The Roots of Pentecostalism in Kansas

Kansas, and especially the capital city of Topeka, provided excellent circumstances for the shaping of new expressions of Christianity at the turn of the twentieth century. The “Roots of Pentecostalism in Kansas” will demonstrate how Kansas’ location as the geographic center of the United States, Topeka’s placement at the intersection of agricultural life and urban life, and the realities of a harsh existence on the Great Plains provided space for religious innovation during a time of great social and economic change.

In Topeka in the late 1880s to the early 1900s, migrants, rural farmers, poor urban whites, and marginalized African Americans attempted to overcome the extreme difficulties of life on the Great Plains as the city urbanized. Charles F. Parham’s Pentecostal movement provided ways to overcome these hardships, through non-traditional expressions of Christianity and social services more welcoming to the disenfranchised than established denominations in Topeka.

This exhibit will examine the Kansas roots of this now world-wide religious movement and share with the public how Parham’s movement responded directly to the needs of Topeka’s growing rural and urban poor, with a commitment to provide laboring people a connection to the divine without intermediaries. 

When viewing this exhibition, consider not only the role religion played in the lives of past Kansans, but how religions evolve and are evolving within the state of Kansas.


Funding for this program is provided by Humanities Kansas, a nonprofit cultural organization that connects communities with history, traditions, and ideas to strengthen civic life.