The Rainbow Mennonite congregation was first organized in 1957 as the Kansas City Mennonite Church. As early as 1958, an outreach to Rosedale was established, in the form of a boys club and fresh air camps.
In the several years following, there were discussions among pastors and members of churches in the area about the social and economic needs of the residents in the southeast part of Kansas City, Kansas. In 1963, the Council of Rosedale-Roanoke Cooperative Ministries (CRRCM) was formed, with the Rosedale United Methodist pastor as President and the Rainbow Boulevard minister as Executive Director. In 1965, the CRRCM became Cross-Lines and hired Don Bakely as full-time Executive Director. Cross-Lines Community Outreach grew phenomenally and is a story all its own.
Also in 1965, the Methodist Church developed “Teen Town,” which met every other Friday night in the Methodist Fellowship Hall. In 1968 after an incident involving gun fire outside, a neighborhood meeting was scheduled by the city police. The church was told that would have to hire police at $50 a night. It closed shortly after that. Within a year, however, a boys club was opened across the street from the Methodist church by the United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, and Mennonite churches. A full-time Mennonite volunteer staffed the club, and lived in the house to involve the “boys on the boulevard.” The three churches began to work openly together in the community. Within a year or so (in 1971 or 1972), a girls club was begun.
Much was changing and evolving in the 1960’s. Grace Mennonite Church in Mission merged with the Kansas City Mennonite Church in 1964, at the location on Rainbow Blvd. The name adopted was “Rainbow Boulevard” Mennonite Church. The three churches continued to coordinate services. By 1969, Rainbow Boulevard Mennonite Church had outgrown its building on Rainbow Blvd, and was offered the opportunity to temporarily rent space in the Rosedale United Methodist Building on Southwest Blvd. The providential move of the Rainbow Boulevard congregation in December 1969 brought the three churches who had been working together to within two short blocks of each other. In the following years, the Rainbow Boulevard building was used for many community oriented programs, such as a daycare, an alternative school, a thrift shop and one of the stores which preceded Ten Thousand Villages. It also provided meeting space for groups, including one or two which were not welcome in other facilities in the local area. It was called “Common Ground.” For several years, it provided low cost lodging on the lower level for family members of people who were hospitalized at the KU Medical Center.
In 1970, the United Methodists and Mennonites conducted a joint Sunday School program. Later that year the Mennonites affirmed an arrangement with the Methodists which extended the original two year agreement. The next year, the Disciples of Christ joined to make it a threesome, with some adult Sunday School classes being held in the Disciples building.
With financial backing of their denominations and congregations, the three churches continued to address many of the social and welfare needs which had been identified. The Whitmore Elementary School closed in 1971 amid rumors that the building would be demolished and the lot sold for a warehouse site. A member of the Methodist church arranged for the churches to buy it. By 1973, the Rosedale Team Ministry, consisting of the three ministers plus volunteers, had developed into the Sharing Community, defining itself as a resource for the Rosedale community. A joint newsletter to the membership of the three churches was begun.
A full-time community development position was added in 1974. A contract for VISTA workers was approved and a Mennonite Voluntary Service Unit were established in 1976. The sharing of Christian ideals and sense of responsibility to do something about community needs propelled the members of the three churches to launch more programs such as:
- a used clothing store
- food pantries
- GED-prep classes for local residents
- a local grocery store home winterization and rehabilitation, and
- a tool bank to make it convenient for local residents to “do for themselves.”
As they shared resources and responses to needs, the name used to identify the conjoint services was the Sharing Community in Rosedale (SCR). Cross-Lines worked on meeting needs on a larger scale; providing medical clinics, low income housing, and the likes while the SCR focused efforts at the neighborhood level.
With the prospect of building a playground on the Whitmore school grounds using block grant funding through the city, it was necessary to incorporate an entity representing the three congregations, leading to the 1977 charter of Sharing Community in Rosedale, Inc. This linked the three churches so that they could hold joint ownership of property. Other projects requiring the holding of property, such as ownership of the VS house and acquiring buildings to rehab, were organized as limited partnerships. Sometime during this decade, all three denominations credentialed each minister so that all had equal standing in each congregation.
The suburbs of Kansas City, and employment opportunities elsewhere, continued to draw younger generations of Methodists and Disciples away from Rosedale, causing a downward trend in local memberships. As the Mennonite congregation grew, it had the opportunity to either relocate or stay in Rosedale and continue the work of the Sharing Community. It chose to stay for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to continue the work of SCR. At this point, “Boulevard” was dropped from the RMC name.
With the decline of membership continuing in 1975, the Disciples began using the Methodist building for worship and turned their building over to the Sharing Community in Rosedale, Inc., making a total of three major sites for use in offering programs to the local area. It was called Cornerstone and provided housing for visiting volunteer groups, a girls club, offices and meeting space. The Disciples maintained a congregation within SCR until 2004.
During the 1980’s and 90’s, the programs which could be funded with existing sources were continued and new ones taken on as resources were available.
In 1991, the Methodist congregation closed, leaving the Sharing Community buildings and programs to the Disciples and Mennonite congregations. The sources of funding for SCR, Inc. also declined. The Disciples and Methodists who chose to stay with the Sharing Community community joined the Rainbow Mennonite congregation, The Disciples terminated their organizational structure in 2004.
During the life of the Sharing Community in Rosedale, Inc, Rosedale Development Association (RDA) became operational and took on many quality of life issues for Rosedale. In 2008, the services of SCR were incorporated into the Mennonite congregation’s ministry to the community. Because so many programs and relationships were established over the nearly 40 years under the Sharing Community name, and because philosophically the Rainbow Mennonite Church felt that it wanted Rosedale residents to know that the concept of sharing resources had not changed, the name “Sharing Community in Rosedale” has been intentionally kept and used. The Rainbow Mennonite Church congregation desires to continue as an integral part of the community – not just located in the area. In many instances, RMC can and will probably be used interchangeably with the Sharing Community in Rosedale.
Currently, the concept of sharing in Rosedale may be seen in:
- A Head Start Site operated at 1444 Southwest Boulevard by Kansas City, KS USD 500
- a Voluntary Service Unit of up to five persons housed nearby and operated with Mennonite Church USA
- the Whitmore Playground, offered for use by the community
- “Hot Dogs in the Park” in June and September
- an annual Easter Egg Hunt and the food section of the December Cross-Lines Christmas store.
An annual six week summer “Freedom School,” with 100 scholars was added in 2007; and, in 2009, participation in the “Healthy Kids Initiative,” with the Rosedale Development Association and the Rosedale Ministerial Alliance, was included.
The sharing continues.