On Tuesday, October 11, 1910 delegates to a national Christian church convention assembled in Topeka, Kansas for their annual meeting. The convention came to order on Wednesday night, October 12, and continued full-tilt until the following Monday.
The local newspapers published the convention agenda. In a busy week filled with scheduled prayer meetings, missionary society board reports, temperance education workshops, and a host of lectures, there was this agenda item:
Organizers expected a good turn-out for the Sunday communion service, which was set to begin at 3:00.
But long before the appointed hour, people began assembling at the capitol building in Topeka. They first congregated on the State House steps, until there was no more room.
Workers quickly placed some benches along the east side of the capital building. But as more and more people arrived, those benches were quickly filled.
And still the people came. Hundreds more benches were added, along with chairs and stools, and anything else the organizers could find to accommodate the growing crowd.
By the time the communion service began at 3:00, over eight thousand people had assembled on the State House grounds.
The service opened with almost everyone present joining their voices to sing the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee.”
Ministers from different churches across Kansas took a turn stepping up to the podium to offer prayers, read scripture, and bless the communion bread and wine.
Twenty church elders and forty-eight deacons assisted with the communion. The crowd was so large it took over an hour to serve the Lord’s Supper to everyone.
The Christian Herald magazine, which covered the event, wrote that there was a “reverent attitude” throughout the service that made it one of the most remarkable gatherings ever assembled on the State House grounds. The reporter wrote:
An ice driver broke bread with a great divine and a banker leaned out of his chair to hand the cup to a butcher. A Texan sat beside a Negro, and gentle society women held the babies of char-women.
The governor of Kansas, Walter Roscoe Stubbs, spoke about prohibition in Kansas, and reaffirmed his pledge to drive liquor sales and manufacturing out of the state (Kansas enacted its own law of prohibition in 1880). In his speech, Governor Stubbs promised:
“I say to you today that I don’t know of an open saloon in the State, and if any man shows me one and tells me of it and I don’t close it I’ll resign my position.”
The crowd cheered.
Another well-received speaker that day was Dr. Charles M. Sheldon, pastor of Central Congregational Church in Topeka, and author of the enormously popular Christian novel, In His Steps.
He brought his Social Gospel message to the crowd, and exhorted everyone to work diligently toward world peace, saying:
“I hope to live to see the [day] our battleships are turned into missionary vessels and filled with missionaries to go out to all parts of the world to teach the Gospel of Christ.”
The Christian Herald published this photo of the crowd in the November 9, 1910 issue of the magazine (click on the image to see a larger version):
One-hundred, seven years ago today this remarkable communion service took place on a Sunday afternoon in Kansas, on the grounds of the State Capitol building. It was an event the like of which may never be seen again.
Do you wish you could have been there? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!