Calvary is a church steeped in history, not just as a United Methodist Church, but also as a member of the Frederick church community. In 1770, Robert Strawbridge, one of the great early Methodist preachers in America, accepted an invitation to preach in “Frederick Towne.” His visit here established the beginning of the congregation now called Calvary United Methodist Church.
In November 1772, Francis Asbury, who would be consecrated in 1784 as the first Methodist bishop, visited “Frederica,” as it was known then. He worked to organize the Methodists into classes for men and women, providing order and structure to the young congregation. Sometime in 1792, a log building was erected on the corner of West Church Street and Bentz Street, and it served the growing Methodist congregation well for a number of years.
In 1841, a lot was purchased on the north side of East Church Street, and the dedication of a new Methodist church occurred on August 1, 1842. However, the congregation continued to grow so rapidly that, in 1865, this building was torn down and replaced by a larger building, which served the needs of the Methodist church community for forty years. An addition was added in 1910, but, with a few alterations, the church on East Church Street (now the location of the Church Street Parking Deck) remained the Frederick Methodists’ spiritual home until 1930.
On September 14, 1930, the present building, built with Indiana gray stone, hand-hewn and shipped by rail to be assembled on land given to the church by Mr. Joseph D. Baker, was dedicated Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church, and is often referred to as “the little cathedral of Western Maryland.” On the stone arch hovering over the massive oak doors are carved the words of the Psalmist, “O Come let us make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
The vaulted ceiling and the cross-shaped design of the main sanctuary are reminders of the Gothic churches of Europe. The interior space is designed with a focus on the transcendent in worship. Beautiful stained glass windows depicting the life, miracles, and parables of Jesus surround the sanctuary. The large window over the balcony and five others in the Chapel were brought from the old church and were made by Tiffany & Co. The reredos, the wooden carving rising above the stone carved altar, was commissioned specifically for Calvary and designed by the Scandinavian sculptor, Sigstredt.
The organ was built for the church in 1930 by the M.P. Moller Company of Hagerstown, Maryland. The pipes were originally concealed behind wood and stone grilles above the choir loft. In 1975 a complete overhaul of the organ was undertaken and additional pipes were remounted in front of the stone to improve the quality of the sound.
The newest addition to Calvary United Methodist Church is ensconced in the bell tower. A set of eight full circle peal bells cast by John Taylor Bellfounder of Leicestershire, England was installed in 2004. Calvary’s peal bells are a part of Frederick’s unique standing as possibly the only place in the world where all three Western bell instruments are within hearing distance of each other, along with the Carillon at Baker Park and the Chime Set at Trinity Chapel. In 2006, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Tour of Historic Houses of Worship, all three sets of bells were rung at once.