Many Paths of Faith: Religion in Kansas
Other pioneers have had a great task of making a state out of a wilderness, but Kansas pioneers had another great task, that of making a free state in the face of a most determined opposition. They came to Kansas as the Puritans came to America, in the name of liberty. They were stern, unyielding, purposeful men and women, sure of the presence of divine leadership, and their character has deeply influenced the Kansas people. This influence has made them hate oppression; it has made them demand justice and fair play; it has made them value people for their personal worth; it has made them believe in the equality of human rights, and in the ability of the people to govern themselves. These are the characteristics of every true Kansan and the qualities that make the Kansas spirit.
--Anna E. Arnold, A History of Kansas (1915)
This exhibit is currently under development. Exhibit pages will be added throughout fall 2020 and spring 2021. Please return to view additional exhibit pages as they are developed.
Religion has a strong presence in Kansas. The earliest inhabitants, American Indians of several nations, held spiritual beliefs that permeated their lives so completely they could not be separated from any other part of their being. The first Europeans to tread Kansas soil, the Spanish explorers, had in their number several priests – including the first Christian martyr in America. As the United States frontier reached the Great Plains, missionaries came to serve soldiers at scattered forts and attempted to convert Native nations. The settlers who swarmed into the territory when the country opened Kansas to general settlement in 1854 established churches as one of their first orders of business. And so things remained -- and changed -- as new religious groups made and continue to make their homes in the state. Kansas religions are numerous and diverse, and the state continues to have the strong religiosity that characterized it from the start.
This exhibit will explore both well-known and lesser-known religious groups in Kansas, though it is by no means exhaustive. The information in this digital exhibit only skims the surface of what is a rich trove of testimony to the power of the human religious spirit. The Religion in Kansas Project hopes it will spur visitors to learn more about this unique state and its fascinating religious history, as well as encourage Kansans to reflect upon and contribute their own religious history to this archive.
Exhibit inspired by and adapted from "Religious Kansas: Chapters in a History" edited by Timothy Miller and written by students in the first Religion in Kansas course (2009) at the University of Kansas.