Old Mission United Methodist Church in Fairway will celebrate its 70th anniversary later this month and has just welcomed its 10th senior pastor to serve the church over that long run.
Dr. Michael Gardner, a Kansas City native who grew up in Hyde Park, made his return to the Kansas City suburbs at Old Mission this summer after serving eight years at a Methodist church in Wichita. He previously had done stints at churches in Shawnee and Olathe.
It was 1942 when the church purchased the property from the Nichols company that was developing the Kansas suburbs. The space at Shawnee Mission Parkway and State Park Road had been planned for a church and remains the only church in Fairway.
“I am delighted to be ministering and living here,” Gardner said of Northeast Johnson County. He sees a greening process under way that makes the older suburbs highly attractive and sees a correlation between the lifestyle of Fairway and surrounding communities and the church he now leads. Old Mission, like Northeast Johnson, does not represent sprawl, but is dedicated to close personal relationships. It is not the ‘big box’ church, but rather a place for individual attention that allows the opportunity to connect with people, just like the small communities surrounding it.
When asked what they love about this church, Gardner says, the number one answer is “people matter.” That applies to the people who walk through the door and those the church touches in its outreach. The church “lives out the values I see illustrated in the life of Jesus.”
“Churches either adapt culturally or do not. The number one issue leaders face is how to address the shifts in culture,” Gardner says.
While it is common for Methodist ministers to be re-assigned every few years, Gardner anticipates a “nice long run” at Old Mission, adding to his 30 years in the ministry. He and his wife, Ann, have four adult children and nine grandchildren in four different cities.