculum and in 1999 the Sunday School Gazette was launched. Perhaps one of the most far reaching educational offerings is that of the Parish Lay Academy that meets three times a semester at Calvary. This 2 year program which began in 2000 prepares men and women for greater service in their home church and in the Synod. Many of the graduates are serving in areas where ordained ministers are scarce. The first class was graduated in 2001 and has since inspired many Calvary members to assume leadership roles.
Calvary has been blessed with musical talent and music is an integral part of services, social and special events. With an ever growing number of musicians, soloists and instrumentalists there are now several choir groups and ensembles to complement the different forms of worship. The Sanctuary choir is focused on traditional music, the Bread of Life ensemble supports the blended service a and the worship team that began the Y2J service continue to support the Taize service, with additional soloists and instrumentals. The children's choirs have expanded from one in 1973 to three groups according to ages perfectly named the Cherubim, the Seraphim and Sanctus choirs.
In 1999 hand chimes joined the hand bell and brass choirs and the children's hand chime choir debued(sp) in 2003. A chamber singer ensemble was added to the 2003 Christmas Eve service and the meaning of Advent is explored through music and verse at Advent Vespers.
Other memorable moments where members could perform talents came in 1996 which included a Murder Mystery Theater featuring "The Case of the Jealous Jock" presented by the Calvary Players and a talent show. The Calvary band became an orchestra in 2001 and Calvary's first musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat", was presented in the sanctuary It was a huge success, especially the pastor who represented the Elvis character. The second musical, "The Sound of Music" presented in 2003 introduced Calvary to the concept of a dinner theater and the talents of Pastor Susan Madson from Minnesota. Presented in the Family Life Center, with professionally designed sets and costumes and accompanied by an orchestra, Calvary members demonstrated how blessed we are with outstanding talent from musicians to carpenters to painters and artists, supported by outstanding volunteers who put in long hours and outstanding team work to do an exceptional job serving our Lord. Even tornado threats did not deter this group.
Calvary played a very significant leadership role during the Synod Assembly held in Dallas in 2005. Viktor Andersson coordinated the musical portions of the program which focused on the international Lutheran church and featured many of our instrumentalists, soloists and the hand bell and hand chime choirs.
From the experience with the musicals, Calvary was inspired to explore other avenues of ministering through music. A concert series was begun, benefit cabarets became fund-raisers and in 2004 the first annual performing arts camp was begun. Calvary's musical offerings will continue to grow, providing enrichment for worship and opportunity for adults, youth and children to give back their talents in service. Music is also an effective outreach into the community.
Fellowship is the backbone of the Calvary experience. Opportunities abound for all ages. Since the purchase of the church bus, both seniors and youth have additional opportunity to fellowship. In summer, when the Calvary Cafe is closed, seniors board the bus to area restaurants for Wednesday night supper. The Calvary cafe provides families and friends a place to fellowship at the church on Wednesday evening, treated to an inexpensive meal prepared under the direction of Pastor Phil.
Large fellowship programs include the barbeque following Western Worship and advent dinners. Several musical programs include dinners. Small groups now meet at dinners for eight where members get better acquainted in participant's homes. We've had golf tournaments, chili cookoffs, talent shows, valentines parties, mother daughter banquets and a host of other programs promoting friendship.
Particiption in fund-raising events, such as Octoberfest is another way to get to know members. New members are treated to a luncheon and introduced to their mentors. All in all, promoting fellowship and friendship is one of Calvary's strengths. Through the focus on fellowship, Calvary is known as a very friendly church where visitors and new members feel very welcome immediately.
A major emphasis is placed on outreach, whether it is making personal visits, or participating in an organized activity. The Aqua Viva mission is one of our most successful outreach ventures. Calvary also supports two mission churches, one near Lake Worth and one in Roanoke. Evangelism and benevolence continue to be strongly supported in the annual budgets and through fund-raisers like the fall festival and golf tournament. Programs include urban ministries, support to Lutheran benevolences, Kairos and others that serve God's people in need.
Ministry and utilizing our God given talents and gifts is important to each individual's spiritual growth. Therefore many of the regular programs also serve as outreach, such as Stephen Ministry, supporting food banks and shelters, taking Teddy Bears to abused children and a variety of other services provided by members.
The Calvary website is active in letting members and others know what is happening at the church. It is constantly updated and recognized as an outstanding church site. So Calvary remains a leader in reaching out to the community in a variety of ways.
YOUTH AND TEENS
Programs for our youth and teens have always been a priority at Calvary. Currently they include summer day camps for children, A(A)dventure club, Calvary Cadets, ski trips. Briarwood retreats, Junior High fun nights and ExClaim! and VBS. Janelle spends a lot of time visiting schools in the area and colleges where Calvary students attend. The youth participate in many other programs such as serving at dinners, helping with theaters and the annual Christmas and Easter breakfasts. They lead the Lenten services and serve as acolytes at regular services. Confirmation classes and events are highlights of the church year. The Ranch camp is one of the unforgettable experiences. The annual Children's Christmas program is always a memorable event.
The youth have been very active in the mission at Aqua Viva. They provide programs for the local children as well as help with the building projects at the church and with Habitat for Humanity. They are very versitile and serve wherever they are needed.
WOMEN OF THE CHURCH
The women of the church, both through Altar Guild and WELCA, have been very active and contributed to the church's benevolence and spiritual growth. In 1966 the women created 90 Chrismon ornaments and Calvary had one of three Chrismon Trees in the area that year. The altar guild has been instrumental in providing and caring for vestments, altar cloths, celebratory banners and church decorations celebrating communion and special holidays.
WELCA has provided women's bible studies and been very active in outreach and benevolence, both in service locally and to the Lutheran Missions. They have made cancer bandages for Lutheran World Relief and supported orphans, Trinity Lutheran Home, Clifton Sunset Home, sewn church decorations and hemmed curtains, visited nursing homes and hospitals and sent out birthday and encouragement cards, made evangelism calls, visited hospitals and helped in church clean ups, painting and decorating. For several years they sponsored a mother-daughter banquet, collected Betty Crocker coupons to furnish flatware, made quilts for Lutheran Relief and supported Missions. Special projects, such as paving the parking lot, were supported by fund-raisers such as serving at special functions at Ft. Worth restaurants. Locally they support N.E.E.D West project through Kroger Cares and Crop walk, make sandwiches for the night shelter, take toiletries to shelters and nursing homes and make stockings for members to stuff and contribute to the Salvation Army's Christmas donations.
In 1976 the women began the prayer chain, secret pals and for fund raisers, sold cookbooks with recipes gathered from members and sponsored a Calvary Store and a Church Chistmas dinner. In 1995 a Mother's Day Out program was developed and in 1999 a Parent's night out was held.
The list of projects the women support is endless and their influence in the church is timeless. Even with the number of women who have full-time jobs, women are involved in all aspects of worship and serve on the council, chair important committees.