Church History | Church Timeline | Sterling Speakers

Who We Are

 

Community Christian Church – Our History

Community Christian Church has over 100 years of rich history in the heart of Kansas City. From the founders in the late 1800s to our one of a kind Frank Lloyd Wright building that we are in now, our heritage helps to shape the church we have become.

Community Christian Church strives to honor the history of the church and the community while meeting the needs of our congregation and community of Today.

Church History

The history of Community Christian Church dates back to 1888 when a young boy's Sunday School class from the First Christian Church of Kansas City established a new mission church at 31st and Cherry Streets, then the southernmost reach of the city limits of Kansas City. Within two years, the mission church had grown so large that it was formally organized in April, 1890, with Reverend Hiram S. Gilliam called as its first minister. The church's first building at 31st and Charlotte streets was dedicated in 1894. [less]

From 1898 until 1907, Dr. Thomas Preston Haley, a noted minister of the Disciples of Christ and a pioneer ecumenist, served the church, which was first known as the Springfield Avenue Christian Church and later as the South Side Christian Church.

Dr. Burris Atkins Jenkins, who, as a young boy, had been a member of the class that established the church, served as senior minister from 1907 until his death in 1945. His ministry led to the building of Linwood Boulevard Christian Church at Linwood Boulevard and Forest Avenue and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structure at 45th and Main Streets.

In the 1930's, the name of the church was changed to Community Christian Church "...to emphasize our protest against closed membership, closed communion, closed anything and everything, and to declare the church nothing else than it is - everybody's church."

The building on Linwood Boulevard was destroyed by fire in 1939, after which the congregation moved to the present location at 4601 Main Street on the Country Club Plaza. This "Church of the Future," designed by world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was dedicated in 1942. The structure represented a sharp departure from traditional church architecture, and, in 1942, heralded a future surge in growth and ministry for Community Christian Church.

Dr. Frank Johnson Pippin, dynamic pulpiteer and administrator, served as senior minister from 1946 until his retirement in 1966 with the gift of a year-long sabbatical from the congregation. During Dr. Pippin's tenure, Community had one of its most phenomenal eras of growth and witness. Dr. Pippin died in a car crash in 1968.

He was succeeded by Dr. Harold Glen Brown, a highly respected leader in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and in ecumenical endeavors. Dr. Brown served Community until 1978 when he accepted an invitation to join the faculty at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School.

In 1979, Dr. R. Michael Waco was called to become senior minister. Under his leadership Community enhanced its governance, planning procedures for the future, and musical programs. In 1986, Central Christian Church of Dallas, Texas, extended a call to Dr. Waco to become its minister, and he accepted.

Since 1987, Dr. Robert Lee Hill has led Community in a renaissance period of growth and enhancement, with positive changes in its pastoral care and its property, in attitude and aptitude and action. The refurbishing of our sanctuary building and the renovation of our Activities Center has helped to make Community a "24/7/365 church." Commitments to mission outreach have totaled more than $1.7 million for others, with a steady focus on a constant theme: "Life is to be celebrated, not merely tolerated!"

Community Timeline

Who knew that a boys Sunday School class, begun at 31st and Cherry streets in 1888, would one day grow into what is now Community Christian Church? From those humble beginnings, and on through migrations to 31st and Charlotte and then to Linwood Boulevard and finally to 46th and Main streets, Community has sought all along, like those first Sunday School boys, to continue to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and humanity. [less -]

  • 1888 - Boys Sunday School Class of Miss Ella Hackett begins meeting at 3103 Cherry as a mission of First Christian Church.
  • 1889 - The growing mission moves to a store building on Springfield Avenue (now 31st Street).
  • 1890 - Springfield Avenue Christian Church formally organized; Rev. Hiram S. Gilliam, pastor (25 charter members).
  • 1894 - New building dedicated at Charlotte & 31st; church name changed to "South-side Christian Church" (127 members).
  • 1896 - Rev. W. R. Jeanette minister for two years.
  • 1898 - Dr. Thomas Preston Haley, former minister of First Christian and leader in the Disciples of Christ, becomes minister.
  • 1903 - Growing church sells its property, purchases lot at Linwood & Forest, meets for four years in Isaac’s Hall (31st & Holmes.)
  • 1907 - Dr. Haley resigns and names his successor, Dr. Burris Atkins Jenkins, one of the original Sunday School boys, to become senior minister.
  • 1908 - Church name changed to "Linwood Boulevard Christian Church."
  • 1909 - New building with Spanish Renaissance architecture dedicated.
  • 1917 - Stated "Open Membership" policy, accepting everyone regardless of manner of baptism.
  • 1923 - Largest church in Missouri.
  • 1925 - Service broadcast on radio; first pre-kindergarten school in the city begins; psychiatric clinic started.
  • 1930 - Name changed to "Community Church" ("everybody’s church").
  • 1939 - Night of Oct. 31 - building destroyed by fire.
  • 1942 - New building dedicated at 46th & Main, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as "The Church of the Future."
  • 1944 - Chapel (named after the Bonfils family whose gift made the chapel possible) added and dedicated.
  • 1945 - Dr. Jenkins dies.
  • 1946 - Dr. Frank Johnson Pippin becomes senior minister; church name legally changed to "Community Christian Church."
  • 1950 - Fellowship Hall addition dedicated.
  • 1954 - New Activities Center dedicated at 46th & Walnut.
  • 1950's - Time of unparalleled growth in the congregation.
  • 1965 - Week-long 75th Anniversary celebration.
  • 1966 - Dr. Pippin resigns, with the gift of a year-long sabbatical from the congregation. Dr. Harold Glen Brown becomes senior minister; Day Care Center established.
  • 1968 - General Assembly in Kansas City; Dr. Pippin dies.
  • 1969 - Sanctuary remodeled.
  • 1970 - “Last Supper,” sculpture by Ludwig Kraus of Oberammergau, Germany, received as gift.
  • 1975 - Food pantry opens; New electronic organ; senior adult program begins.
  • 1976 - "Community of Faith" steel crosses sculpture by Rev. Wayne Selsor installed at corner of 46th & Main.
  • 1978 - Dr. Brown accepts call to faculty position at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, Texas.
  • 1979 - Dr. Michael Waco becomes senior minister.
  • 1981 - Stephen Ministry begins.
  • 1985 - Rev. Robert Lee Hill called to be associate minister.
  • 1986 - Building campaign commences for FLW building; first phase of FLW renovation work planned & directed; Dr. Waco accepts call to Dallas church.
  • 1987 - Rev. Robert Lee Hill becomes senior minister.
  • 1988 - Elevator installed, making FLW building handicap accessible; church sign installed; youth mission trips begin.
  • 1989 - Sanctuary chancel area redesigned; new Lord’s Table, pulpit, lectern and chairs; services broadcast again on KXTR radio; Koinonia Council offers programs for those struggling with addictions.
  • 1990 - Centennial Celebration – year-long schedule of activities; Marilyn Maye Concert.
  • 1991 - Adult mission trips begin; final completion of renovation work throughout FLW building.
  • 1992 - Fellowship Hall renovated, rededicated as "Centennial Hall."
  • 1993 - "Religion on the Line" radio show begins on KCMO-810 AM.; First Jazz Worship Service with Tim Whitmer Consort.
  • 1994 - Installation and Dedication of “Steeple of Light”; Bonfils Chapel stained glass dedication.
  • 1996 - First Jazz Community Carol Fest; "A Time to Build" Campaign for renovation of Activities Center.
  • 1997 - C.O.L.O.R.’s (Christians Offering Love to Overcome Racism) begins; Meditation Garden dedicated; first "Blessing of the Animals" Service.
  • 1998 - Activities Center renovation and rededication.
  • 1999 - Front Porch Alliance involvements begin.
  • 2000 - “Have A Seat!” Campaign - sanctuary seating renovation; "Good Morning, Kansas City!" established (with Community, Temple B’nai Jehudah and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity)
  • 2001 - General Assembly meets in Kansas City. Dr. Hill and congregation receive National Clergy Renewal Program sabbatical grant from Lilly Endowment; Activities Center Phase II renovation begins.
  • 2003 - First “Spirit Fest” with Fred Craddock.
  • 2004 - Community helps to found MORE2 (Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity).
  • 2005 - Community members host Katrina evacuees from New Orleans and help with resettlement; 115th Anniversary “Steeple of Light” Gala; Stephen Ministry re-established.
  • 2006 - Community receives 5-year grant from The Lilly Endowment for “Clergy Residency Program;” mission trips to Gulf Coast region begin.
  • 2007 - Community begins involvement with Monday Night at Micah Ministries.
  • 2008 - ”Fresh Coat of Faith” Capital Campaign for major improvements to sanctuary building started.
  • 2009 - “Journey” contemporary service begins; audiovisual enhancements added to sanctuary; Kerygma Bible study renewed; Young Adults-Artists Helping the Homeless begins; co-sponsorship of Jamaica Partners Medical Mission begins.
  • 2010 - Community receives 6-year renewal grant from The Lilly Endowment for continuation of Clergy Residency Program.
  • 2011 - Resurfacing of sanctuary chancel; Installation of new Ahlborn-Gallanti organ; First “July Jazz Jam”; Community hosts community-wide 10th anniversary 9/11 Memorial service.
  • 2013 - Children’s spaces in Activities Center renovated with addition of second child care space; new roof, painting and carpeting for sanctuary building completed.

Sterling Speakers & Personalities

Below are some of the sterling speakers and personalities who have graced Community throughout our history: [less -]

Jane Addams Peter Ainslie Ron Allen
Edward Scribner Ames Marian Anderson Lance Armstrong
Battlefield Band Henry Bloch Father Leo Booth
Thomas Cahill The Chieftans Forrest Church
Emanuel Cleaver II William Sloane Coffin Bob Costas
K. David Cole Fred Craddock Clarence Darrow
Iris DeMent W.E.B. DuBois Sherwood Eddy
Dale Eldred Fannie Flagg Harold Fey
A. Dale Fiers Millard Fuller David Glass
Sue Grafton Mike Graves Cynthia Hale
Samuel G. Inman Alvin O. Jackson Toyohiko Kagawa
Gordon Kingsley Anne Lamott Sinclair Lewis
Vachel Lindsay Edwin Markham Marilyn Maye
David McCullough Karl Menninger Robert H. Meneilly
Charles Clayton Morrison Holly Near Reinhold Niebuhr
Buck O’Neil M. Scott Peck The Platters
Denton L. Roberts Bob Rogers The Scamps
Scartaglen Lyle Shaller Charles Sheldon
Paul Stookey Sweet Honey in the Rock Alva Taylor
Doc Watson Kirk Whalum Bailey White
Frank Lloyd Wright Johnny Ray Youngblood Rabbi Michael Zedek
     
 

Worshiping Joyfully,
Celebrating the Arts,
Doing Justice

Service Information

Times Location Directions Building Map