The people of Calvary Lutheran in Moline are proud of their church's friendly, conservative, working-class image. After all, they have been perfecting it for more than 90 years now.
It was on Nov. 2, 1919, that a fledgling mission group voted to begin its own congregation in Moline's Highland area and chose the name "Calvary." Thirty-eight charter members, plus 60 children, held the first service the next Sunday (Nov. 7) in Township Hall with the Rev. Walter Tilberg, pastor of Trinity, as chairman.
Less than a year later, a fast-growing Calvary Sunday school had become too big for Township Hall, and the Illinois Conference promised Calvary use of a portable chapel if it could find a suitable plot of land. The new congregation agreed to spend $1,350 to purchase site on 29½ Street near 23rd Avenue. To that point, its biggest debt had been $40 for Sunday school supplies. That chapel was dedicated on Aug. 1, 1920.
As the Sunday school continued to grow and the young church paid off its debts by 1925, church leaders began looking ahead for a permanent building. In July of 1926, the congregation agreed to purchase three lots at 29th Street and 23rd Avenue for $1,737.95 and construct a basement church at that location. The contract for the new church, to cost $18,000 including all plumbing, lighting and heating, was drawn up and work began immediately. The building was dedicated in 1927 by the Rev. Adolph Dickhart, Calvary's first fulltime pastor.
Despite the onset of the Great Depression, the church continued to grow, reaching 300 students in Sunday school by 1934. And by its 20th anniversary in 1939, the church had grown to 205 adults and 325 children, and the debt on the basement mortgage had been paid.
This time, World War II intervened, and more than 50 young men from Calvary served in the Armed Forces, four of them dying in the conflict.
Right after the war, the church began looking ahead to moving up from the basement it had occupied since 1927. By 1952, the new building fund totaled $66,340, and a decision was made to award contracts for an "upstairs" church. On Nov. 8, 1953, the new church building was dedicated after a total expenditure of $157,000 - held down by church members and friends doing as much of the labor as possible. Though remodeled and brightened again in 2001, it remains our main worship center to this day.
Once again, it was the needs of the Sunday school program that long-range planners had in mind when they began thinking seriously about an education wing for the church. Four years into the planning, ground was broken on a 6,650-square-foot addition. Dedicated June 5, 1988, the wing houses eight separate classrooms, church offices and an Upper Room fellowship hall. Cost was $350,000 - compared to $18,000 paid for the first new church.
While that's the history of the building, it's really not the story of the "church."
Rather, that title belongs to the friendliest bunch of people in the area. You can't get into our services without being greeted at the back door, in the narthex and at the entrance to the sanctuary.
While we are serious about our faith, we are a group that knows how to laugh with - and at - ourselves. We can be as caring as we should be at an after-funeral luncheon, or as whimsical as we want to be at a parking lot ice cream social.
Come experience Calvary Lutheran Church - and become part of its history.
A Brief History of Calvary Lutheran Church