Allan Staib, secretary and website manager for Friends of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and Cemetery, and Norma Jean Howell, president, show off recent work on the old church building to Tony Nivens, right, whose great-great-grandfather is buried in the cemetery across the road. (contributed)
Allan Staib, secretary and website manager for Friends of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and Cemetery, and Norma Jean Howell, president, show off recent work on the old church building to Tony Nivens, right, whose great-great-grandfather is buried in the cemetery across the road. (contributed)

Archived Story

Old Mt. Calvary prepares for homecoming

Published 4:46pm Monday, May 6, 2013

By SHELBA NIVENS / Community Columnist

“The last time my daddy locked the doors of the church, he told me, ‘When I’m gone, I want you to take care of this place as long as you can,’” Norma Jean Howell said. “And that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Howell’s father Malvin Harper died a few months after making this request, she said.

Norma Jean and Friends of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and Cemetery still take care of the place, although it has not seen regular services for many years.

Recent efforts include repainting shutters and building exterior, recoating the roof with Cool Seal and repairing the floors

The Harper and Mooney families, ancestors of Norma Jean, helped found the church in April 1856. Other founding families include Farrell, Minor, Mooney, Moore and Shaw.

Descendants plan to gather from California, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, and other areas, along with local folks, for “Homecoming” on Saturday, May 18.

Linda Brasher and Denise Wallace, who sang with their mother, Dorothy Bradley, as “The Chelsea Trio,” will begin singing at 10 a.m., using the old piano Norma Jean oils to preserve the wood.

A Christian bluegrass group, descendants of Kendricks and Ropers buried in the cemetery across the road, will also sing.

Denise’s husband, the Rev. Steve Wallace, will read from an old Bible that once rested on the church pulpit.

“My mother and daddy came into the church one day and found pages from the Bible scattered all over the building,” Norma Jean said. “They took them home and put them back together. I now keep the Bible in my lock box.”

Other memorabilia at the homecoming includes scrapbooks, pictures, old records and original foundation stones Norma Jean personally rescued from under the building.

In the cemetery, Confederate flags, supplied by Tidmore Flags of Homewood, will mark four graves of men who served in the Confederate Army.

Singing begins at 10 a.m. with dinner on the grounds at noon. Everyone is welcome, and guests are asked to bring a dish, old photos and records to share.

For more information on Mt. Calvary Church and Cemetery, or Homecoming, visit Mtcalvaryfriend.org or call Norma Jean Howell at 663-0729.

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