Calvary Episcopal Church is located in the heart of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta floodpain, midway between Memphis and Vicksburg. It is the county seat of Bolivar County, and has a population of approximately 15,000. The population of Bolivar County is approximately 40,000.
Much of the region’s land is devoted to agriculture while agricultural income accounts for about 8% of total county earnings. The primary crops are cotton, rice, and soybeans with a significant number of catfish ponds. Cleveland is the home of Delta State University.
The educational level of the parish is unusually high, a result of being a University town. Twenty-five percent of the congregation holds terminal degrees in their respective fields. Occupations are as follows: Helping professions (teaching, counseling, University professors/instructors, etc.), 32%; Retired, 15%; Homemakers, 13%; Sales and services, 12%; General business, 8%; Insurance, banking, real estate, 5%; Lawyers, 4%; Medical doctors and dentists, 3%; and Farmers, 5%. Married couples between the ages of 35-55 comprise the majority of the congregation (70%). The average annual income of member families is in the medium range; however, in comparison with that of the community as a whole, this income is above average.
Church website: http://www.calvaryclevelandms.org
The Episcopal Church of Cleveland was formed in July, 1921, as a mission church. The founding members worshiped in various public buildings including the Bolivar County Courthouse and the First Christian Church until 1928 when the first church, a yellow stucco building located on Court Street, was erected. In 1925, there were 52 communicants at Calvary Church.
The present rectory was completed in May, 1953, immediately prior to the arrival of the Reverend Duncan Montgomery Gray, Jr., and his wife Ruthie. Rev. Gray would later become Bishop of the Mississippi Diocese. Many renovations and additions have been made to the rectory since that time. It was constructed as a two bedroom, one bath house. It has been expanded since then.
During the early part of Father Gray's ministry at Calvary Church, the National Church offered a program which made available grants of $5,000, plus an interest free loan, to mission churches which held great potential of becoming parish churches. With this funding and other available monies, the Mission Committee of Calvary Church decided it was time to expand and plans were made for the building of a new sanctuary.
With this decision made, the site for the building posed a problem. The current church building either had to be torn down or moved in order to begin construction of the new sanctuary. Parishioners considered the possibility of moving the old church to the back corner of the lot, but were doubtful as to whether the work could be done since the building was composed of stucco and plaster. Hayes House Movers of Clarksdale was consulted to determine the feasibility of moving the old church. Mr. Hayes offered to put up a bond to guarantee that the building would be moved undamaged, so the decision was made to give it a try. The old church was carefully moved to its present location, without complications. Church services continued in the old church building until the new sanctuary was completed. The original church building now serves as our parish hall.
The current church building has a small choir room, a bathroom, and a sacristy in addition to the narthex and sanctuary. The first service was held in the new church on Christmas Eve, 1956. The structure was dedicated by Bishop Duncan Gray in early 1957.
During the Reverend Ray Pradat's ministry in the late 1960's and 1970's, Calvary Church experienced substantial growth in membership. In order to accommodate the increase in numbers, a duplex located next door to the rectory was purchased and converted into a Church School facility. In 1985 the Sunday school Building was renovated/updated to make it a more functional facility for use as church offices, classrooms, and nursery. In 1996 the attic of the building was converted to two upstairs rooms for use by EYC. The building was also made available for use by the Bolivar County Headstart Program.
In the summer of 2002 Calvary Church joined the 21st century by connecting to the Internet and creating a web-site complete with all the basic information concerning the activities of the parish. The parish also included email addresses of all members who have Internet service in the 2003 directory. Those members receive regular updates of parish activities and reminders of upcoming events.