Celebrating 100 years of God’s faithfulness
Same Building, Different Church
God was preparing the current building before Calvary even started. W. G. Williamson designed the building in a Romanesque style, popularized by H. H. Richardson in 1873. It was modeled after Trinity Church in Boston and completed at the cost of $60,000.
The interior was designed by Louis Millet of Healy and Millet, the design firm responsible for the interior of Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Building and the trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange.1
Characteristics of Romanesque style:
- Heavy Arches and Rough Stone – Heavy Indiana gray limestone arches contrast with the variegated, rough Wisconsin granite of the exterior walls.
- Cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.
- Large tower – a smaller version of Trinity Church’s oversized main tower.
- Round-headed arches — Often springing from clusters of short squat columns that frame recessed entrances.
- Clay Roof – Durable roof that has been traced back as far as 3,000 B.C. in China and the Middle East.
First Meeting of Madison Street Church
March 21, 1915
A group of families met together to discuss “the feasibility of a new non-denominational church.” The group included Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Lutherans.
They held their first worship service and established Madison Street Church. The church met in a rented store building and started with less than $100, which they used to purchase chairs and hymnals. Sunday morning services were reserved for worship and instruction; Sunday evening services were for “the ministry of the gospel.”
At their fourth meeting church organizers voted unanimously to extend a call to Dr. Talbot to become their pastor.
Starting with 21 people, the church grew to 47:
A Flourishing Community
1920s & 1930s
Oak Park developed from just under 10,000 residents in 1900 to 40,000 residents in 1920.
By 1930, the village contained 64,000, more than the population today.2
Sending Our First Missionaries
A mere five years after the church began, Madison Street Church had four missionaries. On November 12, 1920, the church officers licensed Frederick Ernest Holland as a minister, “our missionary in British East Africa.”
In a strange act of foreshadowing, Madison Street Church suffered an arson attempt in 1922. In response to the incident:
Calvary Memorial Church
Madison Street Bible Church changed its name to Calvary Memorial Church.
A Community & Church Tested
Turmoil in Oak Park
“The village board created a Community Relations Commission charged with preventing discrimination, forestalling violent neighborhood defense mechanisms, and setting a high standard of behavior as the community prepared for imminent racial change.
In 1968, after lengthy and angry debate, and the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act, the village board passed an open-housing ordinance allowing officials to control many aspects of racial integration that otherwise were likely to lead to resegregation. Real-estate agents were banned from panic-peddling, blockbusting, and the use of ‘for sale’ signs.”Encyclopedia of Chicago
In 1977 a fire destroyed two-thirds of the former building. After two years of renting facilities and negotiations, Calvary purchased the current building at 931 Lake Street from First Presbyterian Church of Oak Park. Dr. Billy Graham was the commencement speaker.
Rev. Gerig was a strong proponent of a debt payment campaign in the 1980's, “We feel privileged to have been placed in this key location on Lake Street so that we may have a positive ministry for Jesus Christ in the Oak Park area.”
A New Era
Dr. Ray Pritchard was called to become the Senior Pastor and preached his first sermon on August 20, with his installation service on September 17, 1989. He received his Doctor of Ministry Degree from Talbot School of Theology which was established by the founding pastor, Dr. Louis Talbot.
“Growth in the church related to an outreach focus and to a belief that the Bible can speak to modern man.”
Looking Back, Pressing Forward
Calvary extended an invitation to Todd Wilson to become the Senior Pastor in August, 2008.
Unify to Glorify
Two distinct service styles became one so that we would come closer to glorifying God "with one mind and one voice" (Romans 15:6).
Reconnecting With Oak Park
After School at 931
We have taken an exciting turn in the last few years to more closely reflect the diversity, beauty, and complexity of Oak Park within our high school ministry. The after-school program and basketball team are big efforts toward meeting the spiritual and tangible needs of high school students in Oak Park. More ›
Celebrating 100 Years
We celebrated 100 years of ministry on March 21, 2015. We also aspire, by God's grace, to be a blessing to Oak Park for another 100 years.