In the summer of 1942, William and Helen Hanson got a call from regional leaders of the United Methodist Church asking if they’d be willing to help organize a new congregation in the growing Kansas City suburb of Fairway the Hansons called home. They agreed, and spent weeks walking door-to-door, asking their neighbors if they wanted to sign on. The response was impressive. On Sept. 20, 1942, nearly 200 people showed up for the congregation’s first service, held in what was then the Fairway Theatre (currently the building that houses the Fairway Houlihan’s).
In planning Fairway, developer J.C. Nichols had set aside a parcel of land at the intersection of Shawnee Mission Parkway and State Park Road for use as a church. His company entered an agreement to sell the land to the new congregation for $6,500. They got a $5,000 loan from the Kansas City, Kan., Methodist Missionary Society to make the purchase.
Seventy-five years later, Old Mission United Methodist Church remains a thriving institution, having grown from the small chapel building completed in 1947 to a full church with stately sanctuary that remains one of the most recognized buildings in northeast Johnson County.
The congregation, currently led by Senior Minister Michael Gardner, is kicking off a year of 75th anniversary celebrations this weekend with what they’re calling a Mission Fair. Following the 10 a.m. worship service this Sunday, April 30, the congregation will host a gathering to highlight its current mission work. The fair will also feature food, live music, a dessert cook-off and games for kids. It is free of charge to attend.
Gardner said the fair served as a way to highlight the constant thread that mission work has been throughout the church’s history.
“Old Mission has had a long relationship with United Methodist and other mission activities, and refugee resettlement throughout the years,” Gardner said. “That’s a continuity throughout all of our history here — some engagement, always being supportive of United Methodist mission institutions. And I think people recognize the missionary roots from which we got our name in the Shawnee Indian Mission.”
The church will also be holding a celebration in September to mark the anniversary of its first service.
This weekend’s Mission Fair will run 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. All kids who attend will get a free book to take home. The church will be collecting snack items to donate to Roesland Elementary.