From early on, Kansas City signaled a “land of opportunity” for travelers in search of a fresh start. Beginning in the 1830s, the growing settlement at the convergence of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers became the first stop for many MormonsThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church, was launched by Joseph Smith (1805-44) who discovered a new revelation, the Book of Mormon, which became, along with the Bible, the “latter day” scripture of the new commu... trekking along the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails. Over the next century, Kansas City became a hub of African American culture and music as well as home to a sizable Jewish community. Today, the City of Fountains is bubbling with energy as new immigrants add to the complexity of the region’s religious diversity.
The first synagogueSynagogue, shul in Yiddish, is the most widely used term for a Jewish house of worship. Meaning a “place of gathering,” it is the central institution of Jewish communal life. The structure and role of synagogues has changed through the centuries, but ... in Kansas City, Congregation Keneseth IsraelLiterally “Wrestler with God”, Israel is the name given to the Jewish patriarch Jacob and came to refer to the entire nation, bound in an eternal covenant to God. Historically, Jews have continued to regard themselves as the continuation of the ancien..., was established in 1878 by Russian and Polish immigrants and merged with Congregation Beth Shalom in the early twentieth century. Today, the community has moved to the Kansas side of the river while its former synagogue, located at 3400 The Paseo, has become a charter school and the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A site for a MormonThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called the Mormon Church, was launched by Joseph Smith (1805-44) who discovered a new revelation, the Book of Mormon, which became, along with the Bible, the “latter day” scripture of the new commu... templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... was dedicated in the 1830s, but that dream was postponed when anti-Mormon sentiment flared in the following decades. Nearly two centuries later, in 2010, ground was broken for a temple just off of Interstate 435 in North Kansas City. The temple was dedicated in 2012. In addition to Mormons, the region is home to a vibrant and diverse group of Catholic and ProtestantProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists... communities. The Catholic DioceseA diocese is an administrative unit of the Christian Church, presided over by a bishop. of Kansas City gained high profile support for its “Forward in Faith” education initiative when the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Hunt, Jr. donated 3 million dollars to the campaign whose counts among its public faces former Kansas City Royals player Mike Sweeney. The International House of PrayerPrayer is the vocal or silent address to the Divine. It may consist of fixed words, spontaneous words, or rest in silence with no words at all. Some forms of prayer are accompanied with specific postures or gestures, while others are not., a nondenominational ministryMinister is a general term for a member of the clergy in the Christian church. The term has also come to use in other religious traditions to designate a member of the clergy (as in the Jodo Shinshu tradition and the Nation of Islam). with a staff of 1,000, has attracted national attenton with its practice of continuous worship which it began in May 1999.
In the post-World War II era, Metro Kansas City saw new communities arrive looking for their own “land of opportunity.” The first Buddhist templeBuddhist temples differ considerably from one another depending upon culture and particular school, but most are associated with the residence of the sangha of monks. Theravada temples focus on one or more images of Sakyamuni Buddha. In Mahayana and Vajra... and India Association were founded in 1965. Throughout the 1970s, Muslims in Kansas City worshipped alongside the MennonitesThe Mennonite church is one of what are sometimes referred to as the “historic peace churches” because of its radical commitment to the pacifism and non-violence of Jesus’ teachings. It traces its origins to the Dutch reformer Menno Simon (1496-1561... in a shared Grange Hall. Toward the end of the decade, the first SikhSikhs call their tradition the “Sikh Panth,” meaning the “community (panth) of the disciples of the Guru.” The tradition reveres a lineage of ten Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak in the 16th century and coming to a clos. with the death of Guru Gob... gurdwaraThe gurdwara, “the gateway of the Guru,” is the place for community gathering and worship in the Sikh tradition. The Guru is the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikh tradition. Each center will include a chamber where the Adi Granth is kept, a... was built. In 1991, after nearly a decade of planning, the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City opened its doors in Shawnee, Kansas, a western suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. The increasing number of Hindu and Jains in the region prompted the temple to further expand its facilities in 2008.
While long seen as a place of opportunity, Kansas City is also no stranger to controversy. During the Civil War, the city was torn apart by rival Union and Confederate allegiances. A century later, the evening news reported violence and race riots in response to the Civil Rights Movement. The city’s new religious diversity has also brought tensions over immigration to the fore. In 2007, the Bitterman Family Confections candy shop decided to open a prayer room for its employees, many of whom are Muslim. While met with praise from some, the gesture encountered no small amount of resistance. That same year, Kansas City International Airport faced opposition when it decided to build footbaths for Muslim taxicab drivers to use during their shifts. And even more recently, attempts by Kansas City’s Laotian community to build a Buddhist temple has been thwarted by alleged zoning violations.
In 2012, a Jackson County jury awarded Susann Bashir 5 million dollars in a religious discrimination case against her former employer, AT&T. Bashir, an American convert to IslamIslam in Arabic literally means “submitting” or “submission.” One who submits or surrenders his or her will to God is called a Muslim. While the whole of God’s creation is described as being inherently Muslim, human beings must choose whether to..., sued the company after her boss pulled off her hijabHijab means “veil” or “curtain,” referring especially to standards of modest dress for Muslim women. While there are many interpretations of the legal requirement, many Muslims agree that women should wear loose fitting clothing and expose no more... and numerous reports of heckling from her co-workers went unheard. Kansas City, Missouri is also the county seat of Jackson County which, in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, assembed a multifaith task force commissioned to complete a year-long survey of religious communities in a five-county metro region to gauge experiences of discrimination. The task force issued a 77-page recommendation report and was chaired by the Reverend Vern Barnet, founder of the Center for Religious Experience and Study.
The interfaith infrastructure of the Welcoming City is as diverse as it is thriving with interfaith efforts taking the form of campus organizations, chaplaincy initiatives, a metro interfaith council, and several social service programs. As a visible sign of the region’s celebration of diversity, interfaith leaders have collected water from around the world—from over one hundred bodies of water in all—and blended them with the waters of the Kansas City’s fountains. These mingled waters are then used on ceremonial occassions. Barnet, a veteran Kansas City interfaith activist, summed up his experience with the city. While embarking on a taxing journey in Japan, Barnet recalls a moment of clarity when he asked himself: “Why am I looking for the sacred in Japan—surely I can find it in Kansas City!”