Mount Calvary Lutheran Church began in the 1920’s as a Sunday School Mission in what was once considered a “remote” area of Waynedale. Founded and led by Pastor Herman H. Backs, it started as a small sparse wooden building on the muddy streets of Lower Huntington Road, now the site of Walgreens.
The “Mission” Sunday school was an extension of Emmaus Lutheran Church located on Fairfield Avenue at that time. The Sunday school ministry continued to grow and expanded into a congregation. In 1929, Mount Calvary Lutheran Church was incorporated into a self-sustaining congregation and the original church building was constructed on Lower Huntington Road. With Christian education being at the core of Mount Calvary’s Mission along with its growing congregation, Mount Calvary Lutheran School was opened in the fall of 1929.
The growth continued throughout the years. By, 1955 both the congregation and the school had outgrown its space. As their Mission continued, a new school was erected and the chapel expanded. By the glory of God, the congregation was blessed with outstanding growth. In the early 1990’s, the parishioners on Lower Huntington Road had once again outgrown its facility. With limited space to expand, the congregation purchased 10 acres of land at 1819 Reservation Drive, across from Miami Middle School. In 1996, a 29,000 square foot facility was built with a Family Life Center (full size gym) added in 2001. Remarkably, Pastor Herman H. Backs served Mount Calvary in a Pastoral role and continued in a shepherding capacity until his retirement in the early 1970’s.
Pastor Nathan Whittaker joined Mount Calvary in August 2017, serving as Senior Pastor. Pastor Whittaker states “I am very excited about Mount Calvary’s prospects for the future! We are currently going through a bit of a revitalization aimed not at ourselves, but at impacting our community. We’re actively working to discover where God is working in Waynedale and how we can uniquely partner with Him in service, grace, and love. We know you’ll be seeing more of us in the months and years to come, and that excites us, because it means you’ll see more of Jesus!” Pastor Nate connected with Avalon Housing Association over the summer and Mount Calvary furnished a bounce house and treats for their neighborhood picnic.
In the 1980’s, a Preschool was started on-site and continues today on Mount Calvary’s campus. In recent years, a Child Care service was also added. The Preschool & Child Care was competently led for 30 years by Director Sue Doepner, who retired earlier this year. Director Andrea Harville is currently leading this important ministry and working to expand its curriculum.
As the church Mission & Vision continue to be focused around families and Christian Education, the parochial day school is now part of a larger support system with three other Lutheran congregations and is known as LSUS (Lutheran South Unity School) located at 5401 South Calhoun Street.
Other key figures at the church include Doug Reynolds, Director of Family Life and Music Ministry. He is a talented and faithful leader, making sure worship time is meaningful and uplifting. He has a passion for music and Married Ministry. The church is also active with Junior and Senior High activities.
Peggy Roth, Director of Fellowship is in charge of the “McSeniors” (senior ministry) who meet monthly for lunch, learning, sharing outreach and enjoying fellowship. Peggy states “I am also really excited about our new Women’s Ministry, “SIS’ (Sisters in Spirit). We meet monthly for a variety of activities and devotion. In November, we made over 100 “Blessings in a Bag” filled with useful items. Our congregation carry the bags in their cars to give to those in need. We will gather for neighborhood caroling in December and look forward to more community opportunities in 2019.” Peggy urges, “If you are searching, visit us! Together we can make our community a better place!”
Besides the preschool, Mount Calvary offers several additional programs open to the Waynedale Community. One is a Walking Group (laps around gym) held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. You are welcome to come & go as you wish. The church also annually hosts a large community rummage sale. Long time participants in Waynedale Picnic, the church provides gift baskets, information and bubble fun for the kids at their table.
If you have seen the electronic sign on Bluffton Road, you will notice that this church strives to “Be Like Jesus”, learning to Live, Pray and Love by the example Jesus set for us. They are enthusiastic about serving our community and city in such a way that demonstrates the character of our Lord Jesus Christ as faithful, loving, authentic, and generous people.
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