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Strengths in Christ in Topeka, Kansas

By Ian B. Johnson and Jonathan E. Brickman

This page is by no means final. Discussion is invited. See link below.

Topeka's strengths:

  1. Both Topeka and Lawrence were founded by free-staters from New England with the support of the Emigrant Aid Society of Massachusetts. Both were founded for the purpose of attracting free state voters to Kansas in the ultimately successful effort to exclude slavery from Kansas. As is noted on another article on this site, most of the free-state people who initially settled in Topeka (and also Lawrence) were still, by modern standards, quite racist; they didn't want slavery in Kansas, but they also didn't want colored people here. However, there were notable exceptions. Topeka and Lawrence were both stops on the Underground Railroad that spirited slaves out of the South to freedom in Canada, and several Topeka men and families were involved in it. Moreover, at least one of the heroes of the free-state cause in Topeka, Col. John Ritchie, later broke with the racist tradition when he started selling lots in the "Ritchie Addition," then immediately south of Topeka, as a racially integrated, color-blind residential area. It may have been the first residential addition of its kind in the United States. (Ironically, the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, a building which housed a segregated, all-black school in 1954, is right in the middle of the old Ritchie Addition).
  2. Birthplace of revivals. At least two rather different revival movements started here, within a few years of each other. Rev. Charles Sheldon's version of the Social Gospel was popularized by his novel In His Steps and practiced, with some crucially important limitations, by his church, the Central Congregational Church, while he was pastor there. However, no other church in Topeka really implemented his ideas at that time. That was left mostly to mainline churches in larger cities. The more recent "WWJD" movement started entirely outside Topeka, though based on Sheldon's work. Somewhat by contrast, the events which led to the Pentecostal revival also started in Topeka, in the college run by Rev. Charles Parham. But Parham and his followers lost their lease on their college campus and left Topeka within 7 months after the Holy Spirit came, and the events which occurred at Bethel College didn't lead to any revival in Topeka. The revival came 5 years later, and started in Los Angeles, for reasons discussed in another article to which a link is provided below. There was also a major local revival in 1872 which greatly affected both Lawrence and Topeka, and which also reached Fort Scott (Charles Parham's original hometown) from the Kansas River cities. In a way, it set the stage for both Sheldon and Parham.
  3. A City of Healing. Publicly reported healings were occurring here in the Holiness movement before 1901. Secular Topeka historian F.W. Giles listed among the 26 periodicals published in Topeka in 1885 one entitled the "Fire and Hammer (faith cure)." Moreover, before he started Bethel College, Rev. Charles Parham operated the Divine Healing Home and Mission at 4th and Jackson for two years, from 1898-1900, and his newsletter, the Apostolic Faith, during those years reported numerous noteworthy healings had occurred there. Later, the Menningers founded their Clinic here, and, largely as a result of the Menninger presence, Topeka now has medical facilities and equipment better than many much larger US cities.

Ian Johnson & Jonathan Brickman
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© 2010 Ian B. Johnson and Jonathan E. Brickman



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