In 1866, homesteaders from around Kearney and Mt. Olivet split from the Mt. Olivet Christian Church. They established a congregation that met for the first time under a grove of trees on Prospect Street. After the initial meeting, they met in different places.
In 1868, a Mr. Estes donated land. He and his family are buried behind the church. On this site, the first church was erected. Old news clippings tell us the cost of the building was about $2,000. Mr. Jack Pence hauled the lumber from St. Joseph with teams and wagons. Carpenters were a Mr. Kerns and a Mr. Reymond. Only three treasurers served the church in the first 40 years. They were Locke Riley, George Riley, and Allen Riley.
The charter members of our church were Lucy E. Coryell, Elizabeth Peterfield, Eliza Netherton, Hanna Pollock, Abraham Netherton, Shelton Brown and wife, William D. Hawkins, D.T. Duncan, John S. Groom, James Reed and wife, Alfred Arnold and wife, George S. Harris, William Hall, G.D. Hall, Mrs. A. Rodgers, R.H. Burden and wife, Emily Craven. Norma E. Pile, J.S. Serpin, Elizabeth Pidgers, Alida Adams and Robert Morris. There were 26 charter members.
The Wilkerson family gave the pulpit that is used in our church today in 1906. It is unique as it was made from a wild cherry bed stand. Two identical pulpits were made, one for the Gilead Church and one for Kearney First Christian Church. They are beautifully carved and finished. Rev. Webb was the minister in 1906.
In 1913, the congregation voted to build a home for the minister. Rev. Melanethon Moore was the pastor at Kearney and Gilead. Mrs. Moore, the ministers’ wife also taught a class of young married people called “The Invincibles,” who were very active in Sunday School and church.
The Church entered a new era when we could not afford a full-time minister. We had part-time ministers who came twice month to hold services, have dinner with members of the congregation, and to visit the sick and shut-ins on Sunday afternoon. Our part-time pastors were Bro. Darnell, Bro. Taylor, Bro. Malley and Bro. Burkhardt. Mrs. Edgar Tapp, who was president of the Women’ Council for 13 years, arranged for the entertainment for our pastors.
The year 1937 found the church people busy remodeling the old-fashioned church building. Before this time, the walls were papered, the ceiling was wood, and the church was heated by two wood stoves — one in the back and one midway with the stovepipes across the ceiling. Cold mornings found us huddled at the East End of the church and in the choir corner. We really made “a joyful noise unto the Lord” every Sunday morning. With the help of all the men of the church, tractors and scrapers, a basement was dug. The church had to be raised and the men found the church on a very strong foundation and of strong construction. Some of the huge timbers are pinned with dowel pins and square nails were also used. The basement gave room for Sunday School rooms, a dinning room, and kitchen. A furnace was installed, a celotex ceiling was put in, and the walls were plastered. The church ladies served dinners to the men who were working. Rev. Darnell was our pastor at the time.
Our membership had increased in large numbers and we needed more Sunday School rooms. In 1954, the educational building was added to the church. This gave three Sunday School rooms, rest rooms, and a large dining room in the basement, which also served as Sunday School rooms. Don Browning, student minister, was our leader at the time. Don was attending Central College and later attended Chicago University and Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma.
Dedication services for our new sanctuary were held Sunday, November 30, 1958. For several months, the members were busy with remodeling and redecorating. Committees were busy, selecting the stained glass windows which are memorials, wall-to-wall carpeting, and light fixtures; installing new wiring, a raised rostrum, a baptistery, and a lighted cross; and with redecoration. Dedication day was a happy time — the sanctuary was like new, through it was really 100 years old. Later Richard Markland, our pastor, gave a sermon on ” The Meaning of our Windows.”
Through the years, our church has believed in the organized work of our Brotherhood, in our state work and in the work of the United Christian Missionary Society. For a number of years, our church was the highest in giving in Clay County on a percentage basis. In the depression years, and many times through the years, our church has been able to continue and to give generously because of our various activities such as serving dinners, having harvest sales, holding bazaars, and using a cattle fund.
In 1983, the south wing was added providing a new kitchen and fellowship hall upstairs. Downstairs five classrooms and two bathrooms were added.
In 1985, the outside entrance of the sanctuary was remodeled to include a wheelchair access ramp.
In 1995, the original basement was gutted and a new drainage system was installed. Remodeling was started to create storage and classrooms there.
In 1996, work on remodeling the basement the basement continued. Also the hallway between the sanctuary and office areas was widened a couple of feet. New carpeting was laid in the sanctuary and the new hallway. Also a new baptistery replaced the old one. A memorial in honor of Marvin Tapp funded all of this. A lighted cross was mounted on the outside of the church. A memorial in honor of Dale Roberts funded this.
After the generous donation of 10 acres by Sam, Emily, and Jack Barr, the congregation relocated to it’s present home in January of 2005. Through God’s grace and the devotion of the people of FCC, we continue to Worship, Witness, and work to the glory of God.