The Spiritual Roots of Kansas City
One hundred years ago, Kansas Citians referred to their city as “the prophetic city.” Why? Why did this name fit the city?
Discover the greater faith story of Kansas City impacting your life every day.
The Spiritual Roots
of Kansas City
In 1855, Robert and Mary Ann Holmes joined with eight other people to start First Baptist Church of Kansas City. At the time, Kansas City was a small trading post of just three hundred people. Then six years after their church began, the Civil War broke out and turned the city into a military outpost. But the small church persevered, continuing to preach revival sermons even as guns fired during the Battle of Westport. I’m sure the Holmes family had no idea their small church would last for so long, but two centuries later, the church continues! Are you facing a small beginning? Are you discouraged by setbacks or feel like you’re serving in a warzone? Be encouraged—every new movement starts small, but it can last for generations.
After the Civil War, we were a rough and tumble Cowtown with dirt roads and ramshackle buildings. Then Reverend Henry Hopkins from First Congregational Church preached that our faith in Jesus influences every part of life. He published a pamphlet, “The City Beautiful,” calling Christians to care for their city. A. R. Meyer, whose name you might recognize from Meyer Boulevard, went to Hopkins’s church and took the sermons to heart. He started Kansas City’s first park board and recruited three other church members to join. Together, they hired George Kessler, whose architecture made Kansas City famous nationwide for its parks, boulevards, and, of course, fountains. Never underestimate the influence your church has on the city. As Reverend Hopkins said, our faith in Jesus shapes every part of life, every day of the week.
Our town began as a trading post by the Missouri River. Then Christian businessman John Calvin McCoy along with twelve other men purchased a small plot of land and called it the Town of Kansas. For years, the town struggled to survive. Then the Missouri River flooded, nearly wiping out the town’s few businesses. But what threatened to ruin our city actually brought its redemption. McCoy realized the flood had uncovered a rock landing perfect for steamboats to bring pioneers and goods for trade. The town of Kansas quickly grew into the Midwest’s center for trade, until it became the Kansas City we love today. Isn’t that how God works? Sometimes what feels like our ruin is actually redemption. Jesus’s resurrection proves that no matter how dark our circumstances may be, God always has a plan.
After the Emancipation Proclamation, former slaves traveled to the free state of Kansas. They stopped and camped along the riverbanks in Kansas City. Most churches were shutting down during the Civil War, but Reverend Clark Moore decided to start a mission known as Stragglers Camp. After one of Moore’s services, he baptized new converts in the river and asked them to choose whether they would be Baptist or Methodist. From this service were born Kansas City’s two oldest African American churches: Second Baptist Church and Allen Chapel AME. Amazingly, both churches remain in Kansas City today. Reverend Moore took a warzone and created an opportunity for God to move. Wherever you are, look for where God wants to move, and remember, Jesus’ death and resurrection are relevant in every circumstance.
In the 1940s, a Jewish Johnson County housewife, Esther Brown, saw that the children of her African American maid attending school in conditions far worse than her own children. Bothered by the disparity, Esther began crusading for equal education for all races. When the school board didn’t respond, she took her complaint to court, until the Kansas Supreme Court finally ruled in her favor. This ruling paved the way for school desegregation nationwide just five years later. Esther Brown was only one person, but she served a limitless God. 1 Samuel 14:6 says, “Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” Never underestimate what God can do through your obedience.