John Calvin Presbyterian Church
We will meet the challenges and move forward to the glory of God: John Calvin Presbyterian Church closes after 65 years
One week before John Calvin Presbyterian Church would have its last worship service, Rev. Amy Moore sat down with Grace Presbytery to share the story of the church and of her experience the last two years.
“When you come to John Calvin, you have the warmest welcome ever,” Amy said. “When I first came to be pulpit supply they welcomed me as if I had been here before. They have great hospitality. Every week after worship we have a time of food and fellowship and something that is very important to them, in the midst of worship, is the time of welcome. We say “Rejoice, the Lord is with you” and I think they share that confidence with each other. We have a bottleneck in the aisle as everyone tries to get to one another.”
That sense of love, welcome, and fellowship is the hallmark of John Calvin Presbyterian Church. It began in 1953 when 10 people came together to have a Presbyterian presence on the west side of North Dallas. They were called the Walnut Hill Branch of City Temple. They first met at a local wooden school house, and then met at the home of one of the congregation members. Over time, they constructed a chapel and educational building. By 1956, the congregation had grown to 200 and they had decided to name their new church John Calvin United Presbyterian Church. They continued to build and grow and they dedicated a new sanctuary in 1963.
Rev. Amy Moore
When they see a need they take action and respond to it
Amy said John Calvin has a long tradition of community outreach, from painting a fellowship hall to volunteering for the North Dallas Food Bank.
“That speaks to the conviction and the energy of the people of this church. They were the church home to United Presbyterian Children’s Home, now called Presbyterian Children’s Home and Services. This church started Union Thanksgiving, a joint worship with local churches at Thanksgiving time. They were active until just recently with North Dallas Food Bank, North Dallas Shared Ministries, and they have sponsored two families from Vietnam and Ukraine to help them get established locally. They had vacation Bible school, youth missions, and participated in Habitat for Humanity. As their physical abilities have shifted, they have done what they could do, from within the walls of the church, such as with Presbyterian disaster relief.”
Pauline Neff, a charter member of John Calvin PC who now lives in Houston, recalled the church’s activities in the community. “We worked to improve race relations,” she said. “On the week following September 11, under Dale Gorman’s leadership, we organized a citywide meeting of leaders of a Dallas mosque with Christian leaders to allow discussion of the anger against Muslims that was rampant in Dallas. After this, our members were invited to tour the mosque and were treated with dinner. We then reciprocated for their members. Regarding ministries, we initiated the Caring of Persons Ministry which enabled our lay people to better support the sick and grieving in our church. By request, we then trained several other churches in how to set up and educate their members in lay caring.”
But as Amy Moore discussed the vibrant life and history of John Calvin PC, she was days away from the church’s last worship service.
We have lived our days very richly
“In every end, a beginning lies hidden,” she said. “As Easter people, people of the resurrection, that is the hope of the Christian faith, that in every end, there is a beginning. We don’t know what that beginning looks like, what that new life looks like, but we have to go through a death to get there; we need to own our grief. That’s what we talked about last week.”
Amy’s background includes 30 years as a nurse. Her time at John Calvin PC is her first call.
“I could see life in the church and I felt my care for this congregation was not to preach to its death, but to see where we could find life. Ultimately, through discernment, it was apparent that it is just time. Our focus is how we have life in the midst of our dying? Using my nursing background, this is in line with hospice care. How do we live our days? I would say we have lived our days very richly.”
I have had the opportunity to experience God here in ways that I have not before
Amy talked about the impact John Calvin PC has had on her. “I have had the opportunity to really grow. This is my first call. We have grown together as I have shared messages that have been very different for them. The most important thing that can happen between God and the human soul is to love and be loved. And that’s what happens here at John Calvin. I have seen their love for one another, their love for the community even as they have become separated from it by aging and I have been the recipient of their love. For me, I have had the opportunity to experience God here in ways that I have not before.”
Amy said building relationships and being part of the journey was the key to the decision making process.
“I knew the most important thing I could do was be present with them and not try to tell them what they are to do,” she said. “Building relationships allowed us to proceed in a healthy way. I did not shy away from what was happening. We were in it together.”
“There are people who have been here for a very long time and who have invested a great deal of time, energy, finances, and love for the church,” she said. “It is being sensitive to hearing their struggle and helping them to see a narrative that, in as much as this is the closing of a congregation, this is not the end of the ministry of the church.”
A New Beginning
Amy said John Calvin PC has much love yet to give as they move forward after March 4.
“I see them continuing their love in other places,” she said. “They have so much to give and in sharing their testimony from what they have witnessed and observed and lived here to carry it elsewhere.
She said that to get to hope, there must first be grief, followed by celebration.
“We want the hope, but we have to go through the grieving part first. Maybe it is appropriate that we are closing during the Lenten season, this time of wilderness, not knowing, and grappling with what we believe, what we understand, who God is. This is a wilderness time for us and coming out on the other side, maybe we can engage more deeply with the world.
And so, on March 4 we are celebrating the life of the church. We spent the previous week being present in our grief. We will make this last Sunday about celebration of those who have given this congregation life, of those who have continued to give as part of this congregation and to honor our going forth.”
To watch the video interview about John Calvin Presbyterian Church click here.