In the early 1950’s, Bishop Dana Dawson of the Kansas Conference and District Superintendent Dr. R. Ernest Gordon of the Topeka District had a vision for a Methodist Church in south Topeka. To fulfill the vision, the Board of Missions purchased three acres of land from Mrs. Sadie Zinn.
They employed Mrs. Velma Yerkes to proceed with a survey of the community in the summer of 1952 to determine if there was enough interest. An invitation was sent announcing an opportunity to attend a new Sunday School class to residents in the area. Twenty-three were present for the first meeting held north of the present location in a Grade A milk house. On March 8, 1953, the first church service was held there with a lay pastor, Clifton B. Kruse, preaching. On March 18, the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church met and voted to name this new church “Countryside.”
On March 25, 1953, a Woman’s Society for Christian Service was formed at the home of Mrs. George Scrivner, with fifteen new members. Today this group is called the United Methodist Women and is very active in local and global mission work.
On April 12, 1953, Countryside Methodist Church was officially organized with the Rev. Roy H. Armstrong appointed as pastor. The congregation grew quickly.
The Board of Missions appointed a building committee to employ an architect to design a parsonage that could be used for a sanctuary. Groundbreaking for the sanctuary/parsonage was September 7, 1953. The building was erected under the supervision of Marvin L. Thomas, architect, and the congregation undertook the work of electricians, painters and carpenters. It was dedicated September 9, 1956.
In 1956, a new building committee instructed Marvin Thomas to design a structure that would accommodate five hundred worshippers. The committee decided that the first unit would be an educational unit which would also be used for a sanctuary. The first unit was completed in January, 1957.
In 1967, a Nursery School was organized, offering Christian education to preschool-age children of the community and of the church on a weekly basis. The Countryside United Methodist Preschool has been a nationally accredited, incorporated school which enrolls approximately 150 children each year. It now has a full-time Director, 9 teachers, 2 aides and a secretary/bookkeeper. The Countryside Preschool is a valuable outreach for the church and has benefited us in many ways.
In 1993, we celebrated our 40th anniversary on Easter Sunday, April 11. On Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995, the congregation enjoyed seeing for the first time the beautiful new stained glass windows in the Sanctuary, and on May 7, they were treated to newly installed stained glass windows in the Narthex. We thank those church members who made these windows possible.
The $1.1 million addition was paid off in 1998, with the mortgage burned as part of the 45th Anniversary Celebration on March 29, 1998. We were excited about our future as we shared “Memories of Yesterday, Dreams for Tomorrow” on this anniversary day!
In the Fall of 2003, the realization of dreams of yet another facility providing a multi-purpose gymnasium and family life center with a stage as well as a new kitchen, a smaller dining room, and shower facilities was completed! This expansion, as well as the remodeling of our former Fellowship Hall into multiple classrooms, serves Countryside and the surrounding community.
As we’ve grown, we are reminded how thankful we are for our early church founders, and at the same time, thank God for our present and future ministries. Countryside truly has been, and continues to be, a place of blessing! May God, through Jesus Christ, be the reason for our existence as we continue to reach out in servanthood to those around us, both in Topeka and in the world at large!