Batavia’s first Episcopal service took place in 1842 when Bishop Philander Chase, Illinois’ first Episcopal Bishop, presided at a service at the home of Mrs. James Derby, on the southwest corner of Batavia Avenue and McKee Street. Batavia was then served by the missionary, The Reverend Allison in 1843.
In May, 1855, the Batavia Mission was organized as Calvary Parish with The Reverend Julius Waterbury as Priest-in-Charge. In 1856 the first church building was built on the southeast corner of Houston and Washington (now Lincoln) Streets. The lot was donated by J.O. McKee. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a tornado a few years later.
From the time of the tornado until 1873 services were held irregularly. Regular service dates from 1878, let by resident Priest. In 1878 parish membership was 68 souls. The present stone edifice, built at a cost of $12,000 was donated by Mr. and Mrs. John Van Nortwick in 1879. On July 2, 1881 the building was consecrated. The Reverend Edward Benedict served as Acting Priest while also serving Aurora and Geneva.
The Van Nortwicks also donated the first rectory. The house, located two blocks south of the church at the southeast corner of Batavia and Union Avenues, has fifteen rooms, five fireplaces, a single bathroom and was lit by gas. It is still standing today.
Around 1890 the first Parish Hall, a one room frame structure, was built directly east of the church. It was heated by pot-bellied stove and was used for a wide variety of church and community events.
By 1898 Calvary had 70 communicants.
In 1910, St. Mark’s of Geneva and Calvary extended a call to Canon Moore to serve both parishes on a part-time basis. He often walked between the two towns unless someone loaned him a horse and buggy. The two memorial windows of Madonna and Christ blessing the children were installed on the south wall during that time.
Christian Education was expanded in the 1920’s. The Reverend Frank Victor Hoag came to an agreement with the Batavia Board of Education to allow parents to request that their children be excused early on Thursdays to attend religious training. Thursday School was very popular and continued until 1985.
In 1922, a new Parish Hall was built on the site of the former hall, which was partially demolished with help of the Boy Scouts.
Hard times hit the country and the Parish in 1929. Financial difficulties almost forced the Parish to sell the rectory. A part-time, single Priest was engaged for $25.00 a month plus travel. He did not use the rectory, so the Parish was able to rent it out to help with the financial problems.
In 1948, the Church needed extensive remodeling and services were held at the Parish House.
In 1949, Calvary had 209 communicants with an enrollment of 90 in Sunday School. With need for space, the basement was excavated and an entrance constructed on the north side of the building.
It was time for a new rectory in 1965. Te building on North Jefferson was sold and a new one at 346 North Van Nortwick was purchased. Two years later a fundraising drive was held to build a new educational unit to the Parish House. In 1969, an open house was held for the celebration of the new facility with space for a kitchen, parlor, offices and 14 classrooms.
Within the country, the Episcopal Church was changing, and the first woman was elected to the Vestry in 1968. Five years later girls began assuming the duties of acolyte.
In 1980 a major renovation project began, in preparation of Calvary’s 100th Anniversary. Also in 1980, a new pipe organ was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Appel in memory of their son, Steven.
On December 9, 1989 Calvary witnessed a first when Fr. Dru Green married a seminarian, Linda Leudesdorff. Mrs. Green was ordained a Priest two years later.
The 150th Anniversary of the first Episcopal Service in Batavia was celebrated on November 8, 1992. The 1789 Book of Common Prayer was used and music appropriate to the time made the service authentic and memorable. Most parishioners dressed in period clothing and were served a most proper period tea.
After 25 years of service to Calvary, Fr. Green retired from the parish and Fr. Mike Rasicci became our 25th rector in January, 2002. His guidance and leadership have helped the parish smoothly transition its ministries into the new millennium.
In 2003, the parish added the position of Director of Children and Youth Christian Formation to the staff, helping us better serve the every-growing population of young families. Vacation Bible School and mission trips, such as Appalachia Service Project, are now expected events here at Calvary.
The past 173 years have witnessed many changes as parishioners have provided and ever-improved facility for corporate worship, education and fellowship due to the dedication, benevolence, hard work and sacrifice of generations of families at Calvary Episcopal Church.