In 1872, 26 pioneers met to worship together and form a Baptist church. Less than a year later, they built the first brick church building in Wichita at First and Market. These were difficult and exciting times in our city--economic booms and busts were common. During one of those busts, these pioneers lost the church building, but hung on to the dream of repurchasing it. They spent a year pooling their resources and were able to re-buy it ten years later.
The next 70 years were a time of numerical and facility growth. Our current site at Second and Broadway was purchased, designed and redesigned to accommodate the life of the church family. Thousands worshiped in our buildings, even borrowing space for a men's Sunday school class at the Orpheum Theater. Seven churches were planted in our city during this time. It was a time that God seemed to be blessing. But trouble was brewing under the surface.
The 1960s and early 1970s were a time of serious division. A very public debate divided friends and families, and was, sadly, settled in court. It left a fragment of people with a large building. This small group considered selling the building and moving to suburban Wichita. The decision was carefully and deliberately made to remain downtown, even though the decision was quite costly. In later decades, members continued to affirm that God was using us in a unique way in the downtown area. It was this decision that seems to be the basis for the unique display of God's glory that we are today.
The years after 1975 have been marked by a growing external focus and increasing healing, health and vitality. During these years, Wichita experienced a large influx of refugees from Laos. We extended practical hospitality to families, resulting in a fellowship of Laotian believers. This group of Asians began to include international college students and individuals from other areas in Asia. Eventually two separate fellowships were created: International and Chinese.
Our church was involved with the urban poor and transient in our neighborhood for years before beginning a weekly worship service. This ministry to the neighborhood has become a fellowship of believers that support each other and participates in the familly life of the church.
Our Hispanic fellowship came to us in 2003 when a group of believers from El Salvador was looking for room to worship. We welcomed the Arab fellowship in 2007. This Arab church plant was part of a missionary vision of believers in Texas and a retired missionary from Morocco.
The English fellowship (arguably the first of our family of fellowships) continues to encourage and assist this diverse collection of ministries, and is encouraged at God's work in our entire church family.
Our church family reflects our world. The entire spectrum of society, from powerful to destitute, meets here. Our church family is a healthy mix of that diversity--culturally and economically varied, but united in our desire to follow Jesus Christ. In this way, we have become an obvious picture of what is to come in our future, as all nations and people gather around God's throne.