First United Methodist Church of Topeka has a unique claim as the first congregation in the area, even before Kansas was a state. The current members found a way to share more than 160 years of that rich history with present and future generations. The church installed a permanent history wall on the first floor of the church. The exhibit has become a gathering place and a source of pride for this church family.
(Locator: Topeka, Kansas)
Maggie Turner, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “Normally, history isn’t that interesting to talk about or see in my opinion but this wall shows history and it makes it fun to look at, fun to talk about.”
Carl Nuzman, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “We can bring our visitors in.”
Marsha Oliver, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “The first time I saw it, I was so impressed, particularly for a relative newcomer here at the church.”
Stanley Teeter, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “I think the idea for the history wall originated during our 150th celebration.”
Doris Wills, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “The pictures on the wall that get the most attention probably are some of the ones of the fire that we had in 1921.”
June Windscheffel, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “There’s a great picture on the wall here. The governor burned the mortgage.”
Jim Maag, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “The number of United States senators, congressmen, governors who have been members of this church is really extraordinary.”
Mallory Lutz, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “What I love about this wall, it’s more than just the building, it’s the people, and important events and social issues and standing up for justice.”
The Rev. Jeff Clinger, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “And so, we hope the history wall not just reminds us of who we were, but paints that picture for who we might be. My name is Jeff Clinger, I am the lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in Topeka, Kansas. So, the wall has a unique location in the building. It’s across from where a lot of our longtime members spend their time. It’s also on the way to the nursery. So, a lot of young families are back and forth before that. It’s just fun to watch the wall be a place that catches people of other generations as they cross their paths with one another.”
Tyler Tenbrink, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “There’s a picture down here to the left of my grandfather in 1965 and when I come through this hallway with my children, I point that picture out and I show them, ‘This is your great grandfather.’ And I think it’s important to their identity to know that the people who came before them in their family were also followers of Christ. I hope that they will remember that and keep that in their mind as they establish their identity and who they are.”
Cooper Self, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “It’s really something that is very relatable for kids, especially in this era of social media, that I can really bring them in on and I can expand upon. So, like that as a bringing them in point.”
Marsha Oliver, First United Methodist Church of Topeka: “As I think about our bringing new people into the church from the downtown area, I might say to them, ‘We were the first church established here in Topeka.’ It’s going to have a lot more credibility to be able to show it to them.”
The Rev. Jeff Clinger: “We are 161 years old. We are older than the state of Kansas. And, of course, churches with those long histories often struggle to figure out really who they are and who they’re going to be in the future. And, we’re convinced that being a church for everyone in Topeka, all ages, all political backgrounds, all make ups is one of those keys. And, that wall helps younger people understand where older people have come from. And, it helps older people leave a legacy that tells their story not just now to this generation but to the generations that will come beyond.”
Contact First United Methodist Church of Topeka for more information.
And learn more about ways to preserve your local church's history with tips from the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History.
This video was first posted on September 13, 2016.