“The difficulty in all this is that the pull of the old will want to intrude on the new,” Rev. David Callies, district president, warned black and white congregations who left familiar arms of tradition Sunday to embrace each other. “There will be attempts to get us back to the old ways of prejudice, selfishness, indifference,” Callies told the members of two local Lutheran churches as they united to form one church. Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Whitehaven and Calvary Lutheran Church in South Memphis. A predominately Caucasian congregation and an African-American congregation became one under the eyes of an overflowing crowd of about 300 that filled the aisles of the new “Cross of Calvary Lutheran Church.”
Cross of Calvary Lutheran Church became the first intentionally biracial church in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. This newly formed faith-based union adopted and renamed its child “Cross of Calvary Lutheran School and Daycare. The program included three year old kindergarten through 8th grade. Later it expanded to include infants.
A quality Christian education was the tunnel vision of the school. Mrs. Donna Gable was the first principal of the school.
On Sunday, July 3, 1994, Mr. Aaron Dickerson of Dallas, TX was installed as the “School Administrator”
During his tenure as principal, teacher, coach, and athletic director, Cross of Calvary became well known throughout the City of Memphis and the Parochial School Community. Mr. “D” touched the minds, hearts and souls of 125 students and their parents. The children of the school participated in church and community activities.
COC dominated the sports arena as well, soccer and basketball, girls and boys. Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM), Catholic Diocese Athletic Association and Desoto County Soccer League trembled in their boots because we were a force to be reckoned with. During the 1998-99 school year, the “Cougars” of Cross of Calvary were invited to Merriville, IN to Valparaiso to participate in the “AAL” basketball tournament. The office of the school still house the many trophies and awards earned.
Mrs. Jean Olson Braddock’s introduction of the “recorder” impacted the children of Cross of Calvary Lutheran School and was the spring board to their musical journey.
The “choir” under the direction of Pastor Carl Brown (aka Pastor Puff Daddy, the remix King) and Mr. Kenneth Watkins gave command performances at Trinity Luther Church, Mobile, Al. (Pastor Elmer Marshall), in Pensacola Fl. and here at home.
Many synodically trained and lay teachers graced this campus and imparted their wisdom and knowledge upon the many students that came through the doors. Quality Christian education is the draw to the Lutheran school and Cross of Calvary was no exception. Many our students have graduated for college and have entered society as successful productive members of various communities. Chicago Illinois, Baltimore Maryland, Boston Massachusetts, Honolulu Hawaii, California. Our staffer are mostly retired. Mr. Dickerson is a pastor/principal in East St. Louis Illinois. Mrs. Olson Braddock is still hanging in here at Cross of Calvary Church. Mrs. Rose Cooper, one of the school’s secretary an active member “at the Cross”.
Board of Education presidents and members still active in the Lutheran churches. We even have a few students who on occasion stop in to worship and visit.
Cross of Calvary Lutheran School closed its doors at the end of the school year, May 2007. Even today, everywhere we go people, want to know who we are and where we come from. We are the “Cougars” the mighty mighty “Cougars”.
About the Author
Russel Belisle serves as the Chaplain Navigator for the Methodist Healthcare System in Memphis, Tennessee, and also serves as the pastor of Cross of Calvary Lutheran Church in South Memphis.