The success and growth of the Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church to one of the leading churches of the Missouri area has been made possible because of the faith and loyalty of countless men and women, laymen and preachers who gave themselves in sacrificial devotion to God.
No attempt to write a history could be made without omitting many men and women who gave their devotion to a cause they loved so deeply in these 150 years of church building. These persons were pioneers and trail blazers. They, under God made possible the Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church as we know it today.
This history was compiled originally by Katherine Johnson Whitehouse from information, records, and incidents related by Mrs. Bessie Hobbs Redford and Mrs. Maurine Atkinson Jackson. The original book was published in 1969. Some additions and revisions were made in 1972, 1976, and 1977.
Additions, revisions, and later history was written in 2001 by Charlotte Robinson at the time of the 150th Anniversary.
TIME LINE DATES
1851 Young’s Chapel organized
1859 First church Built
1860 First pastor appointed
1882 Ladies Aid Society organized
1888 First Sunday School organized
1892 Ladies Aid changed to Home Missionary Society
1907 First church razed
1908 Second Church dedicated
1922 Epworth League organized
1924 Ladies’s Bible Class organized
1933 Name changed to Blue Ridge Boulevard Methodist Church
1939 First Vacation Bible School
1939 Methodist Episcopal Church North & South & the Methodist Protestant Church merge into one union
1940 Ladies Aid Society and Missionary Society became the Woman’s Society of Christian Service
1952 Fire completely destroys church
1952 Fellowship Building completed
1954 Third church completed (south portion of complex)
1954 Methodist Men organized
1955 The Samaritan (Special Education) Class started
1955 Parsonage at 11223 East 48th Street purchased
1961 Education Building completed (north portion of complex)
1962 Parsonage at 5120 Blue Ridge Boulevard purchased
1963 Fellowship Building sold
1964 Present and fourth sanctuary completed (center of complex)
1964 Pipe organ installed
1965 Youth/Scout House at 12013 East 51st Street purchased
1967 Mother’s Day Out organized
1969 Church Library started
1972 Women’s organizations renamed United Methodist Women
1972 Parsonage at 11223 East 48th Street sold
1972 Parsonage at 12128 East 49th Street purchased
1972 Hobbs Hall completed (southeast portion of complex)
1973 Golden Key organized
1974 Handbell Choirs begun
1976 Church’s 125th Anniversary Celebration ( U.S. 200th )
1976 Bell from original church mounted and dedicated
1976 Purchased house at 12105 East 50th Terrace
1976 First Youth Work Camp
1977 Additional organ pipes installed, completing pipe organ
1977 Parsonage at 7232 Crisp purchased
1981 Parsonage at 7232 Crisp sold
1981 Property at 12016 East 51st Street purchased
1983 First Garage Sale For Missions
1983 Parsonage at 5120 Blue Ridge Boulevard sold
1984 Parsonage at 12128 East 49th Street sold
1984 Purchased parsonage at 12109 East 50th Terrace
1990 Elevator dedicated
1990 Shepherd’s Center started by Edna Scahill and Betty Conley
1992 Begin to fully staff offices with computers
1992 House at 12016 East 51st Street razed
1992 Youth/Scout house at 12013 East 51st Street razed
1992 Home at 12018 East 51st Street left to Church by Ruth Virgil
1993 First Disciple I class held
1993 Purchased house at 12021 East 51st Street (next to water tower)
1993 Parking lot expanded
1995 House at 12018 East 51st Street razed
1995 First Adult Work Camp
1997 Major repairs done to the organ
1998 Contemporary Service added at 9:30 with Praise Band
2000 Sanctuary remodeled and dedicated
2000 Additions to the church upstairs and downstairs
2000 Grand piano dedicated
2000 KC South District dissolved Blue Ridge part of the new Heartland Central District
2001 House at 12021 East 51st Street razed
2001 Church’s 150th Anniversary Celebration (1851 – 2001)
THE FIRST ERA
The year was 1851 — Millard Fillmore was President of the United States and Harriet Beecher Stowe was busy writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the book which would cause so much controversy in years to come. It was a hot and wet year in Jackson county; cholera was taking its toll. In this year in a rough hewn log schoolhouse by the side of the Old Santa Fe Trail some five miles south of Independence (about Old Highway 40 & Blue Ridge Boulevard) a small group of farmers established a new Methodist congregation. The Cassell School in which they met was named for a family from Kentucky who lived in the area. Mr. Cassell was captain of a wagon train for Russell, Majors and Waddell, the brains behind the Pony Express. A group of Methodists from the Pink Hill Methodist Church in the “Six Mile Area” helped in the organization. This initial meeting in 1851 was sixty-seven years after the Methodist Church was organized in Lovely Lane Church, Baltimore, Maryland, December 24, 1784.
This history spans seven wars…Civil War, Spanish American War, World Wars I & II, the Korean and Vietnamese Wars and the Gulf War. Blue Ridge Boulevard Methodist Church, which has stood in the same locality for the past 150 years (as of 2001), has taken an active part in Christian leadership and membership in the community.
Worship services were held at Cassell School eight years until the time of the erection of Young’s Chapel in 1859. The Cassell School house later became known as Chapel Grade School which was located at 51st Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard.
The charter members consisted principally of the families of Josia Walton, David Cassell Dr. Samuel B. Hobbs, Thomas Wallace, John M. Wallace, Robert Whitlock and J. P. Barnaby, a local preacher (not licensed). The pastor who first served this congregation in 1851 was S.S. Colburn.
After worshipping in the schoolhouse for eight years, church members decided that they should have a building of their own. One of the members, Dr. Samuel B. Hobbs, a prominent physician in the county, wanted to give one-half acre of his farm for the church. A group of members walked down the narrow lane which is now Blue Ridge Boulevard and chose a spot at 51st Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard, which they thought best for a church site.
Reverend J. F. Trustlow was on the circuit when the first church building was planned and built. Thomas Ashby, D. A. Leeper, and Robert A. Young were the presiding Elders (now known as District Superintendents) for this period of 1851 to 1859.
A brick building was erected in 1859 on the chosen site, four and one-half miles south of Independence on the Old Santa Fe Trail. The bricks were molded and fired near the building site by a Mr. Paul, an Englishman, and Mr. Baker, a Dutchman. The outside wall was built by William Young of Clay County, Kentucky; and the inside wall was laid by David Cassell, native of the same County and State and one of the original members of this congregation. The bricks were carried from the kiln, located one-fourth mile east of the church, and lifted upon the wall by Thomas and Theodore Cassell, 14 and 16 year-old sons of David Cassell, and Josiah G. Hobbs, 16. Aaron, a slave belonging to Rodney Hinde, mixed and carried mortar to the masons. The carpenter work was done by Yeager and Ruffner of Independence, and Jerry, a slave belonging to David Cassell, did the plastering. It was called Young’s Chapel in honor of Reverend Robert A Young, presiding Elder of the St. Louis District, who dedicated the church building. Reverend Young, a native of Tennessee and in the prime of life, was a gifted and popular pulpit orator. Physically he was perhaps without a peer in the St. Louis Conference, of which he was a member, standing six feet eight inches in his bare feet.
Reverend Young was a frequent guest in the Cassell home and Mr. Cassell said, “I shall always remember a circumstance related by the Reverend Robert Young himself.” Among his father’s flocks was a noted buck sheep which had been taught by the boys to butt a bucket, basket or anything the boys chose to put up as a banter. Upon this occasion Robert and several Negro boys would one at a time appear on all fours around the corner of the barn. As soon as noticed, the buck would instantly accept the challenger. The boys, of course, always depended on being missed by dodging around the corner. The buck would back up twenty or thirty steps and wait for his challenger. When it came Robert’s turn he proved a mite too slow in dodging, resulting in several backward somersaults for him, and he was left limp and unconscious on the field of battle after the first round. For many days the odds were against his recovery. After gaining his senses he was so informed by the physician to whom he replied, “If I had to die, I’d hate to be killed by a sheep.”
Dr. Hobbs, who attended him after the injury, predicted that he would some day grow up to be a man of stature and be a Methodist minister. Both came true as predicted.
Young’s Chapel was now on the Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, sharing a preacher with three or four other churches. The Civil War divisions within the Kansas City area churches mirrored what was going on nationally. In fact, American churches had split along sectional lines long before the Civil War. Northern and Southern Methodists went their separate ways in 1844, dividing into the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The split was alarming because Methodists were the largest religious body in the country and had a membership distributed throughout the nation.
The first pastor appointed to the new church was W. C. Godbey in 1860, followed by his brother, J. E. Godbey in 1861. No other appointments were made until the close of the Civil War and no services were held from 1862 to 1866.
In 1861, two years after the church had been built, the trustees decided they needed a few shade trees, so they planted five maple trees, which stood until 1963. Needing some ground around the church, Dr. Hobbs said to “step off” whatever ground from his farm they needed.
Since there was no deed, the trustees and members decided in 1861 it would be a good idea to have a deed drawn up, although Dr. Hobbs’ word was considered as good as his bond. So on August 16, 1861, the deed was drawn up but was not filed in the Recorder’s Office in Independence at this time. The deed calls for ten feet of ground on the north, south, and east and twenty feet on the west or front of the church building. Somehow this deed was preserved by his wife through the dark Civil War days, through the ravages of war even though her home was burned and everything was taken. Since Dr. Hobbs, a captain in the Confederate Army, was killed in the War, his wife filed this deed at the Independence Courthouse on February 12, 1869, ten years after the church was built. This document, which was misplaced for years, was found by Mrs. Bessie Redford in the old family Bible where her grandmother, Mrs. Samuel Hobbs, had put it away for safe-keeping years ago.
It was necessary to frame this fragile document to preserve it. Mr. Henry P. Chiles, former treasurer of Jackson County, became interested and offered to make a frame. His grandparents had been close friends of the Hobbs and their family. He made the frame from a piece of walnut timber that had been taken from a hand-hewn sill of a barn built in l850 and owned by Mr. and Mrs. Solomon Young of Hickman Mills, Missouri, grandparents of President Harry S. Truman. Mrs. Redford presented this original deed to the church on May 28, 1954, when the third church was consecrated. (At the writing of this present history, in 2001, the above document cannot be located.)
Slaves of the first families of the church occupied the back pews of the church. Since the church did not have hymnals, words of the hymns were taught by the women of each family to her own slaves. This was a period of demonstrative religion and great music in the worship services.
The church was one of the few buildings left intact for miles around when most buildings in this community were destroyed during the Civil War.
Mrs. Eliza Wallace, wife of John M. Wallace and mother of Reverend Charles T. Wallace of the Southwest Missouri Conference, was a great-granddaughter of Daniel Boone. She drove her horse and buggy to church almost every Sunday until she was nearly ninety years old. Her great-grandchildren, Wallace M. Yocum and Mrs. Mary Kelley, were also former members.
Catholic young people attended the church and also worked with the women at the socials and quiltings following the Civil War.
Worship services were becoming less spontaneous and the Methodists were taking steps to introduce more formal worship. They gave central importance to the sermon, which was becoming more polished. They had more things to listen to in church, but they also had more things to avoid in the world. Methodists in 1872 were told to stay clear of dancing, playing games of chance, attending theaters, horse races and circuses. By the mid-1880’s they stressed total abstinence from all intoxicants. By 1908 no one quibbled when it was said that the Methodist Episcopal Church was a temperance society.
In 1882 a group of women organized a Ladies Aid Society. The officers of this group were: Mrs. Josiah Gregg Hobbs, President; Mrs. George Cassell, Vice President; Miss Synthia McMillen, Secretary; and Mrs. Jerina Hobbs, Treasurer. Other charter members were Mrs. Eliza Wallace and Mrs. James McMillen. From their efforts of ice cream socials, oyster suppers and quiltings the preacher’s salary was aided. Reverend J. B. Ellis, who was pastor of Young’s Chapel, preached once a month.
The minister at this time was receiving $100 per year along with farm produce such as corn, potatoes, butter, eggs, home canned goods, meat, chickens and horse feed. The preacher came with his family in his horse and buggy once a month on his circuit, arriving on Friday for the weekend. He preached Friday night, Saturday night and twice on Sunday. One preacher’s family consisted of nine children, which was a challenge to any member’s home or table.By the 1880’s, Young’s Chapel was on the Westport Circuit with Fairmount, Mizpah (at Hickman Mills), and Mastin Chapel (now Swope Park United Methodist). In 1887, when Mastin Chapel wanted to raise money to build a church, it was decided to have a chicken fry. The families in the churches on the circuit were solicited for cakes, pies, milk, cream, preserves, lard, chickens, and anything else edible (even pure homemade ice cream). It was not uncommon for a farmer to give a dozen chickens or five gallons of lard.
A large ten gallon kettle was hung over an open fire and was half filled with lard. When it was sizzling hot, a wire frame holding a dozen chickens was immersed into the boiling lard until it was the right golden brown. Tables were piled high with all kinds of good country food. Tents were erected for protection and even a rest room provided.
City folk thought they had been on a great lark when they attended one of the Westport Circuit chicken fry dinners. There were no streetcars in those days and people came in wagons, on horseback, by buggy and surrey. The chicken fries became an annual event and lasted past the turn of the century. Similar events, as well as basket dinners, box suppers, socials and picnics took place “on the grounds” of Young’s Chapel.
In the Spring of 1888 the Sunday School was organized in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Josiah Hobbs, now designated about 4900 Blue Ridge Boulevard. Mrs. Hobbs organized a class for her own two children, Willie and Bessie, and four children of a German Lutheran family in the neighborhood, Lewis, George, Lottie, and Lena Fehrman, who walked two miles each Sunday to attend. About fifteen cents was collected so very little literature was bought. Mrs. Hobbs taught in her home for four years. As more children attended, they started meeting at the church. For the next five years Sunday School was held in the church only in good weather and on Preaching Sunday — once a month. Twelve was an average attendance with one class for all ages.
Mr. George Cassell, father of Mr. Henry Cassell, who was noted for his sweet melodious voice, directed the singing and was accompanied on the old pump organ by his daughter, Dora. Mrs. E. S. Atkinson played this pump organ, also, for many years.
In 1892 the name of the Ladies Aid Society was changed to the Home Missionary Society with Mrs. Josiah G. Hobbs continuing as President. Mrs. Theodore Cassell was Secretary and Mrs. Henry Cassell was Treasurer. Later it was called the Women’s Missionary Society, including the foreign and home fields. For twenty-four years, Mrs. Josiah G. Hobbs continued to serve and President of the women’s group until her death in April of 1907. Mrs. Howard T. Grubb, Mrs. Tom Norfleet, and Mrs. J. B. Sorency served as Presidents. Mrs. Bessie Redford served as President for eighteen years until 1941 when Mrs. A.O. Selover was elected President.
Home Missionary Society Meeting at the home of Mr. & Mrs. James McMillan (Location now 37th Street and Northern)
Christmas programs were always held with a huge cedar tree touching the church ceiling. It was decorated with strings of cranberries and popcorn; apples and oranges with a string through them; and stick candy. Colored ribbons for the girls and mittens or ties for the boys, all items that their mothers could make for them, were some of the gifts under the tree.
By the late 1890’s, the same four churches were on the Raytown Circuit, in the Kansas City District of the Southwest Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Quarterly meetings were held in alternating churches. These meetings were attended by the Trustees and Stewards of the four churches as well as the P.E. (Presiding Elder) and the P.C. (Preacher in Charge). Reports were made about the Sunday School, the Epworth League (Youth Group), the financial situation of the church, and the spiritual condition of the church. Money that had been raised was brought and the preacher and the Elder were paid. At this time they were attempting to pay the preacher $600 a year, but sometimes fell short. In the report of 1895, he received $88.75 the first quarter, $121.50 the second, $114 for the third quarter, and he was given $269.45 for the fourth quarter. For that year the total was $593.70, so the congregations came close. Obviously, the minister had to plan his spending carefully since he was never sure what he would be paid. The churches also attempted to pay the Elder $56 a year and the Bishop $8. Of course, they would have received monies from other circuits as well. Goals were also set to have $65 for Foreign Missions, $42 for Domestic Missions, $14 for Church Extension, and $10 for Education. Young’s Chapel often led the contributions with amounts ranging from $30 to $50, but they could go as high as $90 or as low as $20. When the weather was severe, crops were bad, or there was sickness in the community, attendance was down and so were contributions.
The Reverends C. T. Wallace, T. B. Harries, and R. L. Pyle led the congregation up to and into the new century. As the country put the Spanish-American War behind them, they looked forward to the 1900’s as a time of great prosperity and expansion. Electric lights were becoming more common, a few folks had telephones, and the word “suburb” was used as people began to think about living out of the city core. However, the area served by Young’s Chapel would stay country for many years to come.
THE SECOND ERA
Records show that by 1906-07, Young’s Chapel was on the Circuit with Fairmount and Point Pleasant. During the past year the membership of the three churches had been about 231 and they had been able to pay the preacher $640 as well as support missions and contribute to funds for church extension. In each quarter, as money was given, Young’s Chapel exceeded the other churches. So the membership was growing and their dedication to their faith was strong.
With a growing membership, a larger church building was needed. The last wedding to be held in the first church was Miss Bessie Hobbs and Fred Redford on February 20, 1907. On October 18, 1906, the members of Young’s Chapel voted to build a new church. Subscriptions for gifts for the church were started during the pastorate of the Reverend J. B. Swinney in 1907. A subscription petition read as follows: Realizing the need of a new church building at Young’s Chapel, I hereby agree to pay on or before March 1, 1907, the amount opposite my name. Said amount to be used as the said church may direct, but only for the erection of a new building upon the half acre upon a part of which the said church now stands. It is understood that unless sufficient amount is subscribed to assure the erection and completion of a modern building, my subscription is not to be paid.
Two copies of this petition were made and C. L. Whitehouse and Emmett S. Atkinson collected enough to assure the erection and completion of a modern building seating 125 persons. They received cash, pledges of money, and pledges of work to the amount of $3,266.65.
Young’s Chapel – Methodist Episcopal Church South – Completed in 1908
Showing the success of Mr. Whitehouse, Mr. Atkinson, and other members of the church, the Building Committee’s books of January 26, 1909, showed the building cost $3,236.65 and $30.00 was yet to be collected. This second structure, begun in 1907, was completed in 1908. The new church was dedicated on July 9, 1908. The membership had increased from 49 to 84.
In 1907, Mrs. Henry Cassell, lovingly called “Aunt Jennie” by everyone, organized the Cradle Roll. The first wedding to be held in this new church was that of Mr. and Mrs. Hal Thurston. The first funeral in the new church was that of Mrs. Josiah Gregg Hobbs.
Young Ladies Study Group with Aunt Jennie Cassell – 1920
The Epworth League organized in this church in 1922 with Mrs. John Cook, Katherine Johnson Whitehouse and Eva Johnson Anderson as officers. The Epworth League of northern and southern Methodism had taken shape in 1889 and 1890. Methodism’s Epworth League’s purpose was to promote “piety and loyalty to our church among the young people, their education in the Bible and Christian literature and in the missionary work of the church.”
A Ladies’ Bible Class of Young’s Chapel was organized March 20, 1924, with Mrs. J. E. Snoddy, President; Mrs. Fred Redford, Social Committee Chairman; Mrs. Emma Bull, Membership Chairman; and Mrs. C. L. Whitehouse, Treasurer.
As the Depression of the 1930’s deepened there was little money available for repairs or expansion. Almost every American lost ground during this time and churches shared in this loss. The membership in the mid-30’s stood at 176 and the preacher was paid $1200 a year. The Women’s Missionary Society had five circles that met monthly. They raised money by serving food at neighborhood auction sales, by having numerous ice cream suppers at which homemade cake and ice cream were sold, putting on county fairs and bazaars, and cooking the traditional Thanksgiving dinners. When the church found itself badly in need of a furnace, The Missionary Society raised most of the money to pay for the new gas furnace. A directory and handbook was printed every year with the help of the advertisements given by local and some Kansas City and Independence business men. This type of book was sponsored by the Women’s Society for several years. It was a source of needed revenue for the church, as well as providing information for the church members. By the late 1930’s the membership had increased to 220.
Young’s Chapel Congregation – 1921
The church which served the Blue Ridge and Raytown area for seventy-four years as Young’s Chapel, adopted a new name, Blue Ridge Boulevard Methodist, in December 1933 under the pastorate of N. A. Goode who served his second appointment 1933-1935.
The first Vacation Bible School was held May 22 to June 22, 1939, for forty-eight students and thirteen workers. The expense of this first school was $10.95. The teachers were Mrs. Virginia Clevenger, Mrs. Mary Brown, Mrs. Katherine Whitehouse, Mrs. Beulah Wall, and the Reverend George E. Hargis, who was pastor from 1936-1940.
At the General Conference of All Methodist Churches held in 1939 in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Municipal Auditorium, the Methodist Episcopal Church-South, the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to come into the union of the Methodist Church. This united three great sister communions which had divided during the Civil War.
When the Methodist Churches formed one church, the Ladies Aid Society and the Missionary Society became The Woman’s Society of Christian Service. They were officially organized October 8, 1940, in Kansas City, Missouri. The organization was formed as part of the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, but had its own Mission studies, as well as financial and fellowship programs.
Just as the country was beginning to come out of the depression, it was struck with an even bigger enemy to fight. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the lives of everyone were changed for many years to come. Young men went off to war, women went to work in all kinds of industries, and children took part in scrap drives for paper, rubber, tin foil, and even grease. Everyone struggled with ration stamps to buy food, coffee, shoes, and gasoline. By the end of the war, gasoline was being rationed at 2 gallons a week for the average driver. Getting to church became a real challenge. Victory gardens sprang up in everyone’s backyard. In March of 1944, the Kansas City School Board voted to let married women teach due to the shortage of teachers.
Blue Ridge Boulevard Methodist Church did its part to support those in need during this difficult time. A newsletter from the church was sent to servicemen so that they would know what was happening on the homefront, provide them with an uplifting message of moral support, and let them know they were in the thoughts and prayers of everyone. The faith of the members was tested, but remained strong through the hard times and the losses of war. In 1943, nearly $3,000 was spent in church redecorating. Plaster board was put on in the auditorium and knotty pine was used in the basement. Charles Jones and S. P. Ellison, members of the church, did much of this work. A beautiful new communion table and pulpit was made by Edwin Hinkley. Money for the materials was raised by the Wesley Fellowship Class. Mr Hinkley’s work was given as a gift in honor of those who served in the armed forces from the church. The Hinkley’s had three sons serving overseas during the war.
Minutes of the Board meeting for 1944-45, show that the church continued to support mission projects, do what repairs were needed on the church and parsonage, and raise the pastor’s salary by $5.00 a week to bring his annual income to $1820. Reverends Wilbur Wilson and Clell Phipps served the church during the war years.
By the fall of 1946, Blue Ridge Methodist had set a goal for the next year–1 new building, 200 in church school, 10 new teachers, $250 for benevolences, every member a giver, and a filled church every Sunday. Chapel Chimes, the newsletter of the church, reported on September 22, 1949, that “an indoor rest room before cold weather is the intention of the Official Board.” A committee was at work and it seemed that the rest room would be located on the south side of the church. One class asked permission to meet in the furnace room due to overcrowding. It seemed obvious that more space was needed. Reverend George E. Ryder served as minister from 1947 to 1949 and the Reverend Ted Akers from 1949 to 1957.
The 1950’s brought great changes to the area. In 1951, Starlight Theater opened. In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President. The Korean War consumed the nation from 1950 to 1953. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there could be no segregation in public schools and in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. On May 20, 1957, a tornado swept a 71- mile path south of Kansas City, killing 44 persons. Streetcars and trolleys were gone by late in the decade and by 1959 only 20 trains a day were running through Union Station. People began to get their entertainment at home, as TV found its way into the living rooms around the country. The big change, however, in our area was movement, as more and more people wanted to live outside the city and the suburbs began to flourish.
Blue Ridge Boulevard Methodist Church Choir – Circa 1950
Ground was broken October 21, 1951, for the construction of a Fellowship Building. The approximate cost of this building and furnishings was $20,000. On March 13, 1952, a fire completely destroyed the 1907 church. The blaze is thought to have started near an overhead gas heater in the east end of the basement at about 10:45 in the morning. The alarm was turned in by Mrs. Russell Elliott, who lived near the church. She saw smoke seeping out of the building. By the time the fire trucks arrived, the flames had burned through the east wall of the structure and enveloped the interior of the sancturary. After the fire was extinguished and cleanup had begun, efforts were made to salvage portions of the walls and basement structure. However, on July 5, a firecracker prank caused a second fire which destroyed stored materials and the remaining church basement. Worship services were held at Chapel School (directly across 51st Street south of the church property). The unfinished Fellowship Building, the parsonage on 51st Street, and the church bell was all that was saved at the time of the fire. The bell was removed from the damaged tower after the ashes cooled. It was rededicated in 1976, and mounted on a pedestal south of the Chapel Building.
Fire Destroyed the Church on March 13, 1952
The Fellowship Building was rapidly completed and the first service was held there in May, 1952. The Reverend Ted E. Akers and the 450-member congregation made plans for a new church.
During March, 1952, to March, 1954, the Beginner, Primary, Junior, Intermediate and High School Departments continued to meet in Chapel School. Upon completion of the Fellowship Building, the Nursery Class, Wesley Fellowship Class, and Cornerstone Class held their sessions in this new building. A dedication service for the new Hammond organ given by the A. O. Selover family in memory of John Selover, Jr., was held on November 16, 1952. It was used for worship services until the pipe organ was installed in 1964. The Hammond organ continued to be used in the Chapel until parts were no longer available for its repair. Another small organ was installed in its place.
The Fellowship Building – Summer 1952
The Fellowship Building – Winter 1962
THE THIRD ERA
The need to rebuild the church was pressing. Blue Ridge was a growing community. Work was begun in July, 1953, on the new building (south portion of complex.). The approximate cost of this building, including the furnishings, was $85,000. William Barker was Chairman of the Building Committee. Members of the Building Committee were: James Bright, Forest Redford, Mary Selover, Paul Morris, John Vogel, Marie Snoddy, Robert S. Stayton, and Rev. Ted Akers.
Sanctuary Building Completed in 1954
The opening service of the new church was held March 28, 1954, with Reverend Linus Eaker, District Superintendent, as guest minister and Reverend Ted E. Akers as minister. The Bishop at this time was Dr. Ivan Lee Holt. That afternoon “Open House” was observed in the new church building for the membership of 570 members. There were accommodations for 320 persons at each service compared with 250 in the Fellowship Building and 165 in the 1907 church. The President of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service at this time was Mrs. J. E. Snoddy. Tom Hostetler was president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship and Forest Redford was the Chairman of the Official Board. Harold Palmer was Superintendent of the Church School.
The Methodist Men held their charter night, February 9, 1954, and elected Harold Howard as their first President.
In 1955, Maud Harris, special education teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Raytown, asked the Administrative Board for permission to start a Sunday School class for special education students. She said that the children had many opportunities for social and school activities along with wonderful family support, but there was nowhere they could go to Sunday School. If the church would provide the space, she would teach the class. Permission was granted. She taught the class for a long time with a Mrs. Davis. When Maud Harris moved from the area, Doris and Causby Cole taught for many years with Velda Gantner. Velda, just this year, retired after long years of working with these students who are now adults. The other teachers also have given years of service to the class, including Bonnie Downs, Jim Morris, Chuck Mueller and Joyce Downing. The class is now called the Samaritan Class and no one in the church greets Sunday morning with more enthusiasm and joy.
In 1956, at the General Conference of the Methodist Church, the women of Methodism achieved a long-sought goal when this sentence was added to their church’s statute book: “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline which refer to the ministry.” Ordination of women at last! The United Brethren Church had ordained women since 1889 and a Methodist Protestant conference had ordained Anna H. Shaw in 1880. A Methodist preacher’s license had been granted to Maggie Newton VanCott in 1869 and Anna Oliver, a Methodist was the first woman to graduate with a seminary degree from Boston in 1876. But now in 1956, women could be appointed and serve in all areas of the Methodist Church.
In 1958, Ted Akers was appointed to the Warrensburg Methodist Church. During his service at Blue Ridge Methodist, membership had doubled. Reverend Robert Brown was appointed as the next minister.
In March of 1959, the membership was 1071 and the church was growing so rapidly that plans were made for the construction of a new education building and church office. This new air-conditioned building contained thirteen classrooms, offices, kitchen and a Fellowship Hall.
Rev. Robert D. Brown, Minister BRBMC 1958 – 1968
1960 Worship Service in Sanctuary Completed in 1954
Construction Begins on the New Education Building – Spring 1960
The structure was designed by Curtis and Cowling of Kansas City, and was built by the Dutoit Construction Company at a cost estimated at $138,000.
Wesleyan Hall Education Building – Completed 1961
The ground breaking services for this building were held on March 6, 1960. Participating in this service were District Superintendent Forrest Standard; Minister Robert D. Brown; and Assistant Minister Ronald D. Bollinger. This building, which is the north portion of the complex, was completed and consecrated June, 1961, and was called the Wesleyan Hall Education Building.
In 1962, a parsonage was purchased at 5120 Blue Ridge Boulevard. The Fellowship Building was sold and moved in March, 1963, to make room for the construction of the present sanctuary. This metal building can be seen on the rear parking lot of Christ United Methodist Church in Independence, Missouri, where it is still being used.
THE FOURTH ERA
As the 1960’s dawned, life was changing rapidly all over the nation. John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960 and in 1962 John Glenn orbited the Earth three times. In August of 1963, Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and by 1968 he had been killed by a lone gunman. On November 22, 1963, John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and the Vietnam War began to escalate. Kansas City voters in 1964 approved the admission of minorities to all public places. The decade ended with Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.
The membership continued to grow. The congregation could no longer be accommodated with the existing facilities. There was a grave need for a new sanctuary. Construction of a new building which would accommodate 575 was started March 1963 and completed February 1964. The cost of the new sanctuary was approximately $250,000.
Construction of the Present Sanctuary Building – Summer 1963
Bishop Eugene M. Frank, assisted by District Superintendent B. L. Schubel, consecrated this building March 8, 1964. The theme “I AM’ had been chosen to symbolize Christ’s guiding presence in and through the new church: I AM the bread of life; I AM the true vine; I AM the good shepherd; I AM the truth, I AM the meek and lowly of heart; I AM the light of the world; I AM the King; I AM the door and the way; I AM Master and Lord: I AM the resurrection and the life. This Christ-centered spirit pervades the design of the sanctuary from the Crosses of Calvary, to the Narthex, to the sanctuary altar. “The Lord hath chosen thee to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it” (1 Chronicles 28:10).
Present Sanctuary Building – February 1964
Many memorials and gifts were presented to the church by members through the years. All windows and chancel appointments were given as memorials. With the opening for worship of the new sanctuary in February, 1964, the former sanctuary was remodeled to include a chapel, lounge, church school rooms and office.
The Open Door Policy of admitting all persons into membership of the church regardless of racial or ethnic origins was approved by the Official Board, Women’s Society of Christian Service, Wesleyan Service Guild and the Methodist Men in 1964.
A pipe organ costing $18,340.00 was installed in March of 1965 and Mrs. Edna Scotten Billings, noted organist of Kansas City, Missouri, presented an organ recital.
In 1966, Family Life Chairmen Gary and Carolyn Turner attended a conference in Chicago. At that meeting, they learned about a program called Mother’s Day Out that was being tried in many churches. The purpose of MDO was to give mothers of the church and community a day out while their pre-school children were cared for at the church, enjoying creative activities and the fellowship of other children. Under the direction of Louis Buckalew, Minister of Education, and the Education Department, this program was introduced at Blue Ridge in March of 1967. That first year, Mother’s Day Out started with one room and five children who attended one day a week from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. The program grew rapidly in the coming years under the leadership of Gay Wimmer, Vicky Sibbitt, and Phyllis Ehrhardt. In 1973, Bonnie Downs was hired as Director. She served in that position until 1983. In those years, several rooms were added, the children could attend two times a week, and the teachers were given more training for new ideas. In 1983, Bonnie resigned as Director and Carol Pregge was named in her place. This was a crucial time in the program because as more and more women joined the work force, they needed full-time care for their children. Many wondered if the program could survive. However, with Carol’s hard work and leadership, the program continued to flourish and each year there was a waiting list of parents who wanted their children to be part of this excellent school. In 1990, Mother’s Day Out became Blue Ridge Preschool and Parent’s Day Out. In 1997, PDO received an AT&T grant of $10,000 to purchase needed equipment and to help the church bring the facilities into compliance with new state Child Care Health and Safety Records. In 1995, Karen Warmund was hired as Assistant Director In 2000, the program had nine rooms with approximately 140 children who were exposed to art, music, and physical education as well as learning and creative activities in the classroom. They attended three days a week from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.
Sanctuary Interior – February 1964
During the Conference year of 1968, new furnishings were placed in the Chapel. Stained glass windows carry the charge, “To be a good Methodist — to be a good Christian.” Each window on the south side of the Chapel depicts an event in the life of John Wesley; the windows on the west side depict the spirit of Methodism. The windows are all memorials.
On April 23, 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church were formally united at the Uniting Conference in Dallas, Texas. In Missouri, at Fayette, the Evangelical United Brethren Church, represented by Bishop Paul N. Milhouse and Dr. C. H. Crandall, District Superintendent of the Missouri Conference; and the Methodist Church, represented by Bishop Eugene M. Frank and the Reverend Jeff Marsh, Chairman of the Cabinet for the Missouri West Annual Conference, became one church: The United Methodist Church of Missouri. Our congregation became the Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church. This was the third time in the over 100 years since 1851 that the name had been changed, but we carry on the mighty witness of God’s love and grace no matter what the name.
Dr. D. Russell Lytle, who had been serving in the Methodist church in Jefferson City, was appointed to Blue Ridge in August of 1968. The following year, Reverend Joe Cooper was named as the Assistant Minister and Maurice Wise as the Director of Education.
Rev. D. Russell Lytle, Minister BRBUMC 1968 – 1981
The north portion of the Education Building was used by the Raytown Schools for Kindergarten classes until 1969. After the school moved out, remodeling was started to convert classrooms into offices in order to have all the church offices centrally located. This was completed in the summer of 1969.
When these changes were made, the financial offices were moved to the Education Building which left a vacant room in the Chapel building. With the Church School growing so rapidly, and materials for teachers in demand, there was pressing need for a library. A few books were on a shelf in a classroom, but no plan was in place to organize them in any way. In 1969, Charlotte Robinson went to Joe Cooper and volunteered to be the Church Librarian. With the help of a number of volunteers, shelves were added, books were cataloged, and many children’s books were rescued from cabinets in classrooms. Reverend Nicky Blackford, who was Minister of Education from 1970 to 1972, was instrumental in helping get this project off the ground. Over the years volumes were added from the church budget, donations from the congregation for memorials and honorariums, and purchases by the Women’s Society and church school classes. The library now contains several hundred volumes. In 2000/2001 the room was given a face lift with new paint, a new rug, and new tables and chairs.
THE FIFTH ERA
The 70’s were proving to be a time of great change and turmoil in our country and our city. The Watergate scandal touched off by a 1972 break-in at Democratic National Headquarters, consumed Americans’ attention. Protests against the Vietnam War erupted on college campuses. In 1972, the new Kansas City International Airport opened as well as Arrowhead Stadium. The following year the Kansas City Royals began playing in their new stadium next door. In 1976 Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. By 1979 the high cost of energy was driving a binge of double-digit inflation worldwide.
By the early 70’s, the crowded conditions at the church demanded more space. This time the need was for Church School classes. In November 1971, ground was broken for the new education building which was later named Hobbs Hall in memory of Dr. Samuel Hobbs who gave the land for this church in 1851. The building was completed in May 1972, adding 8,760 square feet of usable space to the existing 37,240 square feet, making approximately 46,000 square feet in the church complex on 51st Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard. This did not include the brick house across 51st Street which was used from December 1965 to May 1972 as Church School classrooms for the youth. When Hobbs Hall was completed, the Youth House was no longer needed for Church School. It was then used by the many Scout groups sponsored by the church, thereby, relieving the wear and tear on the church complex.
Hobbs Hall Education Building – Completed 1972
The exterior of Hobbs Hall was red brick. Both the material and architecture blended well with the other buildings of the church complex. Tom Nelson of the Patty, Nelson, Love Architect Firm was the architect. The building committee was: D. Russell Lytle, Paul Hostetler, John Hammons, Harold Howard, Don Pellow, Byron Oster, and Grady Truitt. This building committee acted as its own general contractor with members of the church doing much of the work themselves, thus saving a large sum of money. The cost was $120,000. The value upon completion was $180,000. This $60,000 difference was very significant during the 1971-72 inflation period.
Hobbs Hall included a recreation center and classrooms which would serve about 225 of the 600 children, youth, and adults involved in Church School. All fifth and sixth graders plus the youth classes met in the building. There was now space to provide two classes at each grade level. Another constant need was the need for teachers in those classrooms. Marge Lytle, an experienced Christian educator, took a great leadership role in this area. When Marge called and said she had been praying about a certain class and she felt you would be the perfect one to teach those children, it was very difficult to say no. Many adults who had no plans to teach, found themselves still in the classroom five, ten and even fifteen years or more because they loved the experience of working with the kids. A great deal of teacher training was given and the leadership in the children’s division gave teachers wonderful support. During the mid-70’s, the Suzie J.C. Pre-school, a self-supporting school for special needs children, held daily classes there. As membership changed the fifth grade students were returned to the church for classes. Sixth graders became part of the youth group when the school system changed from Junior High to Mid-High. The youth met downstairs while the upstairs was used for the Special Education Class and various adult classes.
Early in 1972, all United Methodist women were given an opportunity to choose a name for the one inclusive organization of Methodist Women. The name chosen was United Methodist Women. In December 1972, the Women’s Society of Christian Service and the Wesleyan Service Guilds were restructured to operate as one inclusive organization of Methodist Women. The first UMW President at Blue Ridge was Frances Dickson. In 1978, Frances was President of the Missouri West Conference UMW and later served on the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Missions. Frances was also instramental in starting the publication, The West Wind, which shares the news of the District with all the members in the local church.
In April of 1972, the parsonage at 11223 East 48th Street was sold and the Coopers, who were living in the old parsonage, moved to the new one at 12128 East 49th Street. In July of 1972, Missouri Bishop Eugene M. Frank was assigned to another Episcopal area. Bishop Robert E. Goodrich, Jr. was appointed to this post to succeed Bishop Frank.
Blue Ridge United Methodist continued to grow and younger couples with children fueled a need for church school teachers, youth activities, and new programs. In 1972, Reverend Blackford returned to his Oklahoma Conference and Jim McCombs, a student at St. Paul School of Theology, was hired as a part-time Education Director. In 1973, he became the full-time Minister of Education. After serving at Blue Ridge for five years, Reverend Joe Cooper was appointed to the Oakley United Methodist Church. Gil Evans, a licensed lay preacher, assumed the position of Assistant for one year and in 1976, Reverend Steve Cox, coming from Grain Valley, is appointed as the Associate Minister. He and his family lived in the house on 49th Street and a parsonage was purchased in 1977 at 7232 Crisp for the McCombs’ family.
In 1973, under the leadership of Reverend McCombs, Edna Scahill and Edra Penny, the Golden Key was started. This organization enabled the senior citizens of our congregation to meet monthly for a dinner, a program, and fellowship together. This is still a vital, active group today.
In 1976, Reverend McCombs and other adult volunteers took a group of Senior High youth to Hannibal, Missouri for a Work Camp. This is a tradition that continues today–26 years later. During this time the trips have taken young people all over the country—from Kentucky, to Colorado, to Louisiana, to Oklahoma, to Wisconsin, as well as many other locations around the country. In 1984, it was decided to have a Work Camp for Mid-High youth. They would travel to locations within Missouri or to a near-by state. This camp would be shorter, but would give the youth excellent work experience to prepare them for joining the Senior High youth when they were older. Over the years, our group of young people have built a reputation for being loving, caring, hard-working youth. They have made a difference in the lives of many adults and children as they have repaired homes, churches, and community centers. In 1995, several adults went to Red Bird Mission in Kentucky for the first Adult Work Camp. They have continued that tradition by traveling to various location to serve in this special way. In 1997 and 1998 some college students went on a Work Camp to Fort Worth, Texas and to Camp Galilee.
In 1978, Reverend McCombs left Blue Ridge to become the Associate Minister in Clinton, Missouri. Cheryl Barnard, a Diaconal Minister, was hired as Minister of Education. Diaconal Ministers are full-time lay people, certified and employed by the United Methodist Church. Diakonia is a Greek word from which a well known word “deacon” is derived. The Greek meaning is simple, “to serve others”; and therefore, the title Diaconal Minister.
In 1979 Reverend Cox was appointed to Booneville, Missouri, and Reverend Fred Bowers served Blue Ridge in 1981 and 1982 as the Associate Minister. In 1980, Reverend William Handy becomes the Missouri Bishop.
In 1980, after being at Blue Ridge United Methodist for 13 years, Reverend Russell Lytle retired. He and his wife, Marge, had made a terrific difference in the life of this church leading it through a time of great growth. Reverend Gene Atkins from Kingsway United Methodist Church in Springfield, Missouri was appointed to Blue Ridge. Reverend Bill Billings came as his Associate.
THE SIXTH ERA
The 1980’s brought “a mysterious new epidemic” called AIDS that was felt around the country. Kansas City witnessed its greatest highs and most gruesome lows. The collapse of the Hyatt in 1981 was a nightmare come true. The Royals’ winning the World Series in 1985 brought pride and joy to the entire community. The economy ricocheted from bust to boom to uncertainty. While the rich got richer in the suburbs, poor neighborhoods waged war with street gangs and a wicked drug called crack. A new kind of screen–the computer monitor–was beginning to find its way into homes.
Rev. Gene Atkins, Minister BRBUMC 1981 – 1990
The decade saw changes as well at Blue Ridge United Methodist. The new team of ministers began guiding the church through a time of recession that would affect giving and programs. The mission work of the church had always been a big part of the character of Blue Ridge. With that in mind, the first Garage Sale for Missions was held in 1983. With almost every group in the church taking part, Hobbs Hall was filled with “cast-off” items turned into “treasures” for mission. Each year several thousand dollars was raised for a long list of mission projects. In 1996 the sale was moved across the street to a large tent.
In 1983, with plans to return to school, Cheryl Barnard left and Bill Billings assumed the position of Minister of Education until he left the ministry in 1984 to join the FBI. At that time retired minister Shrum Burton was hired to be the Associate minister and Richard Whitaker, Diaconal Minister, came to us from Georgia.
Several property changes took place during these years. When Reverend Lytle retired, the house on Crisp was sold and Cheryl Barnard moved to the parsonage at 5120 Blue Ridge Boulevard. When Cheryl left in 1983, this home was sold. In l984, the parsonage at 12128 East 49th Street was sold and the church purchased a house at 12109 East 50th Terrace. This parsonage was then occupied by Richard Whitaker and his family.
In January of 1984, over 7,000 Methodists from around the world came together at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Methodism in America. These activities called “The Festival of Praise” were coordinated by Ann Scahill, sister of Tom Scahill of Blue Ridge. Thirty members of our church sang in a mass choir of over 1000 voices during the service. Katherine Whitehouse, Church Historian, arranged a display at the Auditorium telling the story of Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church.
Many problems faced the leaders and members of the church by the mid-1980’s. The population growth in our area had leveled off and many people were moving east or across the state line. Our membership stood at around 2,100, but because family structures had changed and church traditions had changed, many people were slower to make a commitment of time and money to the church. The economy was weak and energy costs had skyrocketed. Our sanctuary was now 20 years old and the rest of the facilities were even older. There were constant repairs to the heating and air-conditioning units. The Trustees reported a long list of items that needed repairs and up-dating. Many in the church felt there was a need for building expansion and remodeling in order to continue to meet the needs of the congregation. A Building Committee was formed, an Architect hired, and plans developed. However, since it was becoming increasingly difficult to fund the budget each year, it was realized by 1988 that this was not the appropriate time to undertake a building program.
With this decision reached, it was decided to submit to the congregation a Capital Improvement Campaign to meet the immediate needs for repairs and upkeep to the facilities. In July of 1989, the membership made two-year pledges for this “second-mile giving”. The funds were to cover such items as roofing and guttering for the Chapel, lighting improvements, air conditioning up-dating, energy efficient windows, handicap access, etc. Even though the entire amount needed was not pledged, those monies that were received helped take care of some much needed repairs.
Music has always been a very important part of the ministry of Blue Ridge United Methodist Church. We have been blessed with outstanding organists and dedicated choir directors. The adult choir has served the church faithfully for many, many years–practicing once a week, sometimes singing at three services, preparing special anthems for Christmas and Easter and other events. There has not only been adult choirs, but opportunities for the children and youth to share in the music ministry as well. The musicals they present annually to the congregation are always one of the highlights of the year. Over the years, other special choir groups have been part of the music program. The addition of the handbells in 1974 added another dimension to this ministry. In 1987, Linda Mann was appointed the Director of Music. She continued to play the organ. Cyndy Price and Debbie Keeton were named as Assistant Choir Directors. Not only have there been several vocal choirs, but outstanding soloists, instrumental groups, and special programs as well.
In May of 1990, Reverend Gene Atkins retired after almost 42 years in the ministry, nine of them at Blue Ridge. Shrum Burton, who officially retired in 1982 after 45 years of service, took a second retirement after serving our church for 6 years.
THE SEVENTH ERA
In 1990, Reverend Richard Hammett became the Senior Minister of Blue Ridge after serving in Harrisonville, Missouri since 1984. Later in the year, retired minister Roy Stuart was hired as the Associate Minister primarily in the area of membership and visitation.
Rev. Richard “Rick” Hammett, Minister BRBUMC 1990 – 2004
November 5, 1990 saw the first Trustees meeting of the Board of the Shepherd’s Center of Raytown. Shepherd’s Center became the dream of Blue Ridge United Methodist members Edna Scahill and Betty Conley after attending a meeting with Richard Whitaker at Central United Methodist Church in 1988. Shepherd’s Center is about linking older people together in friendship, concern, and support within a community. Now, over ten years later, the organization enjoys partnership relations with 12 local church congregations, has a permanent office, employs three employees, runs the local Meals on Wheels program, and utilizes dozens and dozens of volunteers each year to help older people maintain their dignity, independence, and continued productivity. Blue Ridge has remained a vital part of this wonderful program.
Once again war was on people’s minds as they saw the start of the Gulf War–Desert Storm. Though the campaign was short-lived, it was a difficult time for those who had loved ones involved. In March of the same year, Emanuel Cleaver, United Methodist Minister, was elected Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. He served until 1999. Voters approved taxes to restore Union Station, the Kansas City Zoo, and Liberty Memorial. In 1992, 63 percent of Missouri voters approved allowing casino gambling on riverboats. In 1995 the heart of the nation was broken when a terrorists bomb blew up the Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
New challenges met Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church in the 1990’s. The membership continued to age and young people who used to stay in their hometowns now often moved to other communities. More and more families moved east to Lee’s Summit or west to Kansas. As membership declined, the church searched for new ways to attract people to the fellowship of believers.
One of the ways the church was able to provide for its older members, as well as help those who were handicapped, was to install an elevator so everyone could more fully participate in the life of the church. The cost of the elevator and installation was $85,482. Eight thousand dollars came from the Campaign Improvement Fund and the rest from contributions and memorial funds. A total of $90,094 was raised, leaving a balance to be used to maintain the elevator in the future. The dedication was held August 7, 1999.
In March of 1992, Richard Whitaker left to take a position in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Jan Bond, Diaconal Minister and long time Christian Educator, joined the staff as Minister of Education. Ann B. Scherer became the Bishop of Missouri.
Over the years, starting as early as 1976, the church purchased property on 50th Terrace and on 51st Street. This was done to have space for future church expansion, additional parking, or housing for ministers. By 1993, we owned all the property east to the water tower on 51st and began to make plans to expand the parking lot. The children’s playground that had been at the back of the property near the parking lot was moved farther to the east. In 1993, plans were drawn and bids taken for this $50,000 project. Special one-time gifts were made by the congregation to cover the costs. Because Kansas City required additional storm drainage studies, which cost an additional $27,000, and because even after studies were done the city took several weeks to give approval for the project, it was spring of 1995 before work actually began on the parking lot. The parking lot was completed in June of 1995.
In order to expand the ministries of Blue Ridge Methodist to reach people in many different ways, several new worship opportunities were offered during the 1990’s. In 1995, a Saturday evening service was started and was led by Jan Bond. In 1993, Jan had returned to St. Paul’s School of Theology to become fully ordained as a minister within the church. In January of 1995, she had been appointed to us by the Bishop as a Student Local Pastor. The Saturday evening service allowed those who worked on Sundays or planned to be out of town, to worship in a casual relaxed way. The program continued until 2000.
In October 1996, the first service of Healing and Wholeness was held. Meeting once a month on Sunday evenings at 5 gave people an opportunity to share with God the burdens of their life and the opportunity to ask for God’s healing power.
In the summer of 1998, Blue Ridge added another dimension to its worship life by offering a contemporary worship service at 9:30 A.M. The music program of the church expanded with the addition of the Cornerstone Praise Band. This group offered music with a “beat” and promised to appeal to all ages. Today this continues to be our fastest growing service.
Early in 1997, the congregation learned that for a long time the organ had needed major repairs. Some 30 notes were “dead” and several of the organ pipes were falling over. Because Linda Mann was such as outstanding organist, she had been able to “play around” these problems. The organ was valued at $280,000 and the needed repairs would total about $20,000. The membership was asked to make one-time gifts toward this project. The response to this need was outstanding and the project was funded in a couple of months. Because the pipes had to be manufactured in Europe, it took several months for the job to be completed. The newly restored organ was being played by Christmas of 1997 and was dedicated in January of 1998.
In November of 1991, the Annual Church Conference gave approval for the creation of a Building Study Committee to create proposals for Sanctuary renovation and Narthex expansion. The goal was to enhance congregational involvement, and improve conditions for worship, special services and presentations. The basic areas of need were identified and the architectural firm of Mantel and Teter was retained in July 1993 to assist in determining the feasibility and cost of the concepts developed. On May 13, 1996, a special Envoy (the weekly church newsletter) was sent to members of the church outlining the final concepts developed that would remodel the existing sanctuary, enlarge the entry way, add restrooms on the first floor near the sanctuary, incorporate choir and bell practice rooms in the additions downstairs, and add a reception room upstairs that would be reached by a covered entry on the east side. The towering, mostly glass, entry on the west side of the church would seem to reach out to the community urging them to enter. In June of 1996, a formal Building Committee was chosen to more fully explore and develop a detailed set of plans and cost estimates. The Committee was Dwight Robinson, Chairman; Gary Sidebottom, Terry McCarty, Mark Culley, Colleen Aufdembrink, Margaret Strader, Dudley Leonard, Duane Holder, Tom Bullock, Marge Fredrickson, and Rick Hammett.
In 1997 the plans were completed and presented to the congregation. The members then had many opportunities to meet with the committee for questions and suggestions. On May 21, at a congregational meeting, there was a vote to accept the preliminary plans as presented by the Building Committee. The Development Foundation was the organization chosen to help design the financial program for the renovation and expansion.
Selecting the theme “Opening Our Doors to the Future,” a three year financial pledge campaign started early in 1998. By the end of March those pledges had topped a million dollars. Mantel and Teeter were directed to complete detailed drawings which were approved April 6, 1999. David E. Ross Construction Company from Raytown was approved as the general contractor for the project at a cost not to exceed approximately 1.4 million dollars. The church would enter into additional contracts and retain a contingency amount that could extend the scope of the project to 1.9 million. The congregation was asked to keep in mind that $250,000 of this amount was updating and repairs on items that had been neglected in the church for several years.
Groundbreaking for the construction was held on July 11, 1999. Representatives from David E. Ross Construction and Mantel and Teeter Architects were present as well as the Building Committee. Four members—Florence Hartman, Steve Schwieterman, Andrew Mitchell, and Emily Carney–representing the congregation each turned over a shovel of dirt to symbolize the beginning of construction. Scaffolding was moved into the Sanctuary by the first of August and the Sunday morning worship service was moved to the Fellowship Hall. The congregation was able to move back to the Sanctuary by the end of November.
On January 23, 2000, a “Grand Day of Praise” took place in the sanctuary as the church’s new grand piano was dedicated and used to praise God. The piano was dedicated to the memory of Phyllis and Sam Chullino, Betty Davenport, Martha Keeton, and Lillie Manning.
An Open House was held on April 15, 2000, to see the completed work and the Consecration Service was held on June 11, 2000. The service was led by Reverend Rick Hammett and District Superintendent Kyle Hern. Remarks were made by Dwight Robinson, Chairman of the Building Committee, as well as representatives of Mantel and Teeter and David E. Ross Construction Company. At the time of construction, Dudley Leonard was Chairman of the Administrative Council and Arlene Welch was President of the UMW.
West Entry to Sanctuary Building – Completed March 2000
East Entry to Sanctuary Building – Completed March 2000
Many improvements had been made to the sanctuary. The front was enlarged to enhance congregational involvement and improve conditions for special services and programs. This space, also, made possible the addition of the grand piano. The divider on the north side was removed as well as the choir loft. The choir would sit on removable chairs facing the congregation. Several front pews were removed so the chancel area could be expanded and the riser width increased. The communion rails and the pulpit were now removable. Improved lighting and sound equipment, as well as a video system, allowed for greater joy in worship. New furnishings were added to the new entry area, known as the Beatitude Room, as donations and memorials became available.
In May of 2000, Jan Bond was appointed to Park United Methodist Church in Hannibal, Missouri. Judy Slimmer, from North Cross United Methodist Church, was appointed to be our Associate. District Superintendent Kyle Hern was sent to Jefferson City, Missouri and the new DS was Ken Lutgen.
After being in existence since 1961, The Kansas City South District ended in the year 2000. District lines were redrawn and Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist became part of the new Heartland Central District.
Expanded West Entry to the Sanctuary – May 2001
New East Entry – Beatitude Room – May 2001
THE CURRENT ERA
Now we are in a new century—a long way from 1851. Instead of coming to church in a horse and buggy, we come in SUV’s. Instead of traveling long distances in a covered wagon, we travel by airplane. News is not passed over the back fence, but over the internet. We have seen where we have been and now it is important to see where we are and where we are going.
In some areas the traditions stay very much the same. The United Methodist Women still do many of the things done by the Ladies Aid Society and the Missionary Society. They support foreign and domestic missions by selling Corsage for Missions, by serving numerous dinners, and by holding the Fall Festival. Often their money goes to help in a need at Blue Ridge. The Current President , Alice Wehmhoener as well as Arlene Welch and Anna Brown who served recently in that position, give of themselves unselfishly to lead this organization. All of the members have given faithfully of their time, talent and money for many years.
The mission work of the church is strong. The Garage Sale for Missions and the Garden Produce Table in the summer raise money for various needs in our neighborhood as well as the wider community. Whether it is Della C. Lamb, Spofford Home, City Union Mission, Don Bosco, Goodwill, Shepherd’s Center, Raytown Emergency Assistance Program (REAP) or ReStart, the congregation nevers fails to give generously with their time and their money. The Pantry Sunday boxes are full and overflowing each month as we who have so much are willing to share with those who have so little.
We also strive to stay connected to each other, as well as to reach out in love in time of need. The Prayer Chain and the Card Ministry are a special ways to remind the members that someone cares. Every few months people in the church save lives by participating in the blood drive.
God wants us to continue to grow in our Christian life and in our Christian faith. A large number of members of this congregation do that each week by attending a Sunday School class. The four adult classes—The Wesley Fellowship Class, The Friendly Class, The Builder’s Class, and The Covenant Class—have been active at Blue Ridge for thirty to fifty years—with one class going back so far we aren’t sure of the number of years. The newest class, the GIFT Class, was formed in 2000.
In 1993, the first Disciple I Bible Study class was held. In small groups the students learn what it is like to be a Disciple as they read, study, and pray together. It is a 34-week course so it takes a great desire to grow in your faith to participate. About 100 people have graduated from the Disciple I, II, and III classes.
Each year several short-term classes are offered for members to study about Jesus, about being a Christian, about being a Methodist, or how to live their life under various difficult conditions.
The children and youth of Blue Ridge have always been a top priority. Many people have joined this church because of the excellent programs offered their children. Bible school goes back to 1939 when it was held for one month!! For many years it was a two week program. Churches today have adjusted to changing times and often find that evening classes work well because the children of working parents can attend and more teachers are available.
Sunday School for all ages has always been a creative and exciting time for the children. Whether a church has 350 children or 50, the dedication of the children and the teachers is the same. They both learn from one another. The future of our children’s division is bright.
Blue Ridge has sponsored the Scouting program for many years. An early record that we have, dated 1936, states that there was an active scout troop. We have had Cubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Girls over the years. Troops 369 and 269 were active here for a long time. Troop 269 still has an outstanding program meeting in our church. Their annual Chili Supper and Pancake Breakfast are enjoyed by all.
The youth of this church have been active since the time of the Epworth League in the 1920’s. Whether it is called M.Y.F., Free-To-Be, BUM, or The Youth Group, they are an enthusiastic, inquisitive, and giving group. Whether going through Confirmation Class, attending Sunday School, sharing together on Sunday evening, singing in their musicals, or ringing the bells, they give it their all. Their real faith and commitment shine through each summer as they share their time and faith at Work Camp.
Worship is a joyful experience with great variety in music and message. The Drama Group founded in 1997 and directed by Nancy Nail, often makes us laugh, but always makes us think.
For many in the congregation who have made the church the center of their life, their deepest memories will be the fellowship with the friends they love. Whether it was squaring dancing, sharing in the Wednesday night dinners, going on a trip with the Blue Ridge Travelers, going to Family Camp, eating together at a barefoot breakfast or the dinner theatre, sharing a laugh while working in the kitchen, striving together at the youth or adult work camps, having a cup of coffee in the Beatitude Room, going on a church picnic, or catching up on the news in Sunday School or the entry way, the memories will remain with them forever. When you get together with old friends from the church, those are the stories they want to tell. The shouts of joy when the news is good and the hugs of sympathy when it is a time of sadness, sustain us all.
What of the future? If we can keep the faith as those before us did, if we can stay faithful to the vision as we do now, and if we share our faith with those out in the world, then the future is secure for Blue Ridge Boulevard United Methodist Church. We are the future and it is important that we reach out to others and share the faith and the memories with them.
What we do day to day doesn’t always seem important, but in 50 or 100 years from now those things will be our history. Let those who come after us look back with pride and thanksgiving for all we have left them.
For 150 years dedicated men and women have served this church. Those in the early years traveled many miles, suffered great hardship, and were paid little. In many cases during the first fifty years, a preacher only served for one year. Young’s Chapel was a small country church with “preaching Sunday” once a month. When severe weather occurred or the community was struck with serious illness, people could not get to the church. Even after the turn of the century, ministers did not serve for long periods of time. But their faith was strong and as the church began to grow that same faith saw them through a fire that destroyed their church. The following years of tremendous growth brought their own set of challenges. Through all the years, we have been led by pastors with great faith and vision. We thank God for each of them.
PASTORS AND THEIR YEARS OF SERVICE
Tyson Dines – 1851-1859
C. Godbey – 1860
E. Godbey – 1861
(No Services) – 1862-1866
W. Thompson – 1866
Charles Boles – 1867
F. Hogan – 1867
Minshall – 1869
T. Perry – 1870-1871
N. Reed – 1872
P. Cobb – 1873-1874
Dophlemeyer – 1875
D. Wood – 1876
F. Camp – 1877
Joseph King – 1879-1880
B. Ellis – 1881-1882
C. Given – 1883-1884
F. Wagoner – 1885-1886
H. Vandiver – 1887
G. Pike – 1888-1889
R. Stone – 1890
M.Fulcher/Ansel Bringgs – 1891
W. Prucell – 1892-1893
Bruner – 1894
Berry Long – 1895-1896
T. Wallace – 1897-1900
B. Harries – 1901-1902
L. Pyle – 1904-1905
B. Swinney – 1906-1907
A. Huffine – 1908-1909
Snoden – 1910
B. Carter – 1911
W. Sears – 1912
Alonzo Patison – 1913
L. Adams – 1914
H. Heslar – 1915
Alonzo Patison – 1916
B. Jackson – 1917
H. Smith – 1918
B. Jackson – 1919-1920
T. Pinnell – 1921
F. Filewood – 1922
A. Goode – 1923-26
M. Miller – 1928-1929
H. Cleaves – 1928-1929
L. Stoffer – 1930-1931
O. Tolman – 1932
A. Goode – 1933-1935
George Hargis – 1936-1940
Wilbur Wilson – 1941-1942
Clell I. Phipps – 1942-1946
H. Westphal – 1946-1947
George E. Ryder – 1947-1949
Ted E. Akers – 1949-1957
Robert D. Brown – 1958-1968
Russell Lytle – 1968-1981
Gene Atkins – 1981-1990
Richard Hammett – 1990-2004
Dr. James Smith – 2004-2006
Dr. Ken Lutgen – 2006 – 2011
Barry Freese – 2011 – 2015
Dr. Tex Sample – 2015 – 2016
Anchul Axelrod – 2016 –