Calvary Baptist to celebrate pastor’s 20th anniversary
By Malin Dartnell
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, the history of Calvary Baptist Church changed forever with the arrival The Rev. Hoke Smith. Previously a construction worker from Atlanta, Smith received much of his inspiration from Dr. William Borders, pastor of Wheat Street Baptist Church, where Smith was a member. Borders was a key leader of the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, and Smith remembers seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attending services at Wheat Street Baptist Church.
The church was one of the first “mega-churches” of its time, and Smith said that he learned from that progressiveness. “When I came,” he said, “the church was at a stalemate.” Drawing from Borders’ example, Smith decided to change that. “At that time, the congregation had only 250 members. Now, we have over 900,” he said, continuing to say that this growth has been one of his biggest accomplishments. Not only has the congregation grown, however, but the church building itself has had to see additions to keep up, most importantly in the form of the Hoke Smith Building.
This building houses offices and classrooms, where GED classes and seminary classes are held, among other things.
“Hopefully,” Smith said, “the Hoke Smith building will inspire future and unborn generations.” The building was quite controversial at first, as many of the members of the congregation worried about the debt that it would put the church in.
Under Smith’s shrewd management, however, the church’s 10-year loan was paid off in five years. Smith takes very little credit for these incredible accomplishments, contributing them instead to the Lord and to those who have supported him.
Last year, Smith completed another of his major accomplishments. In 1987, he made it his goal to travel to all of the places in the Bible. He felt it was important to gain exposure to other cultures as well as a complete understanding of the places and people that he would preach about. Along the way, he was baptized at the River Jordan, met with important government and religious officials, and had other such remarkable experiences.
These travels culminated last year in a trip to Ethiopia. Prior to this trip, he traced his bloodlines back as far as he could, discovering that his early ancestors were originally from Ethiopia. It was an incredible coincidence that his final pilgrimage was to his original homeland.
Smith preaches such valuable lessons as “Success needs you and you need success.” He stresses the importance self-esteem and healthy living, and says, “Pastoring is just guiding others to be leaders.” Calvary Baptist Church will celebrate Smith’s 20-year anniversary with a special service held on Sunday, August 3 at 4 p.m.