In the beginning...
The idea for a West Heights United Methodist Church was born when a religious needs survey was taken in the mid-1950’s in the communities of Westlink, Rolling Hills, Country Acres and the surrounding area. This survey showed that it was time to start a new church in this west Wichita suburban area.
Preliminary meetings were held in July, 1956 and morning worship services began August 5, 1956 at Peterson School. This was followed in five weeks by church school classes for all ages.
On September 9, 1956, the Rev. Gene S. Seeley assumed his duties as the first minister for West Heights Church. Dr. Otto F. Volkland, District Superintendent, conducted the official organizational meetings on November 5, 1956, which included the reception of 18 charter members. This was the first meeting held at 9812 Birch Lane, a residential property which had been purchased as a meeting place with an eye to its future use as a parsonage.
On October 20, 1957, the Rev. Irvin A. Unruh became the new minister for the fledgling church.
BUILDING PROGRAM – Phase I
The ground-breaking service for the first unit of the church was observed January 5, 1958, with Dr. Otto F. Volkland officiating. By that month 54 persons had joined the church and became the designated charter members. Dr. Raymond E. Dewey, District Superintendent, presided at the August 17, 1958, ceremony for the laying of the corner stone. The first services were in the South wing on September 7, 1958. The 250 members were pleased with their new sanctuary/fellowship hall, kitchen, and six classrooms. At that time the Birch Lane property became the parsonage.
BUILDING PROGRAM – Phase II
Ground breaking for more educational space took place in the fall of 1960. By that time the membership was over 400, the average attendance was 300, and the church school enrollment was 325. The Rev. Charles M. Curtis was appointed new minister on June 2, 1963. On May 23, 1964, plans for a new sanctuary and additional educational facilities were presented to the congregation.
BUILDING PROGRAM – Phase III
On June 1, 1966, the Rev. George T. Gardner was appointed the new pastor. On August 6, 1967, ground breaking for the new sanctuary took place, with the cornerstone laying ceremony occurring on March 24, 1968. Then on April 10, 1968, the first worship service was held in the new sanctuary. During the following years of church school growth and adjustment, several persons provided pastoral leadership. These included Jim Pohl (1972-75), Wayne Castle (1976-77), Jack Ropp (1977-78), Keith Williamson (1978-79), Cecil Findley (1978-79), and Rev. Sam Muyskens (1979-92). During this time an Associate Pastor, Rev. Wenners Ballard, was added to the staff as well as additional part-time lay staff members to assist with visitation, education, youth ministries. In 1986 Judy Castor was brought on staff as full time Director of Christian Education.
BUILDING PROGRAM – Renovation Phase
By 1986, it was obvious that some extensive repairs were needed on the existing facilities and there were persistent concerns about expansion possibilities. An architect was asked to draw up a tentative set of renovation and expansion plans for future guidance to the congregation. The plans were presented to the congregation and a capital fund drive was initiated to see how much and how fast the congregation wanted to proceed with the improvements. The response to the three-year pledge period (1986-89) was such that only the refurbishing part of the work could be undertaken at that time. The parking lot was completely redesigned and enlarged; insulation and new roofing was applied to the Sanctuary; a new north entrance was added; a new sound system was installed and the Sanctuary lighting was improved. Still two nagging needs remained - additional staff and expanded educational and activity space, including a desperate need for a more functional kitchen. In February, 1993, at an All Church Conference, the congregation addressed these two concerns:
more information to come...