In the 19th century, European liberalism began making its way to America and slowly infiltrated denominational churches and seminaries.
In response to the liberalism movement, several denominational leaders assembled and began a movement to return to the teaching of the fundamentals of the Christian faith as found in the Word of God. They became known as “fundamentalists.”
After World War II there was a movement to completely sever ties with denominational affiliations and form independent Bible churches that were grounded in the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
It was in the spirit of the Bible church movement that, in 1954, after breaking away from the Independent Fundamental Church of Hanover, several families began meeting for Sunday worship in the Grange Hall on John Street—they called themselves Calvary Bible Church. They also met on Wednesday nights for prayer meeting at the rented parsonage located on 7½ Mt. Royal Avenue.
Shortly after forming, Rev. Paul Wilt, who was twenty-five years old at the time, was called as the first pastor. Rev. Wilt, a founder of the Christian School of York and instructor at the Lancaster School of the Bible, was widely known for his teaching ability and heart for missions. When he arrived in the fall of 1954 he was welcomed by a group of about thirty-five.
On February 16, 1955 a special meeting of the congregation was called to approve the Constitution and By-laws—the church was officially chartered. Applications for charter membership were accepted from February 16 to April 1, and on April 6 eighteen charter members were approved by the first board of elders which consisted of Edgar Long, President; Elmer Walker, Vice President; Harry Rother, Secretary; and Charles Boyer, Treasurer. Carlton Kessler was the first Sunday School Superintendent.
At the time Calvary was chartered there was not a strong evangelical presence in the Hanover area.
In 1955, the first missionaries, Pete and May Stehfest, were supported at $35 a month. Dave and Beth Russell, missionaries to Bolivia, were also supported that year along with nine other missionaries and mission organizations, including Carol Baral, a charter member. Rev. Wilt also started an annual Mission’s Conference that year, the first of its kind in the area.
That first year, 1955, saw ten people accept Christ as their Savior and an average Sunday morning attendance of forty-five.
In August of 1956 the church purchased a plot of land on Flickinger Road and built a combination parsonage-church (Rev. Wilt got the idea from Christian Life magazine in a story about a church in Indiana). The building, a ranch-style structure, housed a small apartment in the east end for the Wilts and their three children and a sanctuary that could seat 170 in the remainder of the building (Sunday school rooms were located in the basement). Builders laid the foundation and framed the structure and church members worked together to complete the building.
In 1958, Rev. Wilt resigned to accept a teaching position at Westmont College in California. When he left Sunday morning attendance was averaging 100. Currently, he is a Professor Emeritus of History and is still on staff at Westmont as its archivist.
One month later Rev. George Stannard accepted the call to be the second pastor of Calvary Bible Church. But less than two years later he resigned.
In July of 1960, Doug Baptisti agreed to fill the pulpit for the church as an interim pastor only, not wanting to commit to the permanent position of full-time pastor. A little over two years later, in September of 1962, he resigned.
The first seven years of Calvary’s history was a time of growing pains and blessings as a young church tried to establish itself in a growing community and changing world.
According to Iva Kessler, a charter member of the church, some of the highlights of the early years were the annual Mission’s Conferences, the annual Thanksgiving Fellowship Dinner, a booming Sunday school program, bus ministry, and annual Vacation Bible School which saw many children profess faith in Christ, and a true sense of family and unity. The difficulties the church experienced and the triumphs they celebrated served to strengthen the relationships of the people who had poured so much of themselves into the young work.
Daisy Stuffle and Phyllis Mosebrook, both early members, attested to the unity and bond among the families of Calvary Bible Church. They said the members of the church watched each other’s children, helped repair one another’s homes, and were always ready to lend a helping hand or offer comforting words when another was in need. Rev. Wilt added, “The commitment of the people to the church was exemplary.”
Without question, the strength of Calvary during its infancy and childhood was the oneness of the people.
In the year following Mr. Baptisti’s departure Calvary saw a small multitude of pastoral candidates stand behind its pulpit. Finally, in October of 1963, a young man by the name of Chester Joines was voted in as pastor by a congregational vote of thirteen to one.
Soon after Rev. Joines started at Calvary, a church across town, Missionary Bible Baptist Church, experienced troubles that resulted in a splitting of the congregation. Many of the individuals that left Missionary Bible found their way to Calvary greatly increasing the church’s attendance.
Rev. Joines immediately set his sights on building projects and organizational planning to allow the church room to grow. In 1964, a large garage was built next to the parsonage-church building. In 1965, Calvary joined the IFCA International [cf. http://www.ifca.org/], and in 1967, a new church building was erected on Flickinger Road adjacent to the parsonage.
The late sixties and early seventies were a time of tremendous growth for Calvary. As the Hanover community grew the church saw more and more young families wanting to become part of the ministry. Also, many people heard the gospel and responded by placing their faith in Christ. Calvary Bible Church had established itself as a beacon of God’s light in the surrounding community.
In 1976, land was purchased on Wilson Avenue and a new church was built with a sanctuary that could seat over one thousand people. At the time, Calvary was the largest church facility in York County.
Church growth continued through the late seventies and early eighties swelling to a Sunday morning attendance of over 800 by the mid-eighties.
In 1982 Rev. Joines spearheaded the formation of American Technical Outreach Ministries, Inc. (ATOM, later changed to International Partnership Ministries (IPM)), which began providing technical assistance to national ministries and their leaders in Haiti. ATOM’s focus was assisting national leaders to more effectively reach their own people for Christ and then train them for service.
The eighties also saw growth in the facility. In 1985, a $1 million education wing was added consisting of classrooms, a full gymnasium, a commercial kitchen, and The Shepherd’s Fold Daycare on the second floor.
By the late eighties attendance was around 850 and Calvary had a full staff of five pastors and three secretaries.
Rev. Joines resigned in 1992, followed by the departure of two associate pastors.
The church then went through a transition phase welcoming Rev. Bill Walker and Rev. Bill Hanmer as interim pastors until Rev. Henry Johnson was called as Senior Pastor in 1993. Rev. Johnson was instrumental in the formation of a new pastoral position, Pastor of Adult Ministries, and welcomed a new Youth Pastor and Worship Pastor.
Under the ministry of Rev. Johnson and his associate pastors the church began to grow again and many new outreach ministries were developed. Annual highlights included the July 4th God and Country Night, Family Vacation Bible School, Thanksgiving and Christmas Adopt-A-Family, the ministry kick-off celebration each September, the Sportsman’s Outreach, and various other outreach events.
2001 saw a major renovation of the sanctuary, foyer, and office area. One new classroom, a prayer room, a counseling room, and a new conference room were also added.
In 2004 another chapter in the history of Calvary Bible Church came to an end as Dr. Johnson announced his resignation.
Dr. Ron Gibson, an Adjunct Professor at Lancaster Bible College and retired pastor, filled the pulpit as interim pastor.
In 2005, seeing the need for a full-time pastor to oversee the administrative responsibilities of the church, the elder board extended the call to Garry Wilt to serve as Pastor of Administration. Garry served in that position until his resignation in late 2014.
Dr. Michael Osladil arrived in 2006 as Calvary’s fifth full-time Senior Pastor. In his first decade of service Rev. Rob Greene was added as Youth Pastor, Mr. Dave Markle joined the team as Facilities Manager, and Ms. Diane Saltzgiver was hired as Children’s Ministries Director.
Early in Dr. Osladil’s ministry the elders and ministry leaders agreed on a new vision statement and new motto—“Seeking the Lost – Equipping the Found.” Strategic initiatives begun in line with this vision statement included an expansion of small group Bible studies within the church and more recently in homes. Other new outreach initiatives include such ministries as DivorceCare, GriefShare, Fun in the Son, and ESL classes. An evangelism team, known as the “GO Team,” was also formed.
During the beginning of the new millennium Calvary expanded its reach into global missions supporting more than forty missionaries or missions organizations in fifteen countries on five continents.
Over its sixty-year history, Calvary Bible Church has experienced both deep heartache and abundant blessing. By the grace of God the church has survived the sometimes tumultuous seas of ministry and endured the ever-changing march of time to experience firsthand God’s working in and through everyday men and women. And through it all Calvary has learned and taught one unchanging, enduring truth… God is always faithful; His mercies endure forever.
Rev. *(Dr.) Paul Wilt 1954-1958
Rev. George Stannard 1958-1960
Mr. Doug Batisti (interim) 1960-1963
Rev. (Dr.) Chester Joines 1963-1992
Mr. (Dr.) Jim Ayers, Asst. to the Pastor 1976-1979
Rev. Clair Shorb, Pastor of Visitation 1979-1992
Rev. Gary Mills, Pastor of Education 1982-1994
Mr. Bill Shorb, Music Pastor 1985-1992
Mr. Karl Gatz, Youth Pastor 1988-1996
Rev. Bill Walker (interim) 1992
Rev. Bill Hanmer (interim) 1993
Dr. Henry Johnson 1993-2004
Rev. Daniel Dellosso, Adult Ministries Pastor 1996-2003
Mr. Craig Betts, Music Pastor 1997-1999
Mr. (Rev.) Rick Rhoads, Youth Pastor 1997-2001
Mr. (Rev.) Rick Quinnett, Worship Pastor 2000-present
Mr. Mark Scarborough, Youth Pastor 2002-2004
Mr. (Rev.) Garry Wilt, Administration Pastor 2005-2014
Dr. Ron Gibson (interim) 2004-2006
Rev. (Dr.) Michael Osladil, Senior Pastor 2006-present
Rev. Robert Greene, Youth Pastor 2007-present
*Titles in parenthesis are titles currently held.