“It is the judgment of this meeting that Kansas Yearly Meeting be opened, at the time and place proposed, in the year 1872, provided the consent of the Yearly Meetings with which we correspond be obtained thereto.” – Indiana Yearly Meeting Minutes, 1871
By the grace of God, consent was indeed obtained, and the very first session of Kansas Yearly Meeting was held in Lawrence on October 11, 1872.
What a scene it must have been. According to a reporter from the Western Home Journal, “The throng on Massachusetts Street on Friday morning, as 10 o’clock, the time set for assembling at the Meeting House approached, seemed larger than the crowd seen at Topeka any day during the State Fair.”
For several days Quakers from around the country had been arriving by ox wagon, buggy, train and on foot. An estimated crowd of 3,000 Friends gathered for Sunday services, representing every yearly meeting in America. They gathered in a newly constructed meeting house made of native limestone, a “magnificent” structure built on an elevated site at the eastern edge of Lawrence. The men met on the first floor and the women on the second, with messengers chosen to convey information from one meeting to the other. There were overflow services for those outside the building who could not get in.
Based on the accounts provided by Sheldon Jackson in A Short History of Kansas Yearly Meeting of Friends, the agenda for this very first gathering of what is now known as Evangelical Friends Church-Mid America Yearly Meeting was strikingly similar to what we currently experience at our annual Ministry Conference. Guests were welcomed, speakers were heard, reports were presented, prayers were offered, officers and committees were appointed, and a book of discipline was approved.
And yet it was anything but “business as usual” during that inaugural yearly meeting in Lawrence. As noted in the October 18, 1872, edition of the Lawrence Tribune: “The presence in this city of two thousand or more of these good and worthy people was an event which will long be remembered by our citizens … in everything they did they seemed to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit … all the proceedings of a business nature were sandwiched as it were with many fervent prayers and earnest exhortations … our reporter is truly thankful that the Friends captured and held Lawrence for a week.”
As the first great yearly meeting of Friends in Kansas came to an end, newly appointed clerk William Nicholson closed the gathering with the following minute:
“In conclusion of this, our first Annual Assembly, we humbly but joyfully acknowledge that our Heavenly Father has been pleased to answer the desires of our hearts, in enabling us to transact the business that has come before us, with a regard for His will, and in love and condescension one to another; and in dispensing largely of spiritual blessings to many of us. To Him be glory through Christ Jesus. The Meeting now solemnly concludes to meet at the appointed time and place next year, if the Lord wills.”
For nearly 150 years now, the Lord has graciously willed that Friends from across Mid America continue to “meet at the appointed time and place.” Over time, our community has grown to encompass Friends not only from Kansas, but Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and Minnesota. As we approach our sesquicentennial as an extended family of Friends in Mid America, it’s time to celebrate!
Here is a sneak preview of coming events:
- Inauguration of year-long sesquicentennial celebration during 150th yearly meeting of Mid America Friends at 2021 Ministry Conference in Wichita, current headquarters for EFC-MAYM
- Updated, sesquicentennial version of EFC-MAYM Faith & Practice, presented for prayerful consideration at 2021 Ministry Conference in Wichita
- Conference theme and general sessions focused on reaffirmation of our historic, core mission as Mid America Friends: “to equip the WHOLE CHURCH to take the WHOLE GOSPEL to the WHOLE WORLD in Jesus’ name.”
- Initiation of $150,000 sesquicentennial fundraising initiative:
$50K for WHOLE CHURCH (congregational renewal) projects in “Jerusalem,” including completion of Lawrence meeting house renovations
$50K for WHOLE GOSPEL (home mission) projects in “Judea and Samaria,” including the planting of at least one new church among unreached people in Mid America
$50K for WHOLE WORLD (foreign mission) projects at “the ends of the earth,” including the establishment of at least one new field among an unreached people group in cooperation with Evangelical Friends Mission
- Conclusion of year-long sesquicentennial celebration during 151st yearly meeting of Mid America Friends at 2022 Ministry Conference in Lawrence, original headquarters for EFC-MAYM
- Updated, sesquicentennial version of EFC-MAYM Faith & Practice, presented for final approved at 2022 Ministry Conference in Lawrence
- Completion of $150,000 sesquicentennial fundraising initiative, including dedication of renovated meeting house in Lawrence and commissioning of new home and foreign missionaries
More details will be revealed during our upcoming 2021 Ministry Conference, which will be held July 23-25 on the campus of Friends University in Wichita. A preliminary schedule is included in this edition of the Insights. Additional information will be sent to our churches in the coming days. Make plans now to participate in this very special sesquicentennial celebration. It won’t come around for another 150 years!