The Korean War consumed the nation from 1950 to 1953. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there could be no segregation in public schools and in 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. On May 20, 1957, a tornado swept a 71- mile path south of Kansas City, killing 44 persons. Streetcars and trolleys were gone by late in the decade and by 1959 only 20 trains a day were running through Union Station. People began to get their entertainment at home, as TV found its way into the living rooms around the country. The big change, however, in our area was movement, as more and more people wanted to live outside the city and the suburbs began to flourish.
Ground was broken October 21, 1951, for the construction of a Fellowship Building. The approximate cost of this building and furnishings was $20,000. On March 13, 1952, a fire completely destroyed the 1907 church. The blaze is thought to have started near an overhead gas heater in the east end of the basement at about 10:45 in the morning. The alarm was turned in by Mrs. Russell Elliott, who lived near the church. She saw smoke seeping out of the building. By the time the fire trucks arrived, the flames had burned through the east wall of the structure and enveloped the interior of the sanctuary. After the fire was extinguished and cleanup had begun, efforts were made to salvage portions of the walls and basement structure. However, on July 5, a firecracker prank caused a second fire which destroyed stored materials and the remaining church basement. Worship services were held at Chapel School (directly across 51st Street south of the church property). The unfinished Fellowship Building, the parsonage on 51st Street, and the church bell was all that was saved at the time of the fire. The bell was removed from the damaged tower after the ashes cooled. It was rededicated in 1976 and mounted on a pedestal south of the Chapel Building.
The Fellowship Building was rapidly completed, and the first service was held there in May 1952. The Reverend Ted E. Akers and the 450-member congregation made plans for a new church.
During March 1952, to March 1954, the Beginner, Primary, Junior, Intermediate and High School Departments continued to meet in Chapel School. Upon completion of the Fellowship Building, the Nursery Class, Wesley Fellowship Class, and Cornerstone Class held their sessions in this new building. A dedication service for the new Hammond organ given by the A. O. Selover family in memory of John Selover, Jr., was held on November 16, 1952. It was used for worship services until the pipe organ was installed in 1964. The Hammond organ continued to be used in the Chapel until parts were no longer available for its repair. Another small organ was installed in its place.
THE THIRD ERA
The need to rebuild the church was pressing. Blue Ridge was a growing community. Work was begun in July 1953, on the new building (south portion of complex.). The approximate cost of this building, including the furnishings, was $85,000. William Barker was Chairman of the Building Committee.
Members of the Building Committee were James Bright, Forest Redford, Mary Selover, Paul Morris, John Vogel, Marie Snoddy, Robert S. Stayton, and Rev. Ted Akers.
The opening service of the new church was held March 28, 1954, with Reverend Linus Eaker, District Superintendent, as guest minister and Reverend Ted E. Akers as minister. The bishop at this time was Dr. Ivan Lee Holt. That afternoon “Open House” was observed in the new church building for the membership of 570 members.
There were accommodations for 320 persons at each service compared with 250 in the Fellowship Building and 165 in the 1907 church. The President of the Woman’s Society of Christian Service at this time was Mrs. J. E. Snoddy. Tom Hostetler was president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship and Forest Redford was the Chairman of the Official Board. Harold Palmer was Superintendent of the Church School.
The Methodist Men held their charter night, February 9, 1954, and elected Harold Howard as their first President.
In 1955, Maud Harris, special education teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Raytown, asked the Administrative Board for permission to start a Sunday School class for special education students. She said that the children had many opportunities for social and school activities along with wonderful family support, but there was nowhere they could go to Sunday School. If the church would provide the space, she would teach the class. Permission was granted. She taught the class for a long time with a Mrs. Davis. When Maud Harris moved from the area, Doris and Causby Cole taught for many years with Velda Gantner. Velda, just this year, retired after long years of working with these students who are now adults. The other teachers also have given years of service to the class, including Bonnie Downs, Jim Morris, Chuck Mueller and Joyce Downing. The class is now called the Samaritan Class and no one in the church greets Sunday morning with more enthusiasm and joy.
In 1956, at the General Conference of the Methodist Church, the women of Methodism achieved a long-sought goal when this sentence was added to their church’s statute book: “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline which refer to the ministry.” Ordination of women at last! The United Brethren Church had ordained women since 1889 and a Methodist Protestant conference had ordained Anna H. Shaw in 1880. A Methodist preacher’s license had been granted to Maggie Newton VanCott in 1869 and Anna Oliver, a Methodist was the first woman to graduate with a seminary degree from Boston in 1876. But now in 1956, women could be appointed and serve in all areas of the Methodist Church.
In 1958, Ted Akers was appointed to the Warrensburg Methodist Church. During his service at Blue Ridge Methodist, membership had doubled. Reverend Robert Brown was appointed as the next minister.
In March of 1959, the membership was 1071 and the church was growing so rapidly that plans were made for the construction of a new education building and church office. This new air-conditioned building contained thirteen classrooms, offices, kitchen and a Fellowship Hall.