August 15, 2020
By Sandy Foster
The year was 1870. William B. Howard had just founded a little town east of Kansas City five years earlier. The town, which was situated among lush fields and rolling prairie, was called “Town of Strother,” and it included only 100 residents.
That same year, 12 to 15 people began meeting to worship in a room above what was then Dryden’s Grocery. They were the core of what would become Lee’s Summit Christian Church.
“The church was founded in 1870. It took three years before they were able to worship in their own building, on land donated by Mr. Howard,” explained Reverend Kevin Snow in a recent interview. “That building was on the plot at 4th and Douglas, where Henry’s Antiques is now located. They left 4th and Douglas and moved to the current location at 291 and Tudor Road in the 1980s.”
“When the congregation was housed at the 4th and Douglas location, there was a fire,” Reverend Snow continued. “The only things that were able to be saved were the church bell and a Hammond electric organ. The bell is sitting out in front of our building today.”
Much has changed since those days. Town of Strother has been renamed Lee’s Summit. The population has grown from 100 residents to over 99,000, and it’s been 150 years since that handful of people began to worship in the room above Dryden’s Grocery.
What hasn’t changed is Lee’s Summit Christian Church’s commitment to serving God through serving the community, as evidenced by the plans they had made to celebrate their anniversary this year.
“In anticipation of the church’s 150th anniversary, we convened two committees last fall,” Reverend Snow said. “A Historical Committee and a Steering Committee.” Among the members are Ken Davis, Kathy Moore and Anne Smith. “We had planned to have a catered luncheon, children’s activities, speakers from the community and special days of service as an outreach to Lee’s Summit. We were very excited to begin planning for a big celebration that was to have taken place this summer. Unfortunately, those plans have all had to be put on hold due to COVID-19,” Reverend Snow stated. “Lee’s Summit Christian Church is a group of people who are kind to neighbors, and in an effort to keep everyone safe, the decision was made to postpone the celebration until next summer.”
“COVID-19 is a comma, not a period,” he said. “We will continue to be witnesses to God’s love during these challenging times. Our church has seen many challenges including the World Wars and fire. We’ll continue to reach out to the community in many different and innovative ways.”
Examples of the outreach include the church’s community garden, called The Welcome Garden. Volunteers work the garden, and the produce is donated to Hope House, Lee’s Summit Social Services, and Hillcrest Transitional Housing. The church also has an orchard of 21 apple and pear trees (The Welcome Orchard). The fruit is donated to those in need as well.
The strength of the church’s foundation and longevity was clearly seen in a recent interview with Committee Members. In the 1930s, both Ken Davis and Anne Smith’s grandparents grew grapes and assembled elements for the church to use in their communion services. And now, Anne’s grandchildren form the sixth generation of family to attend Lee’s Summit Christian Church. Ken’s family have been members for over 100 years!
Not only is the church steeped in history, but it is progressive in its principles today. “The church is an Open and Affirming (ONA) congregation,” Kathy Moore stated. ONA is the official designation within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affirming the full inclusion of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and non-binary persons in the life and ministry of the church. “Our church is open and very friendly,” she said. “Lee’s Summit Christian Church has also been very progressive toward women, allowing them to participate in leadership positions long before most other churches.”
Lee’s Summit Christian Church has grown with the community of Lee’s Summit, and when you look back on the church’s past 150 years, there is much to see. When looking forward, there is still much they have planned to do.
If you would like to learn more about the church, or attend services virtually, you can go to their website at lschristian.com. You can also contact the office at (816) 524-3616 with any questions.