Our HistoryWritten by hvillefcc on Dec 01, 2009
There have been three Christian Church buildings dedicated for worship in the years 1860, 1884, and 1917, respectively. The Church was organized late in 1856 by a group of merchants and farmers and two doctors, all of whom were emigrants from Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, who came to seek homes in this western country. Being of the same faith they were drawn together by the desire to have a place to worship, and twenty-two persons comprised the membership of the first congregation, as follows: Dr. Henry Palmer and wife; Dr. Gilford Hansbrough and wife; Elijah Hansbrough and wife; William Mundy and wife; H. C. Burnett and wife; Frank Chilton and wife; Aaron Smith and wife; E. A. Eddy and wife; J. H. Briscoe and wife; Mrs. Sophia Ragan; Mrs. Mary McKinney, and J. H. Williams and wife, in whose home in southwest Harrisonville the organization began. Church services were held in the homes of the members until 1860, when this small but earnest group of Christians had succeeded in erecting, at the cost of $1,400, a house of worship on the site where the present church building stands, having purchased the two lots from R. O. Boggess on May 23, 1860, for $400.
The congregation worshiped in the first building until Harrisonville was put under military rule early in the Civil War when a unit of Union cavalry took possession of the building and used it to stable their horses. That this early congregation were true disciples of Christ, filled with the spirit of brotherly love which He taught, is exemplified by deeds of kindness, two of which are worthy of mention at this time. During an epidemic, the church building was turned into a hospital. The pews were converted into beds for the sick, and all the adult members who were not stricken assisted with the nursing. The other episode is a most pathetic item of Cass County history. Following President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, all slaves were, by order of the Military Provost, brought into Harrisonville and set free. There had been no foresight; no place of refuge had been prepared for these people who had been removed from the only homes they had ever known. Night was coming on and they were without shelter. But the people of the Christian Church threw open their doors, and gave to the women and children, at least, temporary shelter. Measles broke out among them, but they were kept in these Christian homes until such time as other housing could be provided for them.
After the close of the war, Congress appropriated funds to pay the war damage claims, and the Christian Church congregation received $650 for damages to their church. During the reconstruction period, members who had been forced by Order No. Eleven to leave town returned; new disciples moved into the community, and in 1867 the church was reorganized with additional members. Among these were the Hocker family: Tillman, James, Sarah and Mary; W. B. and Mary Moudy; G. L. and Mary Frazier; Joseph and Elizabeth Coleman; L. B. and Irene Agnew; Milton Dunn; Julia McAfee; Hannah Bailey; John Sturgis; George Mann; Mary Lee and Sallie Ragan; Mary Corrigan; and Mary Son. The repaired building was dedicated by Elder Graham of Lexington, Kentucky, in November 1867, and the congregation continued to worship in it until the spring of 1883.
From the memory of several who attended Sunday School in this frame church, and from a description given by Jesse Williams in a memorial to his father, Elder J. H. Williams, a picture of that first building has been made. It was a long, low, frame building, with four windows in each side and double doors in the center front. These opened into an entry hall which extended the entire width of the building. A box-like cupola above this hall held the bell; the bell rope hung down in the center of the hall and was fastened back on a hook when not in use. From the hall, two doorways opened into the aisles that led to the pulpit; thus the pews were arranged in three groups, short ones being on the south and north, and longer ones forming a larger center section.
This congregation went to the Town Creek or to Grand River for baptismal services. There was no musical instrument until, against the wishes of the elders, an organ was purchased in 1874 or 1875. Mrs. Sophia Ragan was the first organist, and two of her daughters, Sallie and Belle in turn, succeeded her. Prior to the advent of the organ, a tuning fork was used to pitch the hymns. During the sixteen years in this first building, 1867 to 1883, many workers and builders in Christ’s Kingdom were added to the church and the names of their children and grandchildren are found on the rolls of the church today.
In 1882 the first building was razed and a more modern one, at a cost of $3,500, was begun. It was a frame building 30 x 60 feet, with a tall, pointed steeple on the northeast corner, which held the bell. The windows were tall and narrow, with arched tops and were glazed with small panes of colored glass–red, yellow, green, and blue–which cast warm shadows on the red carpeting of the aisles and on the faces of the worshipers when the winter sun shone on the south side of the building. Comfortable pews replaced the straight-backed ones of the old church. A handsome organ was provided, and there was also a baptistery.
During the year and a half that this building was under construction, the congregation held Sunday School and preaching services in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on West Wall Street. Members who were active and influential in the erection of the second church included: Dr. I. M. Abraham; Dr. B. F. Berry; W. B. Moudy; Frank Chilton; George Roberts; J. N. Haddock; Isaac Arnold; W. D. and G. E. Christopher; J. D. Lisle; D. C. Barnett; S. W. Hoover; B. R. Naylor; A. J. Sharp; L. B. Agnew; J. C. Burford; Samuel Benight; George Bryant; Mrs. Hannah Morgan; Mrs. Mary Lee Ragan Cropper; I. V. Lowery; Mrs. Mary Corrigan; and their respective families.
The first service held in the new church was Sunday School on June 10, 1884, at which time D. C. Barnett was elected superintendent, Dr. Abraham, assistant superintendent, and Miss Jessie Lowery, organist. A month later the building was dedicated, the dedicatory sermon being preached by Rev. John M. Duncan. Miss Laura Bryant was organist and her brother, W. L. Bryant, was choir leader.
From this time until the end of the first half-century of the church, records do not seem to be available. Ministers who have served the church during the first half century of its existence are as follows, in the order named as nearly as can be ascertained: Elders James H. Williams, Palmer, Page, Hatchett, J. W. Creath, Phoenix, Geo. W. Longan, A. F. Smith, J. H. Painter, W. B. Fisk, Marion Todd, E. A. Eddy, James Sloan, J. W. Monser, George E. Shanklin, J. W. Ferrell, S. W. Crutcher, S. R. Reece, Howard Cramblett, C. B. Lotspeich, Arthur Fite, George Duffy, George Prewitt, and J. M. Pearne. During the ministries of these men, several hundred persons united with the church.
This brings us up to the beginning of the next half-century of the church. The Rev. King Stark was chosen and came to serve as pastor in February 1907. This marked the beginning of a period of growth in the history of the church. Many new members were added to the church roll. Listed in a membership directory which was made in July, 1915, by Rev. Stark, were the names of 432 resident members and 36 non-resident members.
During this period, the Christian Endeavor and the Junior Endeavor societies were organized. Prayer meeting was held on Wednesday evening; Ladies’ Aid on Thursday afternoon; the C.W.B.M. met the first Monday of each month; the Loyal Sons Class was organized with 50 or more members with Bro. Stark as the teacher. Evening as well as Sunday morning services were held regularly. On January 12, 1914, a Missionary Committee was appointed, composed of A. H. Whitney, D. B. Rogers, and Dr. Slaughter.
The church building was added to at various times in order to meet the growing needs of the congregation. In 1914 the church was repaired and a new room added. The committee in charge was Lee Spicer, the Rev. Stark, F. H. Howard, C. W. Hight, and Ed Kennedy.
The church was enjoying a period of great prosperity when the building was completely destroyed by fire on the night of February 28, 1916. The flames were discovered several hours after the regular Sunday evening service and were supposed to have been caused by a defective flue. Before the ashes had cooled, the members, under the leadership of the Pastor, Rev. King Stark, were forming plans to rebuild. Two excellent committees were selected and set to work consulting with architects and arranging for finances. Brother Stark was a tireless and inspiring leader, but with the task about completed he accepted a call to the church at Richmond, Missouri. The Rev. Harley James Crockett was called to Harrisonville, and under his pastorate Sunday School and Church Services were continued without disruption in the circuit court room of the county court house.
The building committee, composed of James S. Brierly, Lee Spicer, George Sweitzer, Mrs. J. W. Richardson, and Mrs. W. P. McCool; and the finance committee, composed of C. W. Hight, Sr., Ed F. Kennedy, J. O. Foster, Nolan Bricken, W. S. Woodson, and S. J. Stuart toiled earnestly and tirelessly. They were well chosen and deserve to go down as heroes in the history of the church. Plans were adopted and the contract was let for the erection of a substantial, modern church building to cost $22,000. On July 27, 1916, the congregation assembled on the church lot and held a brief service, as the pastor, members of the church board, and members of the building committee turned a spade-full of sod for the foundation. The cornerstone of the building was laid on September 14, 1916, and on April 22, 1917, the present beautiful brick and stone building was dedicated by Dr. George L. Snively, whose sermon subject was “The Fundamentals of Our Faith” as revealed in the Book of Acts.
Pledges amounting to $15,000 were made that day, which, added to insurance on the burned building and contents, and the previous donations, more than covered the cost of the building. The furnishings came from various sources. The velvet hangings at the baptistery, the rug for the pulpit, and the runners for the aisles were given by the Loyal Daughters and Loyal Sons classes of the Bible School. The pulpit, communion table, and chairs were given by J. S. Brierly, Ed Kennedy, and Lee Spicer. The hand-embroidered linen cloths for the communion table were given by Mrs. Minnie Clatworthy and Mrs. John Patterson. The two pulpit chairs were given by Runnenburger Bros., a clock by L. O. Kunze, and the Ladies’ Aid Society furnished the two pianos, a rug for the parlor, and the dining room and kitchen equipment, which included a large range, cooking utensils, dishes, silverware, and ten 12-foot tables. Tablecloths for these tables were given by the A. C. Mercantile Company. This equipment was used for the first time serving the dedication day dinner to several hundred people.
The officers of the church and its different organizations at that time were as follows. The trustees were D. C. Barnett, C. W. Hight, Sr., and Frank Chilton. The elders were Robert W. Austin, D. C. Barnett, A. J. Sharp, C. A. Burke, L. R. Lawrence, and A. H. Whitney. The deacons were Dr. William Slaughter who was chairman, Ed F. Kennedy who was church clerk, S. G. Stuart, Nile Wilson, W. S. Woodson, W. P. Gilleland, J. O. Foster, Ross Perry, Nolan Bricken, Lee Spicer, H. C. Nall, and W. P. McCool. Ed F. Kennedy was superintendent of the Bible School. Morris Sharp was assistant superintendent; and Mrs. Henry Nall was secretary. Primary superintendent was Mrs. C. A. Burke. President of Christian Endeavor was Morris Sharp. Superintendents of Junior Christian Endeavor were Mrs. Kitty Gibson and Mrs. J. W. Richardson. The President of Ladies’ Aid was Mrs. Minnie Clatworthy, and secretary-treasurer was Mrs. Cora Harris. President of C.W.B.M. was Mrs. Effie C. Frazee. Pianists were Mrs. J. S. Brierly and Mrs. Lee Spicer. The choir director was Mrs. Elbert C. (Essie Aiken) Austin.
The Rev. J. Harley Crockett was pastor for about one and a half years. During the next seven years, three ministers filled the pulpit; the Rev. Henry A. Wingard, Rev. J. T. Webb, and Rev. E. L. Armstrong and for over a year at one time there was no minister at all.
According to the minutes of the Board, at a meeting of the congregation, it was voted to hold a Revival meeting to begin October 14, 1918. Because of the dreadful influenza epidemic which broke out at that time, the meeting was postponed and there were no church services at all during the months of November and December, 1918. The Revival was held, however, from April 15 to May 15, 1919, conducted by the Rev. Pinkerton, who was assisted by his daughter, Gertrude. There is no record of the number of additions to the church, but it was a marvelous meeting.
The first Sunrise Prayer Service was held in 1914 under the direction of the C.W.B.M. In 1921, the first union Sunrise Prayer Service, with all churches in the community participating, was held under the leadership of Mrs. David S. Long, who at that time was pianist. This service was held in the Christian Church every Easter morning throughout the years, and it was a most impressive service. All churches in the town continued to cooperate by taking part in the service. The attendance increased each year to the extent the church was hardly adequate to take care of the crowd.
Dr. D. W. Moore began his ministry on February 15, 1925. He was a very fine minister and his was a very successful pastorate which lasted four years. The women’s council was organized in November 1925 under the leadership of Mrs. D. W. Moore.
On May 22, 1925, the property south of the church was purchased from Mrs. Ida M. Brouse for the sum of $5,000, to be used as a parsonage.
The Rev. A. S. Anderson was pastor of the church for one year. He was followed by the Rev. Ray Priestley, who served two years. These were years when the depression was being felt rather keenly. Bro. Priestley late visited the church on May 24, 1942, to deliver an address at the celebration in observance of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the new church building.
Another outstanding minister of the church was Dr. C. Emerson Miller, who came here from the South Street Christian Church in Springfield. He was an excellent preacher and pastor and was held in high esteem by all in the community. He accepted the pastorate here because he felt he would have more time to read and meditate. He died March 15, 1934, after serving a little more than one year. His funeral service was held in this church and was led by Dr. John Stuart Mill of Kansas City. During Dr. Miller’s pastorate the Guild was organized under Mrs. Miller’s leadership. Miss Helen Morse was the first president of the Guild.
The first deaconesses were elected in 1933. They were Mrs. Charles Bird, Mrs. J. W. Richardson, and Miss Edith Giltner. Deaconesses served from that time until 1943. Others elected were Mrs. Ed Kennedy and Mrs. James S. Brierly.
Dr. E. F. Leake, another outstanding minister, began his pastorate in November 1934. Dr. Leake was followed by the Rev. Ralph A., Fox who began his pastorate with the church on January 1, 1938.
During the five-year period which Bro. Fox was pastor of the church, these significant facts were noted (as taken from the minutes of the Board meetings): an every-member canvass was made each year to secure pledges to carry on the work of the church; pre-Easter Services and Revivals were held; regular visitations were made; a systematic plan for reducing the parsonage indebtedness was carried out; a fellowship committee was appointed; a Men’s Bible Class was formed and the Laymen’s League was revived to meet once a month, and a church letter was sent out each month to the men of the church who were in the armed forces. Bro. Fox was an ambitious man, an excellent preacher and pastor. He came back many times to conduct funerals and even to visit his friends who were ill.
The Rev. C. A. Burris served the church only eight months. He became ill soon after moving to Harrisonville and died in January 1945.
The next chapter, covering a period of about eleven and one-half years, is an important and significant period in the History of the Church. It was a period of re-dedication, service and growth, both spiritually and in numbers. The ministers during this period were the Rev. A. G. Smith, who served the church about nine and one-half years, resigning in September 1954 to become evangelist of the Ninth District, and the Rev. Robert Morris Beard who began his ministry in February 1955.
During Bro. Smith’s ministry, the 50th anniversary of his ministry was celebrated in the church. At this time he and Mrs. Smith were presented a television set by the members of the congregation. On July 23, 1955, the members of the church and the whole community were saddened by the news of his death in Enid, Oklahoma.
At the beginning of this period, World War II was drawing to a close, the boys would soon be returning home, new homes were being established and families being re-united. All of this was bound to have its effect on the church, and it truly was a challenge. There was much to be done. One of the first things recognized was the fact that the House of Worship was badly in need of repair. This was because of the lack of materials and lack of manpower available as a result of the war. At the suggestion of the pastor and through his encouragement, the members set about getting the church building repaired. Some of the panes in many of the windows in the sanctuary were broken. To have these repaired necessitated crating the windows, one or two at a time and sending them to the factory for repair. The front concrete steps were rebuilt, the floors in the sanctuary sanded and refinished, a new carpet was laid, and the basement of the church was completely gone over with a new covering for the basement floor. The kitchen took on a new look and many other things were done. It would not be possible to name all that was done toward beautifying and repairing the church building. Some of those who worked the hardest to get the job done were those who had come into the church during this period. Also, many beautiful and useful gifts were made by individual members.
The Young Adults Class was organized. Bro. Smith taught this class from the beginning of its organization until he left. It was the largest class, by far, in the Sunday School. The membership was around 75 to 100. This class was loyal to its founder and was depended upon to carry out much of the work of the church.
A Bible Study group was formed which met once a week on a weekday afternoon. This Bible Study group included people from not only our own organization but from all churches in the town.
For many years, there had been dreams of a pipe organ to be installed in the church. It was during this period the dream came true and the beautiful Reuter pipe organ was installed in the fall of 1946 at a cost of $3,163. The committee which took such an active part in securing funds for the organ was composed of Nile Wilson, chairman, Leo Armstrong, Mrs. C. A. Burke, and Mrs. J. H. Davidson. After funds were secured, the music committee became a part of the organ committee and this committee was largely responsible for the selection of the organ. They were Mrs. Charles W. Hight and Mrs. R. W. Andrews.
In May 1947 our Brotherhood launched the “Crusade for Christ” movement to cover a period of three years. Each church was apportioned a certain amount. This was determined by past giving to missions and benevolence, both state and national. This church was apportioned $4,000 which was much more than many of the larger churches in our own district. In May 1950 a total sum of $4,012.75 had been paid by this church in the “Crusade for Christ” movement.
The church has kept abreast of the advancing ideals and methods of religious activities. It has supported all the international, national and state projects of the Brotherhood. It has won much praise for making its remittances to missionary headquarters with great regularity.
Many of the churches in the county have looked to this church for assistance. Several of these churches which have been without pastors and unable to hold regular services have been assisted by our ministers holding revivals and going to preach for them.
In November 1955, shortly before Thanksgiving Day, the new church parsonage was completed and the pastor, Brother Beard, and his family moved in. Up until this time they had been living in the Idol property on West Wall Street. The old church parsonage had been torn down, and the new parsonage was built on the lot just south of the church. Loyd Roll was the contractor. The parsonage was erected at a cost of $15,416.97 which would not have been possible had it not been for the help of men in the church tearing down the old building and salvaging much of the good material to be used in the new building. Also, many hours of work were devoted to interior decorating. The parsonage was valued at $25,000. When it was dedicated, an open house was held on May 6, 1956. The outstanding indebtedness on the building was $5,000. That amount was borrowed from the Citizens National Bank and a note given. Pledges, covering a period of three years, amounted to more than enough to pay this note. The committee in charge of securing funds and pledges for the parsonage was composed of A. B. Corley, chairman, Denzel Limpus, Dr. K. R. Owings, Bryan Fitzgerald, Tom Witt, Loyd Roll, Frank May, J. E. Ball, John Williams, Jeff Killingsworth, Henry Slenker, Mrs. Raymond McKitrick, Mrs. Wray George, and Mrs. Tom Witt.
In July 1955 a church budget in the amount of $13,323.20 was set up. Committees were named to take care of every phase of the church’s activities. These committees were: Worship, Education, Evangelism, Membership, Missions, Stewardship and Property. Each committee met and outlined its program for the year, and as a result, the church calendar was set up. This organization plan has proven to be helpful in having an efficient, smooth-running organization.
The educational building was built in 1966. Estimated costs were $67,500. Including furnishings the total cost was about $75,000. Painting and improvements on the church building were done adding $7,800 to the total expenses at that time. The church purchased the Fitzwater property west of the church and the Washington Street property for parking lots. The parsonage was adjacent to the church and was having problems with a crumbling basement wall. So in 1980 a new basement was poured on the former McGrew lot and the parsonage was moved on a lot to the south. The sanctuary walls were painted in 1983, and in 1984 we had a combined project of refurbishing the fellowship hall and razing the house on Washington Street to extend the parking lot. The Fitzwater property had been razed and a gravel lot was created shortly after the purchase of the property. The entire parking lot was then covered with asphalt. We also carpeted the sanctuary and had the pews refinished and new pew cushions made.
There had been much discussion for several years of making the church accessible to people who are no longer able to maneuver the many steps to the sanctuary. This interest was renewed after the fellowship hall was refurbished and a new door was installed on the south side of the church where a window had been. The covered entry and ramp area made a lift more feasible. The entire project was completed in 1991 at a cost of about $75,000.
Other improvements have been made through the years with many of them paid for with funds from the Memorial and Endowment gifts. Among them are the kitchen update and construction of the communion preparation center as well as the new church sign on the corner of our church lawn. The grand piano was refinished and a new boiler for the sanctuary was installed as well as new air conditioning and ceiling fans for the sanctuary. The stained glass windows were covered with tempered glass and the sidewalks and steps were covered to hide many defects in the concrete. In 1989 the parsonage was first refurbished including new appliances. In the year 2000 a safety railing was installed in the balcony. In 2005 the parsonage was completely refurbished in preparation for a new minister. The floors, windows, and walls were redone. New appliances were installed. All these improvements were made, and the church has remained debt-free for several years.
The budget for the year 2006 was $131,426.40.
MINISTERS SERVING THE CHURCH DURING THE LAST 100 YEARS
King Stark February 1907-May 1916
J. Harley Crockett July 1916-December 31, 1917
Henry A. Wingard February 16, 1918-December 31, 1919
J. T. Webb February 1920-February 1922
E. L. Armstrong July 1922-October 1923
Dr. D. W. Moore February 15, 1925-May 1929
A. S. Anderson May 13, 1929-May 1930
Ray Priestley October 1930-October 1932
Dr. C. Emerson Miller December 1932-April 12, 1934
Dr. E. F. Leake November 1934-December 1937
Ralph A. Fox January 1938-January 1943
C. Allen Burrus May 1944-January 1945
A. G. Smith June 1945-September 1954
Robert Morris Beard February 1955-August 1959
W. R. Tucker August 1959-October 1966
Chaplain Newlin November 1966 (Interim)
Charles R. Kincaid January 12, 1967-May 1968
D. R. Fordyce May 1968-July 1970
Joseph T. Todd July 16, 1970-June 1975
Howard Prather June 1, 1975-August 1975 (Interim)
Robert D. Belew August 27, 1975-September 1981
Toney/Nadine Conley September 16, 1981-August 1983
John Thorington September 1983-June 1988
Dr. Monte Gravenstein July 1988-May 1989 (Interim)
Gary R. Blakeman July 1989-September 1994
Dr. Lee Hankins September 1994-June 1995 (Interim)
Donald K. Wiltfong July 1995-September 2004
Dr. Ed Peeples September 2004-August 2006 (Interim)
Adam Harmon August 2006 – August 2014
HISTORY OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
From the very beginning in the early history of the church, Sunday School was held regularly. However, the first record of the organization of the Sunday School was June 10, 1884, with D. C. Barrett elected as superintendent and Dr. Abraham, assistant superintendent. For many years Sunday School was held every Sunday morning. There were well-organized Children’s, Intermediate, Young People, and Adult Departments. The oldest organized classes were the Loyal Daughters and the Fidelis class. Miss Florence Logan, a member of the high school faculty, taught the Fidelis class many years. The Men’s Class was organized in 1938; the Young Adults Class was organized in 1945 with the Rev. A. G. Smith as teacher; the Loyal Partners Class was organized in 1955 with Denzel Limpus as teacher.
Mrs. Ada Slenker, a member of the Loyal Daughters Class, had a perfect attendance record for 35 successive years. For many years she taught a class in the Sunday School.
Over the past fifty years the Sunday School program has experienced many changes. At one time, there were twelve Sunday School classes. In 1966 an educational wing with nine classrooms, a nursery, and the minister’s office was added to the present building. This was a great improvement to go from dividers separating the basement into six class spaces to individual classrooms with walls.
For a long time we had a Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent with an opening assembly each Sunday. We also had a Secretary and four Department Principals with two to four teachers in each department.
We no longer have an opening assembly. The classes that remain active are the Loyal Partners, joined by some members of the Cornerstone Class, and the Wandering Faithful. In addition currently there are two classes for youth. Christian Education is an important ministry that we are trying to strengthen.
Vacation Bible School has always been a part of the youth program. Usually lasting a week, either at night or on summer mornings, young people and teachers would learn about God through crafts, music, and casual worship. Sometimes the attendance would be over 100 children. In recent years we have combined our efforts with other churches in town to be more effective in our Bible School ministry.
THE WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION
About 1894 a C.W.B.M. was organized in the church. Mrs. Joseph Lisel was the president and Mrs. J. S. Brierly (then Jessie Lowry) was secretary. In 1895 the National Historical Society records show $10.50 being sent for missions from this group.
Sometime during the depression which began in 1893 this group disbanded. It was reorganized in 1913 by Mrs. O. W. Lawrence (later Mrs. Geo. W. Muckley), state secretary and Mrs. Fontaine Meriwether, district president. Mrs. Effie Frazee was president, and Mrs. Henry Nall was secretary. This group faithfully carried on until November 1925, when, led by Mrs. D. W. Moore, wife of the beloved pastor, all women’s groups were united into the Christian Women’s Missionary Council. Mrs. Moore was made president, and Mrs. Ed F. Kennedy was secretary.
This group in its twenty-five years of existence had some notable achievements and gave liberally to both missionary and local needs. During this time they provided training for young girls.
In July 1950, in order to conform to the re-written plans of the Women’s Division of the United Christian Missionary Society, the name of the women’s organization was changed to Christian Women’s Fellowship. The first president of the C. W. F. was Mrs. Nile Wilson. In 1956 there were five groups in the C. W. F.: Ruth, Martha, Mary, Rebecca, and Deborah. Later the Rachael group was formed.
During the past fifty years women of our congregation have contributed much to our local church and community as well as county, area, and national divisions of our denomination. As our society has changed in the last fifty years, so have the women’s organizations in our church. Many younger women have jobs and careers outside their homes, so most who attend group meetings are retired. Fifty years ago there was a general C. W. F. and five group meetings each month. Now there are two study groups (Margaret and Deborah). The goals of these groups remain the same: fellowship, study and supporting a budget of approximately $2,300 for the Church Finance Committee, The Ozark Lakes Area, World C. W. F., Christian Service Fund, Blessing Boxes, and Leprosy Collection.
Kits (hygiene, school, baby, and sewing) are assembled and taken to the “Festival of Sharing” held each October at the Sedalia, Missouri, fairgrounds. Usually enough cash is included to ship the kits to the areas where they are needed. The Quilting Ladies make and donate a quilt to be sold there for Festival projects.
For several years bazaars were held in the church basement. Now they have been replaced by garage sales each May in coordination with Harrisonville’s citywide garage sales. Proceeds are used for kitchen supplies and other needs of our church.
Women’s Day Sunday is held once a year with women filling the roles of speaker, elders, and deacons conducting the services. Lap robes have been made and taken to nursing homes. Supplies have been donated to Hope Haven and Life Choice Center. Best Choice labels are collected for cash. Campbell Soup labels are saved for the Briarwood State School and Woodhaven Learning Center. For several years a Mothers’ Day banquet was held with overflowing attendance. Often the ladies served the Fathers’ Day dinner. One year a luncheon was served to Senior Citizens of our church. Several women have donated their time to work at Harrisonville’s Thrift Shop once a month, selling used clothing and straightening racks of shoes, etc.
Two years during the Harrisonville Fall Festival our church ladies had the quilt show in the church basement. Some of the women did various sewing demonstrations. Cold drinks and seating were provided to weary guests.
In 2004 and 2005 Christmas brunches were held for the women of our church and guests from the West Line Christian Church. The events had guest speakers and gift drawings, as well as carry-in food. Many other events were planned, such as a birthday banquet with twelve tables decorated for the twelve months where each guest sat at the table that was their birthday month. Another outstanding banquet had a “Pattern for Living” theme with pattern envelopes at each place. Two rather unusual style shows were held for Mothers’ Day Banqets.
Each year ladies from our church attended the “World Day of Prayer” services. These were held in various churches of the Harrisonville community. Each church provided part of the program. Recently these services have been discontinued.
Some other ways the C. W. F. have stayed busy are taking hygiene kits to the Juvenile Center, supplying toys for the nursery, and redoing the kitchen cabinets.
MOTHER’S DAY OUT
In 1985 Valerie Thorington, Reverend John Thorington’s wife, established a Mother’s Day Out program. The purpose of this ministry was to provide free time to mothers of pre-school age children as well as to provide enjoyment and creativity to young children. The program’s goals were to furnish an environment conducive to the development of small and large motor skills as well as to encourage communication skills through social interaction.
The church provided the facility for this program, but, otherwise, the program was designed to be self-sufficient. A Mother’s Day Out committee consisting of three or four members of the congregation acted as a liaison between the Mother’s Day Out director and the church since the teachers and directors were not necessarily members of the First Christian Church congregation. This committee submitted a report to the church Board periodically throughout the year.
Initially, Mother’s Day Out met one day a week through the school year from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. As enrollments increased and demand warranted, Mother’s Day Out sometimes expanded to twice a week and/or a summer program. The Mother’s Day Out program consisted of three classes: babies from four months old to two years old, children ages two and three years old, and children ages four and five years old. The teachers of these three classes reported to the Mother’s Day Out director. The director was responsible for collecting fees, buying supplies, paying salaries and employment taxes, and all other expenses associated with the program. The directors over the life of the program were Laura Yoder, Joan McLain, Karen Kraus, Jenny Church, and Brenda West.
After ten successful years of operation, the program closed in 1995 primarily due to Missouri House Bill No. 376. This bill outlined specifics for child-care facilities, and our building would not have met the code nor would the teacher/child ratio have been acceptable. The decision was made to close the program rather than fail to meet the state requirements for child-care facilities.
THE MEN’S ORGANIZATION
On November 9, 1941, the Laymen’s League was organized with C. K. Willis as chairman. During the war years, the organization became inactive. On March 31, 1949, the Laymen’s League was organized with 35 at the organization meeting. The Layman Committee was composed of Joel Knight, chairman; J. E. Clatworthy, Frank May, Leo Armstrong, and Dee Yoder.
For many years, the men have met monthly. A program is usually presented by a visiting minister or a video is shown. The men have done many worthwhile projects including taking meals to Restart in Kansas City. Restart is a homeless ministry for folks trying to “re-start” their lives after experiencing difficult times.
The men have sponsored Sweetheart Dinners, recognizing the women of the church with a meal and program. Fundraisers have included Sausage and Pancake Dinners and Chili Suppers.
Approximately ten years ago, the organization experienced a name change from Christian Men’s Fellowship (CMF) to Disciples Men in order to be more inclusive and universal throughout the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Both names are used to refer to the men’s ministry in the church. Disciples Men have supported financially each month the Ozark Lakes Area for approximately the past fifteen years.
THE YOUNG PEOPLE ORGANIZATIONS
The Junior Endeavor and Christian Endeavor societies were organized in 1907 under the leadership of the Rev. and Mrs. King Stark. For many years the Christian Endeavor and Junior Endeavor societies continued a useful existence. They provided training in leadership for many who filled positions of usefulness in this and many other churches. In 1956 there were active Junior and Young People’s groups under the leadership of the Rev. R. M. Beard.
The youth groups have undergone many changes in the last 50 years, the first and foremost being the name changes from the original Junior Endeavor and Christian Endeavor groups to the current Chi Rho and Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF). The focus of these groups has always been to bring together the youth of the church in fun and fellowship while learning, teaching, discussing, and sharing their Christian faith. The hope is to strengthen our own youth so they can share their knowledge and beliefs with others.
Through the years, the youth groups have participated in many activities that have gone beyond fun and fellowship, reaching out to help people within our church and our community. For fun, the youth have gone on camping trips, retreats, hayrides, held Halloween parties, lock-ins, created haunted houses, and dressed up for the live nativity. They have raised money and/or food for various organizations by holding car washes, collecting canned goods, holding food drives, and having the Bike-A-Thon for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. They have also delivered meals to shut-ins, helped with Bible School, made bread for Passover, and performed many special programs and plays during the holidays. At times, they have presided over the whole worship service including the sermon on Youth Sunday.
Leadership has always been an important role in ministering to the youth, and it is ever changing. Many people have shared this responsibility including pastors, youth directors, parents, and volunteer members. Thank you to everyone who has filled this role for our youth.
The size of our groups has fluctuated a lot over the years. In the early years of the church, the groups ranged from 50 to 100 youth, but our numbers declined over the years. Currently, the number of youth is very small, and this is a focus for us in the future.
Camping has always been an interest of the young people of our church and in many cases where they first came to know the Lord. They have attended camps near El Dorado Springs, Greenfield, Butler, Bennett Springs, and at the Rickman Center in Jefferson City. For many years the church offered scholarships to pay for half of the campers’ fees. These camps ran from three to ten days and were often staffed by members of our church.
MINISTRIES AND SERVICE
One tradition that has continued over the last 35 years is that of the Live Nativity Scene at Christmas time. The Robert Surber family has built and organized this beautiful scene for all the community to enjoy. Countless youth and adults have assumed the roles of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the angels while standing in the manger scene on the corner of Mechanic and Independence Streets.
During the life of the church eight of its members — Milo Atkinson, Frank G. Tyrrell, Jeffrey Patterson, Gip Wills, Mrs. William F. (Elizabeth Janet Frazee) Rugg, Mrs. Paul (Equilla Peterson) Whitfield, Ann Kircher, and Mrs. Candice (Surber) Brown — have answered the call to the ministry and have been ordained. Two missionaries spreading God’s word throughout the world were Sharon Famuliner and Andrea West.
The spirit of Christian loyalty and patriotism has been exemplified by the many young men and women of the church who have answered the call to the service of their country. Whether it be World Wars, Korea, Viet Nam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, or other foreign lands, our church has been well represented by young people doing their patriotic duty.
Music is a most important part in any church service, and the Harrisonville Christian Church has been fortunate in having much talent along this line down through the years. In the early history of the Church, we read about Mrs. Sophia Ragan being the first organist, and her daughters, Sallie and Belle, in turn, succeeding her. When the second church building was dedicated in 1884, Miss Laura Bryant was organist and her brother, W. L. Bryant, was choir leader. Miss Jesse Lowry was organist of the Sunday School. Later, Mrs. King Stark, Miss Bernita Chilton, and Miss Virginia Christopher were organists.
In 1917 when the present church building was dedicated, Mrs. J. S. Brierly and Mrs. Lee Spicer were pianists with Mrs. Elbert C. Austin as choir director. The congregation has always appreciated this tradition of talented musicians that still continues today. Over the last several years the choir has offered a weekly anthem, and during the Easter and Christmas seasons would often times present a Cantata, featuring soloists and small groups.
W. L. Bryant, Ed Catron
Mrs. Elbert C. Austin, Carla LeFevre
Mrs. David S. Long, Roxanne Martin
Mr. George Dean, Donna Barry (Davis)
Mr. Dayle Saylor, Barb Anthes
Wilbur Schmoll, Janea Collins
Vera Snead, Lori Bond
Don Parr, Debbie Mills
Bill Maxon, Amy Farr
Debbie Mills, Steve Catron, Megan Davidson
ORGANISTS AND PIANISTS
P indicates pianists only
Velda Lee Kelley
Robin Cassody Smith
Sherry Hoke Neale
Dianne Stephens Saffels-P
Cindy Tinsley Sanders-P
Mrs. J. S. Brierly
Mrs. Lee Spicer
Mrs. Sophia Ragan
Miss Laura Bryant
Miss Jesse Lowry
Mrs. King Stark
Miss Bernita Chilton
Miss Virginia Christopher
Dr. Long, Dan Powell
Judge Broadhurst, Ed Catron
Nile Wilson, Glen Kircher
C. C. VanHoy, David Mills
Henry K. Slenker, Robert Raynes
Bryan Fitzgerald, Jeanette Bartles
Prof. C. A. Burke, Jarrett Hawley, Jr.
A. B. Corley, Wesley F. Troutt
J. Edwin Clatworthy, Ivan E. Beeman
Harold Roth, Jeanette Bartles
Joe Hocker, Mary Parker
Clark Ritchie, Lyle Krohn
Joe Hocker, Joe Chenoweth
Dr. George E. Freeman, Pat Crowe
Daryl Snead, Richard Smither
Ellis Webster, Milly Long
Dwight Roth, Mary Parker, Lyle Krohn, Butch Beeman
This concludes the History of the Christian Church for the past 150 years of its existence. During this time, within its sacred walls many have received comfort in sorrow, many have been united in marriage, many have confessed Christ, and many have been challenged, envisioned, and encouraged. Much more could be written concerning the Life of the Church during the past 150 years. However, we trust that what has been written may be an inspiration to the present generation, and those generations to come will carry on the work which has been established and maintained by the faithful and loyal members of this church over the years.